COLLEGE FOOTBALL POLLS GRAPHIC

It's a sadder state of affairs than we ever imagined if you can't believe what you read in the college football polls.

So embrace them. Trust them. Coddle them. Believe in them … at least until something sexier comes along, like the College Football Playoff poll.

The polls get a lot of flack and very little respect. But, hey, they're just simple lists. They mean no harm. We need some kind of rating to argue about. The real high-brows amongst the football glitterati get all in an uproar mainly because the polls begin, in preseason, with all teams sight unseen.

Never mind that they have time to work themselves out and, in the end, don't mean squat.

It is pointed out time and time again that they are simply for entertainment purposes only, just to tide you over until the CFP committee gets down to the brass tacks.

Repeat: they are harmless.

Yet you'd think some Florida fool bit a camel in Louisiana or something, bit him where it hurts.

Anyway, what the polls are telling us right now is that five of the best nine teams in the country reside in the Southeastern Conference.

Three of the top seven are in the SEC West.

So take a bow, Alabama, Georgia and LSU, all in the top four or five, with Auburn and Florida not far behind.

Everybody sing along: SEC! SEC! SEC!

People are sitting around right now putting the metrics and algorithm together to figure a way it would be possible to have three teams from the SEC in the playoff, in which case college football would explode into a mushroom cloud.

Yes, it's no place for the faint-hearted.

But, as LSU's hurry-up Tigers take an open date to catch their breath and perhaps take in a huddle for old time's sake, here's the deal:

What the polls don't tell you, or at least skim over, is that right now the SEC might be harboring as many as five of the worst Power Five teams in college football.

It Just Means More — sure, at Alabama, Georgia, even LSU, Florida and Auburn.

But what in the world is Arkansas doing? Besides losing to San Jose State, I mean. The Hogs are blaming five interceptions — well, don't throw five interceptions. Anyway, it's the same team that struggled to beat Portland State.

Vanderbilt looks to be about as bad as any Vandy team ever, certainly as porous, which is quite an accomplishment. The Commodores are probably still book-learning smart, though.

Tennessee — proud Tennessee we're talking about! — looks flat out hopeless. But at least in a 34-3 shellacking by Florida, the Vols finally spared their fans the horror story — Don't open that door — of how'd they'd snatch heartbreak from the jaws of cautious optimism.

Ole Miss is kind of cute. That it took a questionable call for Cal to seal a victory against the Rebels probably speaks more to the Pac-12, of which the Bears somehow are the last great hope, than it does to Ole Miss. The Rebels did beat Arkansas, but, well, you know, big Hotty Toddy.

South Carolina somehow had it in its head that it was going to give Alabama a game two weeks ago. The Gamecocks got a pat on the head for keeping it within 24, then lost to Missouri by 34-14 (wasn't that close).

That's five pretty bad teams right there, well out of the range of the five really good teams.

In fact, though early in the season, one has to wonder if there's ever been this kind of chasm between the top and the bottom of the proud SEC.

In between? Well, it's hard to tell. Right now there's a lot of rumor, potential and innuendo, a lot of teams that could still go either way, with room for disaster or turnaround.

Texas A&M may well be the best 2-2 team in America — that's the positive narrative at least with a monster schedule and Jimbo Fisher pulling in $75 million — but so far all we know is that the Aggies can beat Lamar and Texas State. Congratulations, if that's the company you want to keep.

Mississippi State looks kind of OK in a gritty sort of way, possibly more capable of joining the elite than the dregs. But the Cowbells still lost at home to Kansas State and must answer for it.

Missouri. Ah, Missouri. Looked great against South Carolina, yes. But Missouri also lost at Wyoming ­— and what in tarnation is an SEC team doing in Wyoming anyway? — and will probably still finish third in the SEC East after Georgia slam-dunks it.

So that's … 13?

Who'd we forget?

Oh, Kentucky. Easy mistake to make. The Wildcats will find four more wins somewhere and go bowling to keep them in the middle.

But a long way from the big boys at the top.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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