A weekly look at the race for the SEC Championship
This week, we have three front-runners. On Sunday, we'll have two -- the Game of the Year should pretty much wrap up the SEC East, as Alabama has all but wrapped up the SEC West. But last year's cascade of upsets should remind us that it ain't over until it's over. Unless you're Arkansas. And then it's over.
OUT IN FRONT
Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC; Magic Number: 2)
The win over Tennessee, paired with Georgia's demolition of LSU, pretty much clears the way for the Tide to take the West. Win out, obviously, and it's over. Lose no more than one additional game and it's over. Beat LSU in a week, and it's over. There are just too many ways for Alabama to win to believe anyone else will.
Florida (6-1, 4-1 SEC)/Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC)
To get a sense for just how much of a stranglehold one of these teams will have against the other when the game between them is over: The winner would have to lose its last two SEC games to hand the division to the loser. Now, there are still ways someone else could win the SEC East, which we'll talk about in a minute. The likelihood of those things happening, though, are almost nonexistent.
LSU (5-2, 3-2 SEC)
It's desperation time for the Bayou Bengals. If they lose to Alabama in Baton Rouge on Nov. 8, the Tide wins the SEC West. Even if the Tigers manage to beat Alabama, the Tide would still have to lose to Mississippi State or Auburn. That's not impossible, of course; the Bulldogs have CROOMed Alabama the last two years, and the Iron Bowl is a rivalry game in which Alabama has a six-year losing streak. Even so, LSU has to defeat Ole Miss at home and Arkansas on the road. Put simply: Alabama needs one game to go its way; LSU needs four.
Vanderbilt (5-3, 3-2 SEC)
The slenderest of chances remains for the Commodores. If Florida wins against Georgia; Vanderbilt beats Florida (stop laughing), Kentucky and Tennessee; and Georgia loses to Kentucky or Auburn, Vanderbilt wins. If Georgia wins against Florida, Georgia has to lose to Kentucky and Auburn while Vanderbilt wins out. So, possible? Yes. Likely? Not a bit.
OUT OF IT
Kentucky (5-3, 1-3 SEC)
Unless you believe that the team that lost to Florida 63-5 can reel off wins against Georgia (um, no), Vanderbilt (possible) and Tennessee (likely). Like South Carolina, Kentucky isn't officially done, but they aren't exactly reserving hotel rooms in Atlanta, either. Except maybe for late December.
Auburn's loss to West Virginia didn't mathematically hurt the Tigers in the race for the SEC West, but it showed they're incapable of winning enough games to get the division crown ... Mississippi State avoids elimination by playing a Sun Belt team ... South Carolina's bye certainly didn't get them back in the picture ...
Arkansas is officially out because Alabama could lose every game from here on out and still have one fewer SEC loss (three) than Arkansas (four) ... Ole Miss can, at best, tie Alabama and the Tide has the head-to-head tiebreaker ... Tennessee has more conference losses (four) than the Georgia-Florida winner will have at the end of the year ...