Auburn-Arkansas: The SEC's Most Important Game in Week Six
The national college football attention once again turns to the Southeast Saturday as two games feature teams that are both ranked. ESPN Gameday and CBS Kickoff are both in Baton Rouge to broadcast live from outside Tiger Stadium where No. 1 Florida visits No. 4 LSU.
Also, fans should not look past No. 3 Alabama at No. 20 Mississippi in what promises to be the biggest game in Oxford since LSU visited in 2003.
The appetizers are not too bad either. Georgia visits Tennessee with both teams looking to save their season before it spirals out of control, much like Auburn's did last year.
No. 25 South Carolina meets Kentucky as the Gamecocks look to shore up second place in the East and set up a titanic show down in Columbia to close the SEC schedule against Florida.
Heck, even Vanderbilt and Mississippi State have big games with must wins this weekend to keep their bowl chances alive.
Unfortunately for college football fans, the biggest game this weekend kicks off at 11:00 a.m. local time in Fayetteville.
No. 17 Auburn has looked impressive in its first five games while Arkansas was fairly close to beating Georgia and heading into this game 3-1.
With a win, Auburn can fully begin its assault into the top half of the SEC West. Similarly, Arkansas would only need three wins from a schedule which includes Eastern Michigan, Troy, and Mississippi State at home to get to a bowl.
The remaining schedule for Auburn is much more difficult than it has played up until now. With games at LSU and Georgia as well as Ole Miss and Alabama visiting the plains, Auburn could very well have four losses staring it in the face.
But a win in Fayetteville means Auburn should only have to split with Georgia and Ole Miss to get to the Cotton Bowl, a very unlikely destination before the season.
It's not just that so much is riding on the Auburn-Arkansas game that makes it the most important game in the SEC this weekend. It is also that some of the other games simply do not matter.
Florida could lose to LSU, win out, and be national champions. Same goes for LSU. In fact, if the loser of that game wins out, it will make the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. Conversely, if LSU beats Florida then loses to Alabama, Alabama would go to Atlanta (assuming the Tide wins the other games as well).
Basically nothing matters other than pride and a mid-season top three ranking in Tiger Stadium.
The same scenario is played out in Oxford. Alabama could lose now and then still be national champion. Ole Miss needs to win to play in Pasadena, but a Sugar Bowl birth with a loss is not completely out of the question with a little help in dethroning Alabama.
South Carolina probably has the most to lose this week. Next week it goes to Tuscaloosa in what could be an even bigger game than any this weekend.
A loss to Kentucky would signal the end of any hopes of passing Florida on the way to Atlanta. But at the end of the day, the Gamecocks play Kentucky, who has been destroyed by Florida and Alabama in successive weeks.
If South Carolina is a contender, it will do the same.
Georgia is an excessive celebration call away from being ranked in the top 15, but very inconsistent play has the Vegas odds makers calling their visit to Neyland Stadium a pick 'em.
Georgia has its next three games away from Athens and though a loss would send them into a frenzy, Georgia does have the head to head tiebreaker against the other contender for second in the East, South Carolina.
Kiffin's Vols are in the same situation in which Arkansas finds itself. Tennessee has a tough but manageable road with clear wins to make a bowl if it can win Saturday.
Mississippi State and Vanderbilt face must wins against Houston and Army respectively. The Bulldogs have winable games left with Middle Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky so they could be on their way to a bowl in Dan Mullen's first season.
Vanderbilt has a much tougher road but a loss at West Point would signal the end of successive bowl seasons.
But in the end, all eyes will have been fixated on Oxford and Baton Rouge. As silently Auburn is validated or exposed and Arkansas is rejuvenated or disposed.
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