Best-Case, Worst-Case Bowl Scenarios for Every SEC Team

Kurt Wirth@Kurt_WirthCorrespondent INovember 12, 2013

Best-Case, Worst-Case Bowl Scenarios for Every SEC Team

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    Another year, more SEC dominance.

    The conference has four teams ranked in the BCS Top Ten, including Alabama head coach Nick Saban's NFL-like Alabama squad.

    Entering the final few weeks of the season, surprise teams like Auburn and Missouri are battling for position with the SEC's traditional powers in order to secure a spot in a BCS bowl. It's been a quick, exciting, trend-breaking season thus far and the postseason should hold more of the same.

    Divisional races are clarifying, and teams are falling out of bowl contention. It's time to take a look at the best possible outcomes for your favorite SEC team and the worst possible outcomes for its rivals.

Arkansas and Kentucky

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    Arkansas:  3-7 (0-6 SEC West, seventh)

    Kentucky:  2-7, (0-5 SEC East, seventh)


    Worst-Case Scenario

    Both of these teams have already played their way out of bowl contention and are looking ahead to next season.

    The Razorbacks started 2013-14 with three straight wins over tiny schools and have since posted seven straight losses by a combined score of 276-115.

    Not exactly the SEC debut head coach Bret Bielema was envisioning.

    With games against Mississippi State in Little Rock, and at LSU remaining, it's not difficult to imagine a 3-9 finish to the season for Arkansas. The 'Backs bring back nearly every playmaker on offense and could be a threat to make a bowl game next season—but that's if losing the team's top five tacklers on defense doesn't prove too difficult to overcome.

    The situation in Lexington isn't as pretty.

    Finishing 5-7 in 2011, last year brought two wins and this season is shaping up to be similar. With little SEC-caliber talent and games at a surging Vanderbilt, Georgia and at home against Tennessee, the focus of the Kentucky Wildcats is where it generally is: Rupp Arena. It's hard to imagine UK even coming close in any of its remaining games, and the road to improvement in 2014-15 seems to be a long one.


    Best-Case Scenario

    Both teams would highly value an unexpected upset late in the season to carry some momentum into next offseason's recruiting.

    While an Arkansas upset over Ole Miss in Oxford is unlikely, it's not altogether undoable. The Backs' best chance for a win, though, will rest in Little Rock in a test against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are severely underrated, but often beat themselves, and if Bielema's squad could conceivably seize upon Mississippi State mistakes, it might pull out a win.

    Kentucky's only hope for a win will be to pull a Florida and force a bevy of turnovers on the Vols at home. Head coach Mark Stoops will have to hope his players haven't checked out mentally and can shock Tennessee at home.


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    Tennessee:  4-6 (1-5 SEC East, sixth)

    BCS Ranking:  NR

    Worst Possible Bowl:  None

    Best Possible Bowl:  Liberty


    The Vols, under new head coach Butch Jones, are aiming to avoid finishing a game short of bowl eligibility for the third consecutive year.

    This season, it looks manageable.


    Worst-Case Scenario

    Though the remaining two games (Vanderbilt, at Kentucky) are both winnable, the margin for error could not be slimmer. Tennessee already has six losses, and the game against Vandy is one of those unpredictable rivalry matchups.

    If the Vols drop that rivalry game to a surprisingly solid Vanderbilt group, it could spell disaster for the team's morale. With a bowl game out of the question, an unmotivated trip to Lexington could end Jones' debut season with eight losses.


    Best-Case Scenario

    Butch Jones has proven he can coach; his team has shown improvement across the board and pulled off an upset win at home over South Carolina to boot. If the Vols stay focused, they could find themselves ending the season with two straight wins and receiving their first bowl invite since 2010. 

Mississippi State

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    Mississippi State4-5 (1-4 SEC West, sixth)

    BCS RankingNR

    Worst Possible Bowl:  None

    Best Possible BowlLiberty


    Dan Mullen's name has, illogically, been under fire as of late. While he certainly won't lose his job this season, the Bulldogs are in contention for missing a bowl for the first time since 2009.


    Worst-Case Scenario

    This has been a heartbreaking season for Mississippi State. A late-game drive by Auburn and competitive games against Oklahoma State, LSU and Texas A&M all resulted in four losses. Getting a program spoiled on bowl games is a dangerous thing, and Mullen is feeling the repercussions.

    A win against top-ranked Alabama isn't going to happen. While the Razorbacks of Arkansas haven't won a game since mid-September, they're no pushover. A loss to the 'Backs would put State out of bowl contention and give it little to play for at home against Ole Miss. The Rebels, jockeying for bowl position, will have all the motivation they need, and this easily conceivable scenario has MSU ending the season on a five-game losing streak.


    Best-Case Scenario

    Mississippi State has one of the more extreme best/worst cases in the conference. Conversely, if the 'Dawgs top a struggling Razorback team in Little Rock, Mullen's squad will have everything to play for against Ole Miss. State could win its fourth Egg Bowl in the past five seasons and perhaps more importantly, reach a bowl game for the fourth consecutive year.


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    Vanderbilt:  5-4 (2-4 SEC East, fifth)

    BCS Ranking:  NR

    Worst Possible Bowl:  Independence

    Best Possible Bowl:  Music City


    Head coach James Franklin has done a masterful job in Nashville, and his Commodores look to be a lock for a historic third straight bowl game.

    Can he makes it two consecutive bowl wins?


    Worst-Case Scenario

    A front-loaded schedule has been a roller coaster ride for Vanderbilt. All of the Commodore losses have been to quality opponents, and a win over Georgia has effectively guaranteed a third consecutive bowl-game appearance.

    The location (and potential payout) of the bowl has yet to be decided. A win over the Kentucky Wildcats should be a gimme, which then sets up the rivalry matchup with Tennessee in Knoxville. The Vols, fighting for their postseason lives, could easily pull out the win and leave a home tilt against Wake Forest.

    The Deamon Deacons have shown grit, with wins over North Carolina State and Maryland, and have the potential to win against the Commodores. Vanderbilt likely won't have much to play for, with a bowl game effectively sealed up, and might be looking ahead. A 6-6 season would be a disappointment after a 9-4 campaign and No. 23 AP ranking in 2012.


    Best-Case Scenario

    A front-loaded schedule means a soft back end. As possible as two Commodore losses are to close out the season, it's more likely that Franklin's team runs the table. This, along with a bowl win, would give the Vanderbilt faithful (do those exist?) back-to-back nine-win seasons and hope that the program is on the verge of breaking through the SEC's glass ceiling.


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    Florida4-5 (3-4 SEC East, fourth)

    BCS Ranking:  NR

    Worst Possible Bowl:  None

    Best Possible Bowl:  Compass


    Will Muschamp has had, well, a subpar season. In one of the more injury-plagued seasons in recent conference memory, the Gators are struggling to reach a bowl after entering the season ranked 10th.


    Worst-Case Scenario

    I follow some Florida fans on Twitter and things aren't pretty in Gainesville. Having hopes of a national title only to potentially miss a bowl will do that to a fanbase.

    Upcoming for the Gators is a cupcake sandwich, which is must nastier than it sounds. A trip to Columbia will be the crucial game for Muschamp and company, as a win will almost certainly be needed to reach a bowl game. If that results in a loss, an easy game against Georgia Southern will give way to a slaughter against a title-seeking Florida State.

    Muschamp, a year removed from an 11-win season, will survive missing a bowl but will find himself on a short leash in 2014.


    Best-Case Scenario

    A win against rival Florida State isn't realistic, which leaves Georgia Southern and Eastern Division title-seeking South Carolina. While a win against the Gamecocks is perhaps not the most likely scenario, it is certainly possible. The Gators' entire season will hinge around the outcome of that bout.

    Win and you live to see the postseason. Lose and the season is effectively over.

Ole Miss

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    Ole Miss:  6-3 (3-3 SEC West, T-fourth)

    BCS Ranking:  NR

    Worst Possible Bowl:  Liberty

    Best Possible Bowl:  Music City


    The Rebels are improving under head coach Hugh Freeze. With a second straight bowl game guaranteed, Ole Miss now seeks to move up the pecking order.


    Worst-Case Scenario

    A visit from Troy will serve as a warm-up for a huge battle against a surprising Top Ten Missouri squad. With Missouri star quarterback James Franklin likely returning against the Rebels, the Tigers will be that much more potent. An Ole Miss squad that ranks 58th nationally in scoring defense seems to be susceptible to Franklin's firepower.

    After a demoralizing loss and with at least seven wins under its belt, Ole Miss could enter Starkville for this year's Egg Bowl slightly unfocused. Mississippi State will likely be fighting for bowl contention and not much should change in the Rebels' postseason outlook despite this game's outcome.

    A loss would take the Egg Bowl trophy out of Oxford for the fourth time in the past five seasons.


    Best-Case Scenario

    Conquering Missouri, even at home, will be a tough mountain to climb for the Rebels. Freeze's team does have a win over LSU, however. A win over a Bulldog team with little to fight for after a loss to Arkansas would put Ole Miss at 8-4 on the season and give notice to recruits that there is much more to come out of Oxford.


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    LSU:  7-3 (3-3 SEC, West T-4th)

    BCS Ranking:  No. 21

    Worst Possible Bowl:  Gator

    Best Possible Bowl:  Capital One


    Though 2013-14 has been a disappointment for LSU, a high-profile bowl isn't out of the question. A win over Texas A&M would go a long way to meeting that objective.


    Worst-Case Scenario

    With its name, fanbase and eccentric head coach, LSU will always be in demand within the bowl scene. That fact won't allow the Tigers to drop past the Gator bowl, even with a home loss to Texas A&M. A loss to Arkansas isn't a possibility.


    Best-Case Scenario

    The pivotal game against the Aggies, and how South Carolina and Auburn finish their seasons, will determine how high up the chain the Tigers can reach. If LSU topples Texas A&M, the Gamecocks and Auburn stumble and the Aggies then goes on to lose to Missouri, the Bayou Bengals could reach all the way up to the Capital One Bowl and try for a 10-win season.


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    Georgia6-3 (4-2 SEC East, third)

    BCS Ranking:  No. 25

    Worst Possible Bowl:  Music City

    Best Possible Bowl:  Cotton


    Most Bulldog fans are disappointed, but a real opportunity exists with the final quarter of their team's schedule. Those final three games will either label this season acceptable or a failure for UGA.


    Worst-Case Scenario

    The Bulldogs hopes seem to be based as much on what other teams do as how they perform. What we do know is that wins at Auburn and Georgia Tech will certainly help put Georgia's fate in its own hands. Losses to both, wrapped around a sure-fire home win against Kentucky and a strong finish from Ole Miss, and Georgic coach Mark Richt could find himself in a lower-tier bowl for the first time since a while.


    Best-Case Scenario

    Auburn's high-octane offense will be a struggle for a defense ranked 77th nationally in points allowed. With Aaron Murray at the helm and Todd Gurley slowly coming back to life, an offense that put up 41 points on South Carolina's vaunted defense might be able to keep up. If the Bulldogs win out and get some help from Texas A&M and Missouri, the Cotton Bowl and three straight ten-win seasons aren't out of the question.

Texas A&M

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    Texas A&M:  8-2 (4-2 SEC West, third)

    BCS Ranking:  No. 11

    Worst Possible Bowl:  Gator

    Best Possible Bowl:  Sugar


    Though a close loss to Alabama, followed by a shocking home loss to Auburn, ended the national title hopes of the Aggies, A&M still has a real shot at a BCS appearance.


    Worst-Case Scenario

    Texas A&M might have the toughest two-game ending to the season in the nation. Trips to Baton Rouge and Columbia, Missouri will serve as either a blessing or a curse for head coach Kevin Sumlin. Two quality wins—which would cap off a five-game streak—could launch the Aggies into the BCS picture.

    If they lose both games, though, not only will A&M's BCS hopes be done, so will the chances of star quarterback Johnny Manziel repeating as the winner of the Heisman Trophy.


    Best-Case Scenario

    This is where those two strong games to close the season could become a boon. If South Carolina loses at home to Clemson and/or misses the SEC Eastern Division title, suddenly the Aggies' strong close to the season makes them the likely choice for the Sugar Bowl. This would give Texas A&M its first BCS bowl bid since the 1990s and help establish the team as a permanent player in the SEC West.

South Carolina

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    South Carolina:  7-2 (5-2 SEC East, second)

    BCS Ranking:  No. 10

    Worst Possible Bowl:  Outback

    Best Possible Bowl:  Sugar


    A win in the other Columbia kept the Gamecocks hopes of meeting Alabama for the SEC title alive. With a relatively weak schedule to close the season, South Carolina's home game against Top Ten Clemson looms large.


    Worst-Case Scenario

    Perhaps the most intriguing aspect to the close of the 2013-14 SEC season will be the battle between Missouri and South Carolina for the SEC Eastern Division title. Though the Tigers have the upper hand with only one conference loss, Carolina's path is easier.

    It's tough to foresee more than one loss in South Carolina's remaining schedule. With the way Florida has fallen apart, because of both injuries and offensive production, losing to the Gators seems incredibly unlikely. Since we're talking extremes, we'll say that it's possible. As Clemson works toward its own BCS invite, a loss to both Florida and the rival Tigers would likely knock the Gamecocks out of the BCS picture and hand the invite over to either Texas A&M or Missouri.


    Best-Case Scenario

    An upper-tier bowl is a lock for head coach Steve Spurrier, though. It's been a long, long time since South Carolina could say that with three games remaining on the schedule, and Gamecock fans have to be happy about that.

    The Gamecocks will have to be wary of the SEC Eastern Division race (no matter the outcome) distracting from that final game against Clemson.

    With two probable wins on the docket before the important home match-up against Clemson, that final game is a doozy. If Jadeveon Clowney decides to, you know, try a little bit, South Carolina might just be able to pull off that win. That "W" would give the Gamecocks five straight victories, ten wins on the year and a likely BCS bid—the program's first.

    A win in that bowl game would the program its third straight 11-win season—also a first.


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    Auburn:  9-1 (5-1 SEC West, second)

    BCS Ranking:  No. 7

    Worst Possible Bowl:  Outback

    Best Possible Bowl:  Sugar


    After a three-win season a year ago, the Tigers are set to lose less games than they won in 2012. Gus Malzahn has proven his potential, making this year's Iron Bowl the SEC's biggest game yet.


    Worst-Case Scenario

    Last year's 49-0 drubbing at the hands of rival Alabama seems like such a distant memory.

    The top-ranked Crimson Tide isn't the only challenge left on the schedule. The Georgia Bulldogs are clambering for the upper rungs of the SEC ladder and have a lot of room for movement. Getting several key players back from injury will help.

    If the Tigers are caught looking ahead at a potential SEC Western Division-deciding Iron Bowl, they could very easily lose to Georgia. That loss would end the dream of stealing the SEC West out from under Alabama.

    Back-to-back losses would likely drop Auburn down past the Cotton Bowl into range of the Outback and Capitol One bowls. Still, this has been a tremendous season for the Tigers and the SEC West has gotten that much more murderous.


    Best-Case Scenario

    Change that Georgia matchup to a win, though, and everything gets very interesting.

    With Auburn's single loss in SEC action, wins over Georgia and Alabama put the Tigers in a tie with the Crimson Tide for the SEC West. With the head-to-head victory, Auburn would suddenly find itself in Atlanta playing in the SEC Championship Game.

    A BCS bid, despite being so tremendously unexpected at the beginning of the season, might just have Auburn fans wondering "what if." With Ohio State, Baylor, and Florida State all undefeated, the Tigers would need to not only be perfect for the remainder of the season (with some style points included) but at least two of those teams to lose in order to compete for its second national title.

    A BCS Championship appearance seems unlikely enough to ignore it for now, but it's something to keep an eye on if top teams start falling.


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    Missouri:  9-1 (5-1 SEC East, first)

    BCS Ranking:  No. 9

    Worst Possible Bowl:  Outback

    Best Possible Bowl:  Sugar


    The road to the SEC Eastern Division title runs through Columbia, Missouri, and a program-first BCS bowl bid is within reach.


    Worst-Case Scenario

    Like fellow newcomer Texas A&M, Missouri's conference schedule closes out on a surprisingly tough note. A trip to Oxford will be no cakewalk, and a home tilt against the Aggies could very well be for a BCS bid.

    Ole Miss has already pulled off the home upset of the LSU Tigers, and the Eastern Division Missouri Tigers are looking to avoid a similar fate. Though star quarterback James Franklin is expected to return against the Rebels, any rust and a good game from the home team could spell disaster for MU.

    With the divisional title slipping away, an unfocused game from Missouri will be just what Manziel and company will be hoping for. Two straight losses likely sends South Carolina to Atlanta and limits Mizzou to the Outback Bowl.


    Best-Case Scenario

    Backup quaterback Maty Mauk has shown he's capable of stepping in when he's needed. Bringing Franklin back will still be a huge boon to an offense that's already been rolling along smoothly. A win against Ole Miss would spike the stakes against Texas A&M.

    Knowing that a win would solidify an SEC Eastern Division title, Missouri should be prepared and its crowd loud against Texas A&M. Win that game and pull off the upset of Alabama and suddenly the Tigers are the cream of the SEC's crop.

    Unfortunately, that likely won't mean a BCS Championship Game bid. Though some losses from top teams would help the Tigers chances, it's not worth mentioning them as a possibility quite yet.


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    Alabama:  9-0 (6-0 SEC West, first)

    BCS Ranking:  No. 1

    Worst Possible Bowl:  Sugar

    Best Possible Bowl:  BCS National Championship Game


    Never has the Alabama Crimson Tide, in all its glory, won three straight national titles. Undefeated and seemingly untouchable, head coach Nick Saban looks to establish his name as the best head coach in the history of college football.


    Worst-Case Scenario

    A loss.

    With upcoming games at home against UT-Chattanooga and in Starkville against Mississippi State, that loss could only come from a trip to face highly ranked rival Auburn.

    As a heavy favorite in every game for over two seasons, the Crimson Tide could very well be looking ahead to competing for its third consecutive national championship. Alabama's defense has shown itself to be vulnerable at times, and Auburn's offense ranks 14th nationally in total offense.

    This game will likely be the toughest of the year for Alabama. A loss could send Auburn to the SEC Western Division championship and leave a disappointed Alabama to settle for the Sugar Bowl.

    Not a whole lot of fanbases would take an at-large BCS bid as a disappointment. Alabama's would.


    Best-Case Scenario

    No losses.

    In one of the most exciting (on paper) Iron Bowls in recent memory, Alabama could have its hands full. If you've paid attention to Nick Saban's coaching career, however, games like these are the ones for which the Tide are most prepared.

    Playing well under pressure wins championships, and this game could very well be that springboard for Alabama.

    The SEC Eastern Division champion still awaits in Atlanta, but the power of the SEC is still heavily lopsided in favor of the West; Auburn should be more of a challenge for the Crimson Tide than either Missouri or South Carolina.

    Win those games and Alabama makes history. Nick Saban cements his legacy, the national championship rests in Tuscaloosa for a third straight year, and the SEC continues its reign atop college football with its eighth consecutive title.