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The Road to Atlanta, SEC East: Missouri's in the Driver's Seat, and a Win Almost Locks It Up

As long as the Tigers win for a few more weeks, they're going to Atlanta. But what if they don't?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It's time for people to figure out which division scenarios are best for their teams as we move into what could be a decisive weekend in the battle for SEC Championship Game berths. So we're here to help, breaking down which teams need what to happen in order for a trip to Atlanta. First, the East. (For the purposes of this exercise, we're excluding the teams with practically no hope -- Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt in the East, for example. The reasons should be clear: While there might be mathematical possibilities for those teams to win, it's not happening.)

Missouri Tigers (3-0 SEC, 3-0 SEC East): This is the only team remaining in the SEC East that controls its own fate. And while a win against South Carolina this weekend doesn't formally lock up the division, it comes pretty close; all the Tigers would have to do is win against Tennessee and at Kentucky over the next two games to officially punch their ticket to Atlanta. With all the other teams certain to have at least two losses and Missouri holding the tiebreaker against all of them, wins at Ole Miss and Texas A&M would be required only to keep what would then be Mizzou's national title hopes alive. Indeed, a win against the Gamecocks would mean that Missouri would have to lose three of its four remaining games while either Georgia or Florida went undefeated in order for another team to take the title, which seems rather unlikely. This weekend is basically win-and-in for Missouri.

Georgia Bulldogs (3-2, 2-2): First, Mark Richt and Co. really need to drop their pride and root for the Gamecocks this weekend. Then they need to win out. But that's not enough. They also need Missouri to pick up at least one more loss, and it matters which games Missouri loses. For example, if Missouri were to lose to South Carolina and Tennessee, leading to a three-way tie between Missouri, South Carolina and Georgia, the Bulldogs would go as long as Tennessee ended up above Vanderbilt in the SEC East standings. (Don't ask.) The easiest solution here for the Bulldogs would be to win out while Missouri takes three more losses, which becomes almost impossible if the Tigers beat South Carolina.

South Carolina Gamecocks (3-2, 2-2): Steve Spurrier's team has a little bit of extra wiggle room than you might think, given that it still hasn't played Missouri. But that window will slam shut if the Tigers win in the other Columbia this weekend. If South Carolina wins out, it needs another loss by Missouri somewhere along the road, and preferably two. The Gamecocks would also become Vanderbilt's biggest fan, as a three-way tie between Missouri, South Carolina and Georgia would send the Gamecocks to Atlanta if both Missouri's losses were in the division and Vanderbilt finishes above Tennessee in the SEC East standings. (Again, don't ask.) As with Georgia, the easiest solution is for Missouri to lose at least three conference games, one against South Carolina and two others.

Florida Gators (3-2, 2-1): Ditto and ditto for Florida. The Gators, however, are also in a bit of a difficult spot: They have to win against Georgia and at South Carolina to have a reasonable chance, but those losses would also knock South Carolina and Georgia out of potential three-team tiebreakers if Missouri only takes two more losses. Missouri would beat Florida on the head-to-head and go to Atlanta. And if the Gators lose to either South Carolina or Georgia and end up in a three-team tiebreaker with Missouri and that other team -- say, Georgia -- then Florida would be the team sitting at home. The only plausible path to the division title for Florida is to win out and see Missouri take three losses. Each of those seems relatively unlikely right now, but both at the same time is bordering on ludicrous.