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SEC Football Power Poll: Week 10

1. LSU (8-0, 5-0 SEC, 1st last week): What hasn’t been said about this Saturday’s game at Alabama, especially after two weeks of the hype machine in full gear? It’s the first time in SEC history that No. 1 and No. 2 meet in the regular season. On an Ole Miss-related note, the closest the SEC has gotten to the No. 1 and No. 2 matchup was No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Ole Miss on Halloween night of 1959 in Tiger Stadium. That’s not to mention the rivalry between LSU and Alabama, stemming from Nick Saban’s departure from Baton Rouge in 2004 and his arrival in Tuscaloosa in 2007. All four games since 2007 have been decided by less than 10 points. LSU has been the more complete team this season.

This week: at Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC), 7 p.m., CBS

2. Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC, 2nd last week): In all honesty, you’re splitting hairs to pick one team or the other, but here’s my prediction: LSU wins. Both teams have been equally dominant in the second half, but Alabama has started slow in each of its past three games and LSU has delivered knockout blows in early parts of games this season. I also give LSU the edge at quarterback with senior Jarrett Lee compared to Alabama sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron because, with these defenses, it will come down to just a play or two and more than likely in the passing game. LSU also finds other ways to score and set up scores with its defense and special teams.

This week: LSU (8-0, 5-0 SEC), 7 p.m., CBS

3. Arkansas (7-1, 3-1 SEC, 3rd last week): Another week and another slow start for the Razorbacks, but again Arkansas came from behind and pulled out a 31-28 win over Vanderbilt. The play of the game, aside from the Commodores’ 27-yard missed field goal at the end of regulation, was senior Jerry Franklin’s 94-yard fumble return for a touchdown that turned a likely two-touchdown game into a tied game. Junior quarterback Tyler Wilson had another big day, completing 27 of 43 passes for 316 yards and a touchdown. The other thing to take away from the game was freshman wide receiver Marquel Wade’s dirty hit on a Vanderbilt punt return that earned him a one-game suspension, and rightfully so.

This week: South Carolina (7-1, 5-1 SEC), 6:15 p.m., ESPN

4. Georgia (6-2, 5-1 SEC, 4th last week): The Bulldogs overcame mistakes that included a fourth-and-19 play that went for a touchdown and a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, to win 24-20 in Saturday’s “World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” in Jacksonville. Sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray completed 15 of 34 passes for 169 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Both touchdowns came on fourth down and the second one tied the game, 17-17. Sophomore linebacker Jarvis Jones had a big game on defense, totaling five tackles, recording four sacks and forcing a fumble. This week, Georgia will be without leading rusher Isaiah Crowell and two other running backs, who were suspended for reportedly failing a drug test.

This week New Mexico State (3-5), 11:30 a.m., CSS

5. South Carolina (6-1, 5-1 SEC, 5th last week): The Gamecocks survived their first game without star sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore, coming away with a 14-3 win over Tennessee in Knoxville Saturday. Freshman running back Brandon Wilds stepped up in Lattimore’s absence, going for 137 yards on 28 carries. Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw threw for 87 yards, ran for 64 yards and scored a touchdown each through the air and on the ground. With the win, South Carolina remains in control of the SEC Eastern Division, but it doesn’t get any easier with Arkansas and Florida over the next two weeks to close out the conference slate.

This week: at Arkansas (7-1, 3-1 SEC), 6:15 p.m., ESPN

6. Auburn (6-3, 4-2 SEC, 6th last week): Behind sophomore quarterback Clint Moseley and sophomore running back Michael Dyer, the Tigers dominated the second half and defeated Ole Miss 41-23. Moseley completed 12 of 15 passes for 160 yards and four touchdowns, the first of his career. Dyer carried the ball 27 times for 177 yards and a touchdown. Junior wide receiver Emory Blake, the team’s leading receiver, returned from an ankle injury and caught five passes for 71 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown. After nine straight games, Auburn is bowl eligible and now has a bye week before the season’s finishing kick that includes Georgia and Alabama.

This week: Bye, Next week: at Georgia (6-2, 5-1 SEC), TBD, TBD

7. Florida (4-4, 2-4 SEC, 7th last week): The Gators made explosive plays early against Georgia, including touchdowns on a fourth-and-19 play and a 99-yard kickoff return, but could not deliver a decisive blow in the second half and allowed two fourth-down touchdowns. Despite a sprained ankle, senior quarterback John Brantley started and threw for 245 yards and a touchdown but was also sacked six times. These sacks, combined with the struggles of senior running backs Chris Rainey (26 yards on five carries) and Jeff Demps (12 yards on eight carries), led to minus 19 yards rushing in the game.

This week: Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4 SEC), 11:21 a.m., SEC Network

8. Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4 SEC, 9th last week): The Commodores were a play or two away from signature win over top-10 team Arkansas in James Franklin’s first season in Nashville. Vanderbilt never trailed and led by as many as 14 points in the game before Arkansas stormed back to win 31-28. Junior Zac Stacy, who broke a 62-yard touchdown run and finished with 128 yards on the ground, had a costly fumble early in the fourth quarter that the Razorbacks returned for a touchdown. Then, sophomore Carey Spear missed a 27-yard field goal wide right that would have sent the game into overtime. This week, Vanderbilt looks for its first win against Florida since 1988.

This week: at Florida (4-4, 2-4 SEC), 11:21 a.m., SEC Network

9. Mississippi State (4-4, 1-4 SEC, 10th last week): Coming off a bye week, the Bulldogs regrouped and walked out of Lexington with a much-needed 28-16 win over Kentucky. The quarterback carousel continues to spin in Starkville, with the competition between senior Chris Relf and sophomore Tyler Russell continuing into this week. Relf completed 6 of 9 passes for 92 yards and accounted for three touchdowns. Russell completed 9 of 12 passes for 172 yards. With games left against Alabama and Arkansas, this Saturday against a FCS opponent and the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss are two more must-wins if Mississippi State wants to go bowling this season.

This week: Tennessee-Martin (5-3), 6:30 p.m., CSS

10. Tennessee (3-5, 0-5 SEC, 8th last week): This team is not as bad as the record shows, but at some point the Volunteers have to win a conference game. That’s why they’re below Vanderbilt and Mississippi State in this week’s power poll. Two weeks ago, head coach Derek Dooley burned freshman quarterback Justin Worley’s redshirt, and last week he made his first career start. Worley completed 10 of 26 passes for 105 yards with two interceptions. Senior running back Tauren Poole struggled on ground, rushing for just 38 yards on 18 carries. Tennessee, in the absence of sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray and sophomore wide receiver Justin Hunter, continues to try to find explosive plays on offense.

This week: Middle Tennessee State (2-5), 6 p.m., Fox Sports Net

11. Ole Miss (2-6, 0-5 SEC, 11th last week): The Rebels played Auburn to a 17-17 tie going into halftime but could not carry the momentum into the second half, as the Tigers scored 24 unanswered points and won 41-23 on the Plains. For the third straight week, the opposing team’s running back earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week, as Michael Dyer racked up 177 yards and a touchdown on the ground. For Ole Miss, senior running back Brandon Bolden had perhaps his best game of the season and rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Look for more younger players to enter the fold with attention quickly shifting from this season to the future.

This week: at Kentucky (3-5, 0-4 SEC), 2:30 p.m., ESPNU

12. Kentucky (3-5, 0-4 SEC, 12th last week): The Wildcats missed their first of two prime opportunities to earn their first conference win of the season, falling 28-16 at home to Mississippi State. Junior quarterback Morgan Newton completed 3 of 5 passes for 15 yards before suffering a right ankle sprain in the first quarter. Freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith stepped in and completed 26 of 33 passes for 174 yards. Basketball season is right around the corner, but back-to-back bowl games and snapping a 26-game losing streak to Tennessee in the regular season finale will go a long way on the football field.

This week: Ole Miss (2-6, 0-5 SEC), 2:30 p.m., ESPNU