Large gap between Alabama, Georgia and other SEC competitors


Alabama and Georgia have made it clear that they are the cream of the Southeast Conference once again this season as the top-ranked teams in the country.

Thinking of the gap between the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs and the rest of the league, think of Elvis Presley and the Jordanaires. Finding the best of the backup group is a bit more hazy after Florida, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and LSU were defeated last weekend.

Kentucky’s No.16, the only other undefeated SEC team, and Auburn’s No.18 have climbed the list of contenders.

Staying there means handling the next SEC test on Saturday.

“We haven’t played our best football,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “So they see the proof. Now I hope they’re just hungry, and I believe they will be.”

The Wildcats are in the midst of their most difficult period in recent memory as they are only their fourth 5-0 start in 70 years. After beating Florida at Kentucky for the first time since 1986, the Wildcats host LSU on Saturday night, followed by a trip to Georgia, No.2.

Kentucky have four straight wins with seven points or less thanks to a defense ranked 10th nationally in passing yards despite losing linebacker Jamin Davis (Washington) and cornerback Kelvin Joseph (Dallas) to the NFL in the last spring. The Wildcats, who also held off FCS Chattanooga, held a powerful Florida offense at 386 yards in the 20-13 upset last week.

For Florida’s No.20, it was a wake-up call.

The Gators won the SEC East last year, raising expectations for this year. They opened this season with their first four games in their home country. Now the Gators have two SEC losses and are fourth in the East – one spot below Tennessee.

“There’s still a lot of football to play this year, so we’ll see how this year unfolds,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said.

Auburn, with just one loss to Penn State last month, will face Georgia on Saturday after rallying for their first victory at LSU since 1999.

“It’s definitely a decisive game,” Auburn tight end John Samuel Shenker said.

Auburn and first-year coach Bryan Harsin have played three straight games, most notably against underdog Georgia State. The Tigers have a brutal capped closing schedule as they host reigning national champion Alabama to wrap up the regular season.

“We know people think we shouldn’t be classified or whatever,” Auburn defensive end Eku Leota said. “It helps motivate us to take it out every week and show these guys that we really deserve the opportunities that don’t come before us.”

The Arkansas No.13 certainly thought he was ready to push back Alabama and Georgia. Then came the Razorbacks’ first real SEC test drive, and coach Sam Pittman said everyone saw they weren’t ready for the big stage just yet.

His Razorbacks still have time to prove that they won’t wither under bright lights. They visit No.17 Ole Miss on Saturday, then host Auburn. The Razorbacks also run back-to-back trips in November to LSU and Alabama.

“We have a good football team, and we got our ass kicked by a really good football team,” Pittman said. “We don’t like it and we don’t accept it, but I’ll be damned if Georgia causes us to lose this Ole Miss game.”

LSU is poised to be 2-0 in the SEC, having won at Mississippi State and leading all but the final 3:11 of last week’s loss to Auburn. If LSU is to get back into the conversation about the best of others, the Tigers will need to earn it by starting with their trip to Kentucky.

Next, LSU hosts Florida before going to Ole Miss and Alabama with Arkansas also at home. Never mind that the Tigers fail to figure out how to steer the ball, struggling for coach Ed Orgeron to share his exasperation with his offensive line.

“We have to find new ways to block and we have to find people who are going to block,” Orgeron said.

Texas A&M knows all too well how quickly things can change within the SEC.

The Aggies moved up to fifth in the standings before a two-game slippage with losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State knocked them out of the Top 25.

And things don’t get complicated when visiting Alabama on Saturday night. The Aggies’ goals have also changed, although coach Jimbo Fisher doesn’t have time to worry about it midway through the SEC season.

“We have to become a good football team,” said Fisher. “Let’s line up and keep playing and see where the year takes us. “


AP Sports Editors Kristie Rieken, Brett Martel, John Zenor, Pete Iacobelli, Gary Graves and Mark Long contributed to this report.


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