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Road to Atlanta, SEC West: The Biggest Iron Bowl in a Long Time?

If the Tide and the Tigers continue to win, the season-ending rivalry game could put a lot more than bragging rights on the line

Kevin C. Cox

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 West. (For the purposes of this exercise, we're excluding the teams with practically no hope --Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Arkansas in the West, for example. The reasons should be clear: While there might be mathematical possibilities for those teams to win, it's not happening.)

Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0 SEC, 3-0 SEC West): I know it will stun you to learn that we're in late October and the Tide still controls its own destiny. The problem for Alabama is that, as long as Auburn keeps winning, the Tide can't put away the division until possibly the biggest Iron Bowl in years. Beating Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State in the next three games will get Alabama nothing unless Auburn loses somewhere along the way. Of course, beating LSU is never a sure thing for Alabama, and losing that game could introduce a new dynamic in the SEC West down the stretch.

Auburn Tigers (3-1, 3-1): The biggest beneficiary of last week's upsetapalooza was unquestionably Auburn. The loss by LSU put the Orange and Blue Tigers back in control of their own destiny by dealing a second loss to the one team that's beaten Auburn. And the Tigers obviously have the hardest part of their schedule behind them. The trip to Arkansas shouldn't be too much of a problem, though the road game at Tennessee looks trickier each week. But the most challenging remaining games -- Georgia and Alabama -- are both at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and how healthy the Dawgs will be is nothing better than guesswork at this point. Inexperience could still trip this team up at some point, but you could argue they've got at least a 50-50 shot at turning the Iron Bowl into an SEC West Championship Game.

LSU Tigers (3-2, 2-1): Despite the loss to Ole Miss last week, the Bayou Bengals are not completely out of it. They're not firmly in the race for the division either, but they're not dead yet. For one thing, LSU still gets to play Alabama -- or has to play Alabama, depending on how you want to look at it -- and a win there would give the Tigers the tiebreaker over both the Tide and Auburn. But tiebreakers don't mean anything unless there is a tie, of course. So Alabama and Auburn would still need to each take at least one more loss. An easier way to look at it: LSU needs either Alabama or Auburn to take on at least one more loss before the Iron Bowl. If they both make it to the Iron Bowl with no more than one loss, the Bayou Bengals are out of it.

Texas A&M Aggies (2-2, 2-2): I'm not sure how much of a chance the Aggies really have here. They've already lost to both Alabama and Auburn, meaning they need each of those teams to lose three games. That's not impossible, but it's not exactly likely. The best chance goes something like this: A&M wins out; Auburn drops the games to Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia; Alabama loses to LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. This is probably the last time you'll see the Aggies in this space, barring another weekend like the one we had last week.