SEC Football: Fresh New Odds for Every SEC Title Contender

Paul Cook@@paulgeecookContributor IIIOctober 9, 2016

SEC Football: Fresh New Odds for Every SEC Title Contender

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    What a week to be an SEC fan. Or a college football fan, for that matter.

    See, this is what your average NFL geek doesn't get about the college game; nothing is settled, nothing is predictable, no one is safe.

    "Any given Sunday?" Sure, whatever. Meanwhile, the grand, over-the-top pageant that is NCAA football continues its march into our collective hearts. 

    Speaking of "over the top," anyone manage to sit through the—all jokes aside—35-minute introduction to the Clemson-Florida State game, complete with a 20-yard bus ride and Eminem rapping to what looked to be the start screen to an old Coleco video game? Wow. My dreams aren't this vivid and weird.

    As the man said, I've been to a church picnic, a state fair and a rodeo, and I ain't never seen anything quite like that.

    So what to make of the SEC going forward? How do the odds break down after one of the wildest Saturday's in recent memory? Let's do the numbers.  


Florida Gators (SEC East No. 3)

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    Fresh off a two-game losing streak after Saturday's loss to ascendent SEC East power Missouri, the Florida Gators face a tough late-season stretch against the likes of Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC), South Carolina (5-2, 3-2 SEC) and the world-beating Florida State Seminoles (6-0, 4-0 ACC), a team that looked ready to take on 'Bama in their convincing Saturday night win over Clemson in Death Valley.

    What could happen...

    Florida bounces back from their last two losses, runs the table in their remaining three SEC matchups (Georgia, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt) and finishes the regular season 6-3 in conference play. Georgia opts not to make their traditional late-season stand to (somehow) win the East, falling in each of their three remaining SEC challenges and taking the rest of Mark Richt's coaching credibility (and hair) with them.

    South Carolina falls prey to their tough road stretch; Mizzou loses three of their last five games of the season—all of which are in intra-conference contests.

    What will probably happen...

    Florida goes into rebuild-'n'-salvage mode, pinning their hopes for late-season success on a statement win against arch-rival FSU in Gainesville. Unable to recapture any semblance of offense, the Gators drop two of their last three conference games to finish the season in the middle of the SEC East pack at a decidedly un-Gator-like 4-4 in SEC play.


Georgia Bulldogs (SEC East No. 3)

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    The line on the Georgia Bulldogs at the moment is that they're a talented, deeply-disciplined team that sustained one too many injuries in key skill positions. 

    I think that's probably the case.

    What could happen...

    The East is such a hot mess right now, it's difficult to imagine a team as historically resilient as the Georgia Bulldogs not scrapping their way back to within a game of first place. Aaron Murray is still Aaron Murray, after all, and even in dropping their last two games (Saturday's loss to Vandy was Georgia's first loss to the Commodores since 1991), the quarterback play has looked more or less solid, with Murray surpassing Tim Tebow for gaining the most yards of total offense in a career in SEC history. (That's right, look it up if you don't believe me.)

    The Bulldogs face Florida on November 2, after receiving a much-needed bye week to rest up and get their heads together. Given the time off to heal and Florida's lackluster offensive production of late, it's conceivable that Georgia wins this game.

    What will probably happen...

    The Bulldogs are in a hole right now. Even if they were to come back and win out the rest of their slate, the loss against Vandy has already taken its toll, as evidenced by Georgia's free-fall out of both the AP Top 25 and the fresh-off-the-presses BCS rankings).

    With a better-than-average No. 24 Auburn Tigers squad (6-1, 3-1 SEC) on the horizon, look for Georgia to drop one more conference game to finish the season 5 and 3 in SEC competition.    


South Carolina Gamecocks (SEC East No. 2)

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    South Carolina—a team whose mantra had been to mind their own business, win games, watch Georgia lose and wait around for the SEC East to sort itself out—now finds itself to be just another two-loss SEC squad. And after falling apart against Tennessee on Saturday, some pundits are wondering whether the Gamecocks will ever reach the Promised Land.

    Mathematically, the Gamecocks can still win their division, but to do so now won't be easy.

    What could happen... 

    The Gamecocks usually drop one game they have no business dropping. (Remember that inexplicable loss to Kentucky in 2010? Or how about the turd they laid against a down Auburn squad in 2011?)

    So for argument's sake, let's pretend their annual bonehead loss was Saturday's loss against Tennessee. In a best-case scenario, South Carolina bounces back and wins out the rest of their SEC slate, which would include wins over No. 5 Mizzou (7-0, 3-0 SEC) on Saturday, Mississippi State (3-3, 0-2 SEC) and Florida (4-3, 3-2 SEC) to finish 6-2 in conference play. 

    With the Gamecocks owning the head-to-head against Mizzou (in this scenario), Missouri would still need to drop two conference games. Suddenly, this doesn't seem so far-fetched given how the Tigers' season wraps up with brutal, back-to-back contests against a resurgent Mississippi team (4-3, 2-3 SEC) and Heisman-helmed No. 16 Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC).

    What will probably happen...

    On defense, South Carolina looked soft in the middle against Tennessee. The "Mothership" is still trying to convince everyone that Clowney is the same Clowney he was against Michigan in January, but against the Vols he forced no fumbles and registered zero interceptions. This means, among other things, that less-famous veterans like J.T. Surratt and Sharrod Golightly really need to step up their games to balance out the Gamecocks' hot-and-cold offense.

    If South Carolina can make it out of Mizzou with a win, the rest of their SEC slate sets up pretty nicely. 

    With quarterback Connor Shaw iffy against Mizzou on Saturday (a report Sunday evening confirmed that Shaw suffered a knee sprain), South Carolina will need to travel to Missouri ready to score some points if they want to get out of there with a win. If they insist on making Saturday's game against Mizzou a defensive struggle, they will probably lose.

    And their hopes of SEC East glory likely won't make the long trek back to Columbia with them.

Missouri Tigers (SEC East No. 1)

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    It's their party, and they'll keep winning if they want to. 

    With back-to-back statement wins over Georgia and Florida, Mizzou has effectively cast aside any remaining residue of their dreadful debut last season in the SEC.

    What could happen...

    With two ranked SEC teams on their remaining schedule (No. 21 South Carolina and No. 16 Texas A&M), Mizzou probably has one of the conference's tougher late-season gauntlets.

    Oh, and did I mention that the rest of their regular season schedule is filled top to bottom with SEC teams?

    Losing senior quarterback James Franklin certainly seemed like the death-knell for this resilient Mizzou team, but after freshman backup Maty Mauk made mincemeat out of Will Muschamp's defense—going 18-of-36 for nearly 300 yards—Mizzou heads into the rest of their season looking like a team that can take it all the way to Atlanta.

    What will probably happen...

    In some ways, it all comes down to this Saturday's No. 1 vs. No. 2 SEC East showdown between Missouri and South Carolina. If Mauk and the rest of Mizzou's offense look convincing against a rebounding Gamecock defense, there's little standing in their way now that Texas A&M looks like an ordinary squad.

    Keep an eye on Mizzou. They're not ready to call it a night just yet.   





Texas A&M Aggies (SEC West No. 4)

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    The Aggies started the season with high hopes; the media blitz surrounding Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel provided the perfect backdrop for a team that everyone thought could keep it interesting against Alabama—which they did. 

    But now that A&M has dropped two close games to traditional SEC powers Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) and Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC), their shot at an SEC Championship appearance is close to nil. 

    What could happen...

    If they were an SEC East team, Texas A&M might be able to engineer a comeback or at least make November interesting. Instead, they'll close out their season with two tough road games against No. 13 LSU (6-2, 3-2 SEC) and No. 5 Missouri (7-0, 3-0 SEC). Even if they somehow find a defense, their two conference losses in the West will all but prevent them from making it to Atlanta in December.

    There is still some hope that the Aggies could find their way to a BCS game, but it will depend on getting Manziel back to peak performance and figuring out what to do on the defensive side of the ball.

    What will happen...

    Texas A&M probably has another conference loss in their future, and I'm thinking it will come in the form of Zach Mettenberger and LSU under the lights in Baton Rouge in late November.    


LSU Tigers (SEC West No. 3)

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    Ironically, it's not last weekend's loss to Ole Miss that will probably put LSU out of contention for an SEC West title, but their loss against Georgia earlier in the season. Since that close loss in Athens, they just haven't looked like your standard-issue Bayou Bengals team.

    In part, this is due to the fact that LSU plays best when they're playing out of their heads and even beyond their talent level; no doubt this team is talented on offense, but to pull off the big win against 'Bama in a few weeks, they must step it up on the defensive side of the ball. 

    To put it bluntly, they need to play defense like LSU. 

    What could happen...

    If they win out, they'll finish the regular season 10-2, with a 6-2 SEC mark and wins over Alabama and Texas A&M. The Tigers would get the head-to-head nod over Auburn, whom they defeated in Week 4, but Auburn (6-1, 3-1 SEC) would still need to lose at least another SEC game for LSU to receive an invitation to Atlanta. 

    What will probably happen...

    I just don't see LSU beating 'Bama this season, especially not with the defensive performance they put on display against Mississippi. And for some strange reason, I see another Chik-Fil-A/Peach Bowl appearance in their New Year's Eve plans. 

    But as they say, that's why we play the games. 


Auburn Tigers (SEC West No. 2)

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    With Saturday's shocking win over Texas A&M, the No. 11 Auburn Tigers have emerged as one of the SEC's more interesting stories.

    What could happen...

    The rest of their schedule sets up well for a late run at the SEC West division crown. After this week's cupcake walk against Florida Atlantic, the Tiger's split their last four games with SEC East and West opponents: Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. (Just imagine how smoothly this might go if it weren't for that pesky rivalry game.)

    If Auburn can replicate the 600 yards of offensive production they put up against the Aggies in their remaining games, they could head into the Iron Bowl looking like the Auburn squads of yore: 10-1 overall, 6-1 in the SEC.

    They won't likely knock off 'Bama, but 10-2 and a possible BCS berth would still be a great finish to a surprising season under head coach Gus Malzahn.

    What will probably happen...

    Look for the Auburn Tigers to make a deep run for the SEC West, only to be stopped dead in their tracks by Alabama on November 30.



Alabama Crimson Tide (SEC West No. 1)

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    What can we say about the Crimson Tide that hasn't already been said, prognosticated, chewed, digested and...well, you get the idea.

    Yes, they have one of the easiest schedules in the SEC.

    Yes, Nick Saban probably made some sort of unholy deal with those witches from MacBeth to get said schedule.

    But that doesn't change the fact that they're the SEC's best hope for yet another (and the last ever!) BCS Championship.