Half the SEC baseball season is over, and we are living in a new normal in the power poll.
The so-called big dogs languish in the middle of the standings. The upstarts haven’t cooled. And, well, the poor teams in the cellar aren’t moving, either.
If nothing else, the logjam in the middle of the SEC standings will create a wild final few weeks. And, in the meantime, it creates a mess of a time trying to rank teams in our power poll. In the Baseball America national rankings alone, SEC teams hold down spots 9, 10, 11, 14, 15 and 16. For good measure, No. 23, too.
The margin for error is mighty slim. Teams are awfully close together at the top. So if your favorite team comes in ninth per Baseball America, but say, fourth (hint, hint) here, you have to understand they’re all just sardines in a can.
This is how we see SEC baseball stacking up through 5 weekends.
14. Alabama (previously 14th)
Overall: 14-22, 2-13
Last week: 1-3 (beat UAB, swept by Texas A&M)
So close, yet so far away. Alabama nearly upset Texas A&M in the series finale over the weekend, but the Aggies came through with all 3 runs in the seventh to get the sweep. At least the Tide held on to beat the Blazers earlier in the week.
13. Georgia (13)
Overall: 15-22, 4-11
Last week: 1-3 (beat Georgia Tech, swept by Arkansas)
Georgia was much the same as Alabama this week. The Bulldogs had their shot to avoid the sweep in Game 2 in Fayetteville, but ruined it on an absurd final play that turned a sacrifice bunt with a runner on first into the game-winning run. Error city. Georgia is saved by beating Georgia Tech, though that’s hardly a glimmering victory.
12. Tennessee (11)
Overall: 18-15, 4-11
Last week: 1-3 (lost to East Tennessee State, lost series to Auburn)
The Volunteers, along with South Carolina, broke up some ties atop the SEC. But that doesn’t do Tennessee much good. Things seem perpetually difficult in Knoxville with baseball where losing to ETSU didn’t register (a problem in and of itself). Beating Auburn one game shows the Vols aren’t dead, though, and Arkansas thanks them for that.
11. Missouri (12)
Overall: 26-11, 7-8
Last week: 3-2 (swept Arkansas-Pine Bluff, lost series to Kentucky)
Sorry, Mizzou, you’re not getting full credit for a winning week simply because you took two from UAPB. The best thing Missouri had, though, was competitiveness against Kentucky. The Tigers aren’t as bad as the 11-ranking here suggests, but they’re not all that great, either. Right now.
10. Vanderbilt (6)
Overall: 22-15, 7-8
Last week: 1-3 (lost to Tennessee Tech, lost series to Florida)
Just when it appeared Vanderbilt was turning things around, too. Florida dropped 30 runs on Vanderbilt in Nashville … in 2 games. The Commodores actually won Game 2 with a 2-0 shutout. Pitching has been an issue most of the season and it’s continued to let them down. And the loss to Tennessee Tech is inexplicable.
9. Ole Miss (10)
Overall: 22-14, 7-8
Last week: 2-2 (beat Southern Miss, lost series to LSU)
The Rebels still sort of hover in the mire. By no means is Ole Miss bad, but it’s not among the top tier in the league. Series losses now have been to LSU, Kentucky and Mississippi State. Series wins are against Vanderbilt and Alabama. Yep, the Rebels are a mid-standings team.
8. South Carolina (5)
Overall: 22-13, 8-7
Last week: 1-3 (lost to North Carolina, lost series to Mississippi State)
Things have crashed in a hurry in Columbia. Three straight losing SEC series knocked the Gamecocks out of the Baseball America Top 25 for the first time this season. A 15-run loss to North Carolina, even as good as the Tar Heels are, is embarrassing. That said, taking 1 from MSU is helpful in keeping South Carolina from falling too far. Things don’t get easier soon, though: Florida, Kentucky and LSU come the next 3 weekends, and the series against the Gators and Tigers come on the road.
7. Texas A&M (9)
Overall: 26-11, 8-7
Last week: 4-0 (beat Abilene Christian, swept Alabama)
Opposite of South Carolina, the Aggies are seeing their fortunes climb. Texas A&M has won 8 of 9 and 11 of its last 13 games, and is back in the BA Top 25, too. But sweeping Alabama isn’t going to make the Aggies leapfrog any of the power teams in the league. Nor will simply winning series against Tennessee and Missouri the next 2 weeks.
6. Florida (8)
Overall: 24-12, 8-7
Last week: 3-1 (beat Florida State, won series against Vanderbilt)
About time. Florida looked dominant all week except for the shutout loss to Vanderbilt. And even in that game, the pitching was excellent. One of the league’s worst offenses dropping 30 runs in 2 games was a sight to behold. Another 10 runs against Florida State was even more impressive. There is headway to be made with South Carolina and Georgia the next 2 weeks.
5. Auburn (7)
Overall: 27-11, 10-5
Last week: 3-1 (beat Samford, won series against Tennessee)
Even the most incredulous have to buy Auburn as real at this point. Rolling 2 absolute aces every weekend will do that. Casey Mize (58 2/3 IP, 82 K, 8 BB, 1.23 ERA) and Keegan Thompson (48 2/3 IP, 37 K, 8 BB, 1.29 ERA) are first and second in the SEC in earned-run average. When they’re rolling, they counter a ho-hum offense (eighth in batting average) and, honestly, a pretty poor rest of the pitching staff (ninth in team ERA).
4. LSU (4)
Overall: 25-12, 9-6
Last week: 3-1 (beat Louisiana-Lafayette, won series against Ole Miss)
LSU never took a dive in the rankings, even when it was battling through series early in the SEC season. Now the Tigers are winning 2 out of 3 and looking good doing it. The Tigers remain a top 10 team in the national rankings, but too many of those funky losses have put them behind the pack in the league standings. Ultimately, they’re behind the pack in the power poll.
3. Kentucky (1)
Overall: 25-12 (10-5)
Last week: 3-1 (beat Tennessee-Martin, won series against Missouri)
Did Kentucky deserve to fall considering it had the same 3-1 mark as Mississippi State this past week? Maybe not. The Wildcats still rake, leading the SEC in batting average, slugging and on-base percentage. But don’t forget that Kentucky lost to MSU two weekends ago and didn’t get dinged for it.
2. Mississippi State (3)
Overall: 25-13, 10-5
Last week: 3-1 (beat Mississippi Valley State, won series against South Carolina)
Brent Rooker continues to be baddest man in college baseball. His numbers now: .432/.532/.957, 16 home runs, 57 RBI, 15 stolen bases. Mercy. The bullpen let Mississippi State down in the finale against South Carolina, but make no mistake, the Bulldogs aren’t messing around.
1. Arkansas (2)
Overall: 29-8, 11-4
Last week: 4-0 (beat Missouri State, swept Georgia)
Quietly, Arkansas is back atop the SEC. Dave Van Horn, with all of his success, has never won an SEC regular-season title. Tied once, but no outright wins. Arkansas still has 15 more SEC games to go, but right now, the Razorbacks are in a good position. Two games against Memphis this week are moot. The big series is this weekend at Auburn. Another series win and the dreams of an SEC crown become more real.