Breaking Down The SEC (Outlook Of The League After 'Bama's Upset Loss)
The BCS suddenly has become a lot more abstract, thanks to South Carolina's upset win over then-top-ranked Crimson Tide. Alabama now sits all the way back at eight in the current polls, and is certainly on the outside looking in with regards to the National Championship.
However, some still believe there are plenty more losses to come for top teams, and thus a chance that the defending national champions can grind their way back to the top two spots in the rankings and perhaps earn another chance to keep their title as college football's top team.
But for that to happen, first Nick Saban and Alabama must navigate through the remainder of their league schedule in the near-impermeable SEC. With games left at LSU, hosting in-state rivals Auburn, and a potential top opponent in the SEC championship game, the Tide have it all to do.
Let's take a look at the entire Southeastern Conference, and try and scope out which programs are the contenders to challenge Alabama and the top conference teams, as opposed to the schools that will likely fade as we reach Halloween and Thanksgiving.
South Carolina Gamecocks
After the biggest win in school history, Cocky is in first place in the eastern divisio,n and control their own destiny as far as making it to Atlanta.
Four road games remain on the schedule, including a real test at Florida, not to mention hosting Ryan Mallett and Arkansas prior to that trip to Gainesville.
Not too often does Urban Meyer and UF lose back-to-back games. But that is where they sit now, having dropped contests to Alabama, and just this past weekend at home to LSU.
The Gators' toughest game left is perhaps their season finale at Florida State, but hosting upstart Mississippi State and Georgia in the next two won't be walks for a team that has struggled so far.
Vanderbilt, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee
At the risk of throwing in the golden ticket early for these four, it is safe to say the SEC East race is a two-horse sprint to the finish line, and quite frankly will be decided when the two clash on November 13.
Tennessee is in the midst of a major transition year, while Georgia has simply underachieved and not played up to the program's recent prestige. Vandy and Kentucky just don't have to players to compete in the conference, though they can fight for an occasional upset.
The two remaining unbeaten programs in the SEC share the same moniker, but you can't say the two have done it in similar fashion.
Les Miles and the Baton Rogue Bengals seemingly have more lives than the striped specimen that is their mascot. Auburn, despite a scare at Kentucky last Saturday, have really impressed behind JUCO transfer and Heisman candidate Cam Newton.
I don't see either running the table, but no doubt it will leave for some magic when they meet in less than two weeks on October 23. Auburn will have to dodge Arkansas this weekend, while LSU gets essentially a free pass with McNeese State coming to town.
Alabama Crimson TIde
The previously-mentioned Tide have the most to gain from either of the above two's potential future losses. That is because all three are in the top ten, so if LSU, Auburn or both happen to slip up down the road, 'Bama will be able to certainly jump them.
But to that same point, the Tide still have LSU and Auburn on the schedule, like we mentioned, so there is still so much yet to decide.
It's not so much that we are ruling out the Hogs already, as they still have every bit the chance to get to the top of the western division. But after seeing them throw away a perfect opportunity a fortnight ago in their loss to Alabama, it is hard to believe they are ready to win this half of the SEC.
Granted, Pig Suey can still win at Auburn, and again in the season finale at home to LSU, so who knows what could happen in college football's craziest league. But even if that were the case, that looming setback against the Tide might just doom them via the tiebreaker.
Both Mississippi schools are best served to play the role of spoiler, notably the Bulldogs with their running game and dual threat Chris Reif.
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