The stretch run for the Crimson Tide of Alabama is fraught with pitfalls in the form of top rated SEC teams. Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State, and Auburn are all capable teams. Yes, some of those teams pose far more threat than others. Still though, in the rough and tumble SEC, all are capable of pulling an upset.
Every week the Tide manages to make its way through its schedule without a blemish on its record from here on out, will only add to the desire of the teams remaining on their schedule to knock them from the ranks of the unbeaten.
The Rebels have struggled at times this year but it would be a mistake not to take them seriously. They have an offense capable of being very explosive though it's yet to show it this season. This would be the type game that would be ideal for them to get on track. Their defensive front on the other hand has shown the ability all season to cause problems for teams, particularly in the passing game.
The Rebels have lost five straight to the Tide but the last four games have all been extremely close with two of them being settled on the games final play. Only last year's game was settled by more than three points with the Tide taking a four point victory.
USC East on the other hand has shown the ability to score points at times this year. Quarterback Stephen Garcia is having perhaps his best season as a Gamecock. It is the South Carolina defense however that puts the fear of God in opposing quarterbacks. They're led by linebacker Eric Norwood and his six sacks for 41 yards in losses to go along with two interceptions.
The Tennessee Volunteers are more about their defensive scheme than individual players. Led by defensive guru Monte Kiffin, the Tide can expect to face a high quality defensive game plan when the third Saturday in October rolls around. Yes Eric Berry is a great individual player but without the senior Kiffin's game planning, Berry would be seen as less of a threat by most SEC teams
The Volunteers rushing game would have to come up with its best game of the season to produce any hope of the Volunteers besting the Tide. Depending on it's passing game against Alabama probably won't be a viable option.
Fail to come up with answers and the Vols are likely to lose their third game in a row to the Tide, and four out of the last 5 in this series.
The Bengal Tigers are an incredibly talented team. Probably the most talented team Alabama will have played to that point in the season and possibly all season long. Yes the Tigers have struggled a bit at times this season but each game gives them a bit more confidence.
By the time their matchup with the Tide rolls around this one could be for all the marbles in the SEC West.
Mississippi State knew coming into this season that this would be a rebuilding year with an entirely new coaching staff bringing in a completely new style of play on both sides of the ball. Running a spread option run/pass type offense with west coast offensive talent has made for stagnant production at times this season.
Still, on any given Saturday...
Which leaves the Auburn Tigers. Gene Chizik has proved to all doubters this season, myself included, that with the right staff backing him up he is indeed a capable head coach. The hiring of Gus Malzahn as offensive coordinator is proving a very smooth move on the part of Chizik. The Tigers offense has done a complete 180 degree turn under Malzahn's tutelage.
With Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, and Alabama still on their schedule, the Tigers depth on the defensive side of things will likely play a huge roll in how they finish up. Against the Tide they shouldn't have to worry about another shut out in this years version of the Iron Bowl.
Without significant improvement on the defensive side of things they are likely to see an equally strong Tide offense put up enough points to force them into having to win a shootout.
Though the Tide is obviously the most well rounded team in the SEC West right now that doesn't mean they're unbeatable. They will have to play focused football the remainder of the way through the season to have a chance to head to Atlanta unbeaten.
Playing down to the level of their opponents as they've done at times in past seasons could cost them. Areas of their play that will need improvement for them to head to Atlanta unbeaten include kick off coverage, and run blocking just to name a couple.
Of course they could suffer a loss or miss going to Atlanta all together. That's why they play them on the field and with slightly more than half a season to go, nothing has been decided yet.