Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – We’ve hit the stretch run of the college
football season and the postseason picture in every conference across the
nation is starting to come into focus.
Roughly four games remain on teams’ regular-season schedules, which provides
plenty of time for a surge or collapse. Just look at what’s happened in Oxford,
Mississippi, where the Ole Miss Rebels have lost back-to-back games to slip
from No. 4 in the first-ever College Football Playoff ranking to No. 12 in the
AP Top 25 and out of playoff contention.
As is promised year after year, the SEC has provided some of the top teams in
the country. But when the conference portion of the schedule gets underway,
teams do inflict heavy damage on one another, causing significant fluctuations
in the polls and in the CFB Playoff rankings. Again, see Ole Miss for an
It’s already been the case for some of the favorite teams in the nation, like
Alabama’s loss to Ole Miss, Auburn’s defeat at the hands of top-ranked
Mississippi State and Georgia’s losses to South Carolina and Florida.
But here’s the thing when it comes to the SEC: Between the East Division and
the West Division in the conference, there’s a ton of disparity. The SEC West
Division places five teams in the AP Top 25, while the SEC East Division has
lonely Georgia as its solo Top-25 resident. And Georgia’s ranking (currently
17th in the country) falls below all five teams that are ranked from the SEC
West. Mississippi State, Auburn and Alabama make up three of the top four teams
in the FBS.
Here’s the next part: When it comes to crowning an SEC champion, the title game
has to come down to one East Division team and one West Division team. Of
course, that’s the way it’s always been, but, especially this season, the power
index favors the West by a great deal.
In two weeks, Mississippi State will travel to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama,
likely the best college football program of the last decade. You’re telling me
the SEC championship game promises to be more contentious than this meeting?
Let’s be honest, the real SEC champion should be the one victorious in this
clash of the titans.
But that’s not the way it’s going to happen, although the SEC West Division is
head and shoulders better than the East this season. Unranked Missouri
currently leads the SEC East with a 4-1 conference record and three games
remaining on its schedule – all very winnable. Trips to Texas A&M (possibly the
toughest matchup left for the Tigers) and Tennessee (without starting
quarterback Justin Worley) precede a finale against currently winless-in-
conference Arkansas. Should the Tigers fall at any point, Georgia is the only
real contender left. And the Bulldogs should be the choice to come out of the
East Division anyway, considering they clobbered Missouri, 34-0, early in
Two SEC games remain on Georgia’s slate – a matchup against Kentucky this
weekend and a home game against Auburn on Nov. 15. Then it’s FCS challenger
Charleston Southern and the ACC’s Georgia Tech that are left in the way. And
with star running back Todd Gurley coming back from suspension, the Bulldogs
are the team to watch in the SEC East.
Let’s say it’s Georgia and Mississippi State that compete for the SEC
championship later this season. Here’s a scenario:
If Georgia beats Mississippi State (again, just an example) in the SEC title
game, what happens to the playoff contenders in the SEC West that all
(hypothetically) finished with better records than Georgia? Will Auburn’s
chances of making the College Football Playoff take a hit because, if Auburn
wins out, its lone conference loss came against a team that lost the SEC
Maybe it’s Alabama that emerges from the Mississippi State contest and takes
possession of first place in the SEC West, and then continues on to the
conference title game. Should the Crimson Tide lose in the championship game,
what does that do for Mississippi State’s stock come playoff time? The Bulldogs
have remained unbeaten longer than all but two teams in the FBS, yet they
(again, hypothetically) couldn’t even beat the team that lost the conference
championship game? Things could get pretty shaky in the league at the drop of a
Fortunately (or possibly unfortunately, depending on how things go), the final
four weeks of the regular season will start to see the race iron out a bit in
the SEC, and we’ll get a clear view at which two teams belong in the title
game. Mississippi State plays Alabama and Ole Miss, Alabama gets Mississippi
State and Auburn, and Auburn will take on Georgia and Alabama. Talk about a
giant web of possibility. Even LSU, at 3-2 in league play, is a team to watch
in the final few weeks. Maybe not as a contender, but certainly as a spoiler.
The bottom line is this: the SEC is the best conference in college football,
but every league has some outlying teams that just don’t quite stack up to the
rest of the crowd. In the SEC’s case, the top-end programs are currently
concentrated in the West Division. But only one of those top teams can make it
to the SEC championship game, where it must take on the survivor of the SEC
Whether the outcome of the SEC regular season and championship game heavily
affect the College Football Playoff is yet to be seen. Right now, both
Mississippi State and Auburn are in the top four, with Alabama as the immediate
outlier. Considering those three SEC teams have an intertwined final leg of
scheduling, it seems like a long shot for all three to make it in. But the
unpredictability of college football is why so many fans are drawn to it, so
let’s sit back and watch as the drama unfolds.