With one month remaining in the regular season, this seems like as good a time as any to examine how the division races stack up for the remaining contending teams.
Top-ranked Alabama remains in control of the West race, though upstart Auburn is on the Crimson Tide’s heels. The Nov. 30 Iron Bowl could have the division title on the line when the in-state rivals meet.
On the other side, South Carolina’s double-overtime victory at Missouri throws the East race into a wide-open state.
Missouri still leads, but with tough games remaining on its slate and a redshirt freshman in at quarterback. South Carolina, Georgia and Florida all find themselves within a game of the Tigers in the loss-column. Even Tennessee at 1-3 has some hope if it can win at Missouri on Saturday.
Here’s a closer look at the SEC divisional races:
Missouri (3-1, 7-1 overall): If Missouri wins out, it captures the division title without any help. The Tigers can dramatically help their cause in winning the SEC East by taking care of business over the next two weeks. Mizzou hosts Tennessee this week before traveling to Kentucky on Nov. 9. Victories in those two games would clinch a 5-1 divisional record, which could come back as a key tie-breaker. However, the final two games – at Ole Miss and home against Texas A&M – present real challenges to the Tigers. Strangely, Missouri will cheer on whoever wins this week’s Florida-Georgia game for the rest of the season. The Tigers own the tie-breaker in the event they finish in a two-way tie with one of them and they would win a tie-breaker because of their divisional record in the event of a three-way tie with South Carolina.
South Carolina (4-2, 6-2 overall): The easiest path for South Carolina to advance to Atlanta involves winning out and Missouri, Georgia and Florida each losing once more. The Gamecocks want to avoid a three-way tie involving Missouri and Georgia unless the Tigers lose to either Tennessee or Kentucky. In the event South Carolina finishes in a two-way tie with Missouri, the Gamecocks would win the tie-breaker because of head-to-head competition. However, South Carolina would lose a two-way tie-breaker with Georgia.
Georgia (3-2, 4-3 overall): For the Bulldogs to make a serious run at the division title, they must win their final three conference games starting this week in a neutral-field tilt with Florida. A road game at Auburn still looms for Georgia. The Bulldogs also need help. Missouri must lose at least once – and probably twice – more. For Georgia to have any chance in a tie-breaker with a 6-2 Missouri team, the Tigers would have to lose to either Tennessee or Kentucky. Otherwise a two-loss Missouri team would win any tie-breaker involving Georgia because of divisional record. A two-way tie with South Carolina would allow the Bulldogs to advance to Atlanta.
Florida (3-2, 4-3 overall): If Florida can find some offense, it has a chance to really throw a wrench into the SEC East race. The Gators still play South Carolina and Georgia, meaning they can guarantee both teams fall to three losses. At that point, they would need Missouri to lose two more games because the Tigers own the tie-breaker.
Tennessee (1-3, 4-4 overall): The Volunteers make this list almost entirely for the sake of being comprehensive. They must win out – starting with a road game at Missouri this week – and receive significant help. The Tigers would have to lose again after Saturday and the other three contenders must lose once more.
Alabama (5-0, 8-0 overall): Obviously if Alabama wins its final three conference games, nobody can catch it. That’s the simplest path to Atlanta. Even a one-loss Crimson Tide team captures the division if Auburn loses again. This division is Alabama’s to lose. Even if it loses to LSU in two weeks, the Tide would have to fall again either to Mississippi State or Auburn to not advance to the SEC Championship Game.
Auburn (3-1, 7-1 overall): The Tigers’ only realistic chance of winning the West is to win out, including a victory over Alabama. In SEC divisional races, only Auburn, Alabama and Missouri completely control their paths. Auburn could potentially win the division with two losses, but would need a lot of help. The only possible way a two-loss Auburn team wins the division is if LSU or Mississippi State beats Alabama and Auburn does as well. If a two-loss LSU team is involved in the tie, though, Auburn would be eliminated. A two-loss Auburn could win a tie-breaker involving Texas A&M and Alabama assuming the Tigers beat the Crimson Tide.
LSU (3-2, 7-2 overall): Barring Alabama losing its final three conference games – which ranks toward the top of college football’s “least probable” chart – LSU needs to win out. Doing so would mean beating both the Crimson Tide and Texas A&M. If a two-loss LSU team is involved in a tie-breaker scenario, it would automatically win. The only way LSU, at 6-2, can be in a tie-breaker is if Alabama loses twice, including to LSU. Even if Auburn finishes 6-2 as well, LSU would hold the edge because it would be 2-0 against Auburn and Alabama. It isn’t possible for Texas A&M to be involved in a tie-breaker with a two-loss LSU team.
Texas A&M (3-2, 7-2 overall): There is little chance the Aggies can win the SEC West. They must win out and hope Alabama loses its last three conference games. One Alabama win eliminates A&M from contention for the division.