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Phillip's blog: Sizing up the SEC

As we head toward the ninth Saturday of the season, one thing has been established with certainty in the Southeastern Conference:

Phillip Marshall, Senior Editor,

The West Division is boss.

Through the first eight weeks of the season, South Carolina's 35-21 win over Alabama and Vanderbilt's 28-14 win at Ole Miss are the East';s only victories over the West. Five West Division teams are in the Top 25. Only South Carolina represents the East.

Following is how I rank the SEC. The rankings, which I have done periodically, are not based on what team I think is most talented or even where I expect any team to finish, but on what has happened on the field,.

1. Auburn (8-0, 5-0). The Tigers, for now, are the clear leaders. Not only are they the only unbeaten team in the league, they have four wins over Top 25 teams in the past five weeks. They have the best quarterback in the league in Heisman Trophy favorite Cam Newton, the best defensive lineman in the league in Nick Fairley, the best offensive line in the league. They are No. 1 in the BCS standings.

2. Alabama (7-1, 4-1). The Tide has bounced back nicely from its loss at South Carolina, but wins over Ole Miss at home and Tennessee on the road don't say a whole lot. LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn await. With three wins, another shot at the national championship might be in the cards.

3. LSU (7-1, 4-1). LSU has rarely been impressive but has lost just once. It can get back into title conversation with a win over Alabama at home next Saturday.

4. Arkansas (5-2, 2-2). The Razorbacks led both Alabama and Auburn in the fourth quarter, only to lose. They have every reason to believe they can win out from here.

5. Mississippi State (6-2, 2-2). The Bulldogs' only losses are to Auburn and LSU, but they had to hang on to beat UAB last Saturday. Could they be headed for a dose of harsh reality?

6. South Carolina (5-2, 3-2).' The Gamecocks followed up their stirring win over Alabama with an overtime loss at Kentucky, then won a yawner at Vanderbilt,. Are they the favorites in the East? Probably so, for now.

7. Georgia (4-4, 3-3). After losing four straight, the Bulldogs are on the comeback trail. Beating Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Kentucky isn't, in itself, all that impressive. But Georgia beat them the way a good team should.

8. Florida (4-3, 2-3). Have the Gators and the exalted one, Urban Meyer, really lost there straight? Could they make it four against Georgia on Saturday>?

9. Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3). The Rebels' only wins are over Fresno State, Tulane and Kentucky. They've lost to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt at home. That's hard to do.

10. Kentucky (4-4, 1-4). The Wildcats could easily have a better record. Of course, I could easily have been born good looking. It just didn't happen.

11. Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-3). The Commodores have changed offensive coordinators eight games into the season. Definitely not a good sign.

12. Tennessee (2-5, 0-4). The once-proud Vols are a bad, bad football team.

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