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SEC Football Power Poll: End of the regular season

1. LSU (12-0, 8-0 SEC, 1st last week): LSU all but locked up a spot in the BCS National Championship with a 41-17 trouncing of Arkansas, the Tigers’ third win over a top-three team this season. In all, LSU has beat seven top-25 teams by an average margin of victory of more than 20 points. Despite trailing 14-0 early in the second quarter, the Tigers outgained the Razorbacks 494-254, including 286-47 on the ground. Sophomore defensive back Tyrann Mathieu was the player of the game, tying the game on an electrifying 92-yard punt return for a touchdown, forcing two fumbles and recovering one of the them. LSU looks to keep its perfect season intact when they play Georgia in Saturday’s SEC Championship.

This week: vs. Georgia (10-2, 7-1 SEC), 3 p.m., CBS

2. Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC, 2nd last week): The Crimson Tide punctuated the regular season with a 42-14 romp on the Plains of Auburn behind junior running back Trent Richardson, sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron and the nation’s top defense (at least statistically). Richardson rushed for a career-high 203 on 27 carries and position himself in the thick of the Heisman race. McCarron completed 18 of 23 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns. The defense, meanwhile, held Auburn’s offense scoreless, limited the Tigers to just 140 yards of total offense and forced two turnovers. The Crimson Tide sit in good shape at No. 2 in the latest BCS Standing, but one-loss Oklahoma State looms at No. 3 in the standings.

3. Arkansas (10-2, 6-2 SEC, 3rd last week): For the first time, seemingly all season, the Razorbacks got off to a good start, taking a 14-0 lead at LSU, before the Tigers pulled away for a 41-17 win. Arkansas gained just 47 yards on the ground, but junior quarterback Tyler Wilson completed 14 of 22 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown. However, the Tigers ran all over the Razorbacks for 286 yards. Arkansas is headed for a January bowl game, most likely the Cotton Bowl. The story from the game was head coach Bobby Petrino’s exchange of words with LSU head coach Les Miles, as well as a less-than-graceful handshake after the game.

4. Georgia (10-2, 7-1 SEC, 4th last week): The Bulldogs ride a 10-game winning streak, the third longest in the nation behind undefeated LSU and Houston, into this Saturday’s SEC Championship against those same Tigers. Both offenses gained more than 350 yards of total offense, but sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray made all the difference in a 31-17 win at Georgia Tech. Murray completed 19 of 29 passes for 252 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman running back Isaiah Crowell missed the game, but is expected back for the SEC Championship. Saturday also marks Georgia’s first meeting with of the “Big Three” of LSU, Alabama and Arkansas this season.

This week: vs. LSU (12-0, 8-0 SEC), 3 p.m., CBS

5. South Carolina (10-2, 6-2 SEC, 5th last week): The Gamecocks won’t be playing in the SEC Championship this Saturday, but ended the regular season with a bang, a 34-13 win over Clemson in the battle of the Palmetto State. A perfectly balanced offense (210 passing yards and 210 rushing yards) led South Carolina, while the defense held Clemson to just 153 yards of total offense. Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw starred through the air and on the ground, completing 14 of 20 passes for 210 yards, rushing for 107 yards on 19 carries and accounting for four total touchdowns. With the win, the Gamecocks have won 10 games for just the second time in program history.

6. Auburn (7-5, 4-4 SEC, 6th last week): A year removed from a National Championship, the Tigers are a shell of their former shelves, ending the regular season with a 42-14 blowout loss to Alabama. Auburn was outgained 397-140 and did not score an offensive touchdown. One score came on a fumble recovery for a touchdown and the other on a kickoff return for a touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Clint Moseley completed 11 of 18 passes for just 62 yards with an interception, while sophomore running back Michael Dyer managed just 48 yards on 13 carries. After some early rumors, it looks like offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will remain on The Plains.

7. Florida (6-6, 3-5 SEC, 7th last week): In a game of two Nick Saban proteges, Jimbo Fisher and Will Muschamp, Florida State won an ugly 21-7 game in the Swamp. The Seminoles and Gators combined for five turnovers and just 279 yards of total offense. Florida outgained Florida State 184-95, but turned the ball over four times – all interceptions and three by senior quarterback John Brantley. It was not the first season Muschamp had in mind and, while he’s not yet on the hot seat, the Florida faithful has grown restless after the Gators’ worst regular season since 1987.

8. Vanderbilt (6-6, 2-6 SEC, 8th last week): After near-misses against Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and, most recently Tennessee, the Commodores got a signature win and earned bowl eligibility with a 41-7 rout at Wake Forest. Vanderbilt is going bowling for the first time since 2008 and just the second time since 1982, quite an accomplishment under first-year head coach James Franklin. Success against the Demon Deacons started on the ground, where they racked up 297 rushing yards, led by junior Zac Stacy with 184 yards on 28 carries. Franklin is building something special in Nashville and is reportedly working on a new contract, but his name has been linked with open jobs, notably the one at North Carolina.

9. Mississippi State (6-6, 2-6 SEC, 9th last week): It was the Bulldogs’ most impressive performance since, perhaps, a 59-14 season-opening win at Memphis. Mississippi State dominated Ole Miss 31-3 in the Egg Bowl, making it three straight wins in the series and earning bowl eligibility in the process. A lot of hype surrounded this year’s game, complete with gold numbers and “#hailstate” in one of the end zones, and the Bulldogs scored the first 28 points of the game. Mississippi State racked up 247 yards on the ground, led by senior running back Vick Ballard with 144 yards on 23 carries. What to watch for in Starkville, however, are the swirling Dan Mullen-to-Penn State rumors.

10. Kentucky (5-7, 2-6 SEC, 10th last week): The Wildcats may not be going bowling this season, but may have saved head coach Joker Phillips’ job with a 10-7 win over Tennessee. It was Kentucky’s first win in the series since 1984, snapping a 26-game losing streak and, not surprisingly, the Big Blue Nation stormed the field afterwards. With junior Morgan Newton and freshman Maxwell Smith sidelined, senior wide receiver Matt Roark got the start at quarterback and rushed for 124 yards on 24 carries. Junior running back CoShik Williams added 68 yards on 21 carries, including a six-yard touchdown run, and the defense forced three turnovers for the Wildcats.

11. Tennessee (5-7, 1-7 SEC, 11th last week): The Big Orange Nation, on the other hand, is reeling after a 10-7 loss to rival Kentucky. With a bowl game on the line, the Volunteers turned the ball over three times and were outgained 202-61 on the ground. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray, who returned from injury against Vanderbilt, threw for 215 yards, but completed just 15 of 38 passes and also threw two interceptions. Trailing 10-0 in the fourth quarter, Bray found sophomore running back Raijon Neal for a 53-yard touchdown, but it was not enough. It’s just the second time in the past two decades that Tennessee is not going to a bowl game and the first back-to-back losing seasons in a century.

12. Ole Miss (2-10, 0-8 SEC, 12th last week): The 2011 season is mercifully over for outgoing head coach Houston Nutt, the players and the Ole Miss fan base. It ended with a 31-3 loss at Mississippi State, the Rebels’ worst loss to the Bulldogs since 1919. That’s not to mention the program’s first two-win season since 1946, a school-record 14-game SEC losing streak and the program’s first-ever 10-loss season. With that said, it can go only go up from here for the new head coach and his staff. The right hire is a must to turn the program around, as well as re-unite and energize the fan base.