Four SEC teams that were in Baseball America's rankings last week fell out of them this week. And it's pretty hard to dispute the poll's decision in those cases. (In many other cases, yes. We'll get to that in a bit. But with the SEC teams in question, not so much.)
Start with Alabama, whose grip on the No. 21 spot was a bit precarious at 4-2 in the first place. But that was before the Tide went 1-3 over the past week, dropping a midweek game to Southern Miss and losing two out of three to Louisiana-Lafayette. Nothing wrong with that, per se -- ULL is a Top 10 team by most people's reckoning -- but teams at .500 or below are only allowed to stay in the poll if they're Indiana or in the ACC.
Texas A&M got swept by Fresno State, scoring five runs for the whole series, all of those in the second game and all of them in two innings of that game. The Aggies had 13 hits all weekend. The midweek win against Houston Baptist wasn't enough to keep A&M, now at 7-4, at No. 23.
Arkansas, ranked 24th heading into the weekend, started off with a solid 12-1 win against South Alabama on Friday. And then things headed south. The Hogs lost both halves of a double-header, their first losses of the season, ending a seven-game winning streak that had indicated they might be players in the SEC West.
And then there's Florida. Somehow, the Gators were still No. 25 when the week began. The 1-3 stretch between Thursday and Sunday, including losing twice to Illinois, wiped that out. Florida is now at .500 on the season despite having played only one high-quality team -- Miami (FL). The Gators have scored more than two runs in just two of their last six games, and that's not going to work even in the BBCOR era of college baseball.
The upshot of all of this is that there are now two undefeated teams in the SEC: South Carolina and Tennessee. Tell me you saw that coming at the beginning of the season, and I will call a liar to your face.
Speaking of the Gamecocks, they spent the weekend sweeping archrival Clemson, often in dramatic fashion to move to 10-0 on the year. It seems like South Carolina's baseball team is going to emulate the football team of the past season and win only after giving the Columbia faithful heart palpitations.
Take Friday. The Gamecocks were losing 6-1 in the middle of the fifth inning, with staff ace Jordan Montgomery having been roughed up for five earned runs. South Carolina then turned on the offense, scoring eight runs in the course of the next four innings to put the game out of reach.
After an easy 10-2 win that featured a five-run third inning, South Carolina once again found itself down late in the series finale. Wil Crowe had pitched better than Montgomery, spreading three earned runs across 6.2 innings, but the Gamecocks had managed only one run before the ninth inning. But the Gamecocks broke out for five hits in the top of the ninth to take a 5-3 lead, and Clemson couldn't recover.
At this point, South Carolina is almost the de facto favorite in the SEC East. If only they could shake pesky Tennessee. The Vols travel this weekend to Arizona State, where a sweep would make their stock climb even higher.
When the year started, Mississippi State was supposed to be a favorite for the SEC West -- maybe the favorite. And the Bulldogs rebounded nicely in their home tournament this past weekend, sweeping it as part of a 6-0 week that helped remove some of the doubts over a shaky start.
But across the state, Ole Miss has quietly put together an 11-1 record, the best in the division. The caveat on all that is that the Rebels haven't really played anyone yet, and so the gaudy win-loss mark might be as much a commentary on the schedule as on anything else. Two of this weekend's wins against UCF, for example, came in extra innings. Ole Miss has won all four of the one-run games it's played this year, which is almost impossible to sustain over the course of a season. And a loss to Georgia State does not instill confidence.
The Rebels, though, will face South Carolina as their first SEC opponent in a couple of weeks. That would be a perfect chance to announce just how good they really are.
Sigh. Only Baseball America again.
|2||Florida St. Seminoles||8-1||2|
|3||South Carolina Gamecocks||10-0||3|
|4||Cal State Fullerton Ttians
|5||Oregon St. Beavers
|12||Mississippi St. Bulldogs
I didn't have a chance to do a full table today, but the Top 5 and SEC teams should give a flavor of the most ridiculous thing in the survey: Virginia, which has lost to Kentucky and dropped a game this week to VMI, remains No. 1. Why? Because they swept the storied power of Monmouth. I didn't say that; they did.
Teams that sweep weekend series almost never drop, regardless of conference. RT @Teddy_Heffner: ACC baby. You lose and you don't pay for it!— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) March 3, 2014
First of all, this is the problem with the way many of the college football pollsters vote: A belief that a team is somehow entitled to a spot in the rankings once they earn it, and a case must be made for dropping that team, as opposed to sitting down and just deciding who has put together the best season so far. In any case, if Baseball America's poll is going to cling to its preseason rankings barring massive changes until deeper in the season, they should do what USA Today is doing: Have a preseason poll and then do another one when you're ready to take what's happening on the field into account. Spare us all the pretense that you're carefully considering this every week.
But at least Tennessee knows what it has to do now to get in the Top 25: Schedule Monmouth.