Tennessee's Jabari Small (2) rushes into the end zone during an NCAA college football game against Alabama, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 in Knoxville, Tenn. (Scott Keller/The Daily Times via AP)

SEC football: Remaining Contenders

More than halfway through the season, the SEC football contenders and those who have fallen out of contention have become clear. Four teams are front runners, four need help and six will have to wait until next season.

SEC Football Frontrunners

Both divisions are down to two teams each for frontrunners with all four ranked in the top-10. In the East, No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 Tennessee, fresh off a 52-49 upset over Alabama, are the clear frontrunners.

In the West, No. 7 Ole Miss moved to the top of the division with a 3-0 record in conference play. Meanwhile, No. 6 Alabama dropped to second after its loss to Tennessee, but are still very much the favorites in the West.

For all four teams, the road to a division championship is simple – win out.

Georgia and Tennessee meet on Nov. 5 in Athens in a game that should decide the East. Georgia still has three conference games left outside of the matchup with the Volunteers. The Bulldogs face Florida in two weeks, prior to the Tennessee game. They then face ranked Mississippi State and ranked Kentucky after, but they should be favored in every matchup.

Tennessee’s road is slightly easier as its win over Alabama put it tied for first in the East. After a matchup with No. 19 Kentucky on Saturday and Georgia the following week, Tennessee plays three-straight unranked divisional opponents (Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt) to conclude the season. Wins over Kentucky and Georgia would almost guarantee the Volunteers their first Eastern Division title since 2007.

In similar fashion, the West should come down to Alabama’s and Ole Miss’ matchup on Nov. 12. Although the Tide have one conference loss, winning out and defeating the Rebels would give them their third-straight division title. They don’t have the easiest conference schedule left outside of the Ole Miss game (No. 24 Mississippi State on Saturday, LSU on Nov. 5 and Auburn on Nov. 26), but running the table is certainly not out of the question.

In Ole Miss’ scenario, a win over Alabama is a must, especially if the Tide win out. With another Alabama loss outside of their matchup, Ole Miss can afford to lose its game or lose a different SEC game if it beats Alabama, but not both. However, the easiest scenario is to win out, as always.

Need Help

There are three teams still in contention for a division championship. However, their cases come down to winning out plus another team losing. They are No. 19 Kentucky in the East with LSU, Texas A&M and No. 23 Mississippi State in the West.

Kentucky’s losses to Ole Miss and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks complicated things for the Wildcats, but they are not quite out of contention yet. Wins over Tennessee on Oct. 29 and Georgia on Nov. 5 are must-needs. And, depending on the outcome of Tennessee’s and Georgia’s matchup, they’ll both need to drop at least one more game.

Meanwhile, LSU’s win over Florida shot it back into the Western division battle. Although technically tied with Alabama in the standings with a 3-1 conference record, LSU’s position is quite difficult as it faces Ole Miss on Saturday before playing the Crimson Tide the very next week. The Tigers will have to win out. And, depending on their result against the Rebels, they will have to depend on Alabama beating Ole Miss.

At 2-2 in conference play, Mississippi State is nearly in the same spot as LSU. However, it cannot afford a single loss, while LSU can. The Bulldogs’ remaining schedule does not do them any more favors, too. After a trip to Tuscaloosa on Saturday, Mississippi State will still have to face Georgia and Ole Miss. They will need to win out to have the tie-breaker over Alabama and have LSU beat Ole Miss. Despite technically being in the race, it’s highly unlikely it plays out in its favor.

Texas A&M is in a similar spot at 1-2 in SEC play, but with five SEC games left on the schedule, including Ole Miss, it will have it harder than any other team as it will have to win out plus have Alabama drop two more games. With a 24-20 win over the Aggies, the Crimson Tide own the tie-breaker, so Texas A&M will have to win it outright against them.

At 1-2 in SEC play, South Carolina’s remaining schedule helps and hurts it at the same time. Four of its five remaining SEC games are extremely winnable, but its final SEC game is against Tennessee. Simply put, there’s no other option but to win out, hope Georgia drops three games and hope Georgia beats Tennessee. It doesn’t take an 8-ball to show how nearly improbable this is, but not impossible.

Better Luck Next Season

With three conference losses each, Florida, Missouri and Vanderbilt are out of contention for the East. Meanwhile Arkansas and Auburn are out of contention for the West.

Despite losing to both Kentucky and Tennessee, Florida’s win over Missouri kept it in contention statistically, but its loss to LSU ended all hope. 

Both the Tigers and the Commodores have yet to win a conference game, and at this point, it’s likely each’s only win will come against the other.

Meanwhile, Arkansas’ toughest portion of the schedule is behind it after three-straight losses against ranked SEC opponents. It did have a non-conference win over BYU last week to snap a losing streak. Despite having a winnable schedule left (Auburn on Oct. 29, LSU on Nov. 12, Ole Miss on Nov. 19 and Missouri on Nov. 26), the Razorbacks will have to wait until next season.

Likewise, Auburn’s chase for a division title ended in similar fashion: with three-straight losses to SEC opponents.

SEC Football Week 8 Schedule

Half of the SEC football teams are on a bye this week. Auburn and Florida will look to bounce back – after losses in Week 7 – on Oct. 29 against Arkansas and Georgia. The Bulldogs, Kentucky and Arkansas will look to continue winning ways with matchups against Florida, Tennessee and Auburn.

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About Cam Parker

Cam is a fourth-year broadcast journalism sports and media major at the University of Florida. In addition to writing and recording radio trendings for WRUF, Cam covers North Florida HS football for The Prep Zone and Mainstreet Daily News and UF football and basketball for Inside the Gators.

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