A weekly look at the race for the SEC Championship
Now that Year 2 has given you a look at what the SEC's would-be national title contenders have to do to get in the BCS championship -- and what kind of help those teams' fans need to root for -- let's take a look at what they need to do to get to the SEC championship bout.
OUT IN FRONT
Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC)
The Tide, for now, is still in the catbird seat in the SEC West. They are in control of their own destiny and have a cushion that no one else does -- if they lose to anyone other than a one-loss LSU, they still control their own destiny. And while rivals Tennessee and Auburn would like nothing better than to keep Alabama from going to Atlanta, LSU is the only remotely equal competitor the Tide will face the rest of the year. Not that the Bayou Bengals have any extra motivation to beat Nick Saban in his return to Baton Rouge ...
Florida (5-1, 3-1 SEC)
The main goal for Florida remains unchanged: Beat Georgia. Depending on the outcome of the Georgia-LSU and Kentucky-Florida games this weekend, Florida could pretty much wrap up the division Nov. 1 against the Dawgs. Georgia losses to LSU and Florida would knock the Dawgs out entirely and leave Vanderbilt hanging by an even weaker thread.
IN THE THICK OF THINGS
LSU (5-1, 3-1 SEC)
If the Tigers can handle Georgia this weekend, Alabama comes to the Bayou Nov. 8 with everything on the line. If LSU beats the Tide then, the Bengals need only to beat Ole Miss and Arkansas to wrap things up. On the other hand, if the Tigers lose, they need Alabama to lose to Mississippi State and/or Auburn, depending on the outcome of the Alabama-Tennessee game. But LSU must beat Georgia first, or the Bengals need to beat Alabama and get some help.
Georgia (6-1, 3-1 SEC)
Despite having gone a month without playing inspired football, the Dawgs are still right where they need to be: take care of LSU this weekend in the Bayou, and Florida looms as the ultimate showdown. (For those of you wondering -- yes, the LSU-Georgia game is essentially a quarterfinal game.) But even wins at LSU and against Florida don't guarantee anything; the Dawgs would then embark on a dangerous two-game road swing at Kentucky and at Auburn for a game that it always unpredictable. On the other hand, Georgia would only need to split those two if they're 5-1 in conference play when the Kentucky game kicks off.
Vanderbilt (5-2, 3-2 SEC)
The chances for the Dores are much, much dicier than they were just a couple of weeks ago. Essentially, Vanderbilt needs to win out in the SEC and see Georgia lose twice. Both of those are possible, but one of them is unlikely. To win out, the Commodores have to beat the Gators in Nashville, Kentucky in Lexington, and Tennessee at home. If Vanderbilt had just defeated Mississippi State, their path would be so much easier.
Kentucky (5-2, 1-2 SEC)
Of all the teams still alive in the East, the Wildcats have the toughest road. They need to win out against this slate: at Florida, at Mississippi State, Georgia, Vanderbilt, at Tennessee. This is what happens when you backload your schedule. If they lose against Florida or Georgia, it's over. If they lose against any one of the other three teams, it's all over but the shouting -- without getting too complicated here, they would also need both the Gators and the Dawgs to lose again. It's probably not necessary to think that far ahead, though; it's hard to see the Wildcats knocking off both Georgia and Florida.
OUT OF IT
South Carolina (5-3, 2-3 SEC)
LSU basically turned out the lights on the Gamecocks this weekend. Even if South Carolina defeats Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida (in the Swamp), they still need Florida to lose against either Kentucky or Vanderbilt while beating Georgia as the part of a four-game conference losing streak for the Dawgs. The odds of that happening are about as good as the odds of Mike Davis winning the Doak Walker Award.
Auburn had a bye week ... Ole Miss' loss to the Tide means the next Alabama win officially eliminates the Rebels ... Same with Arkansas, who lost to Kentucky ... Mississippi State could actually "officially" hang around for a couple of weeks, but only a minor major miracle will put them in the Georgia Dome ... A win by Georgia or Florida this weekend makes it mathematically impossible for the Vols to win ...