League Race Shaping Up

After a hectic week of games in the Southeastern Conference, two Bama foes are in the driver's seat for an appearence in the SEC championship game.

SEC EAST

Driver's Seat: Tennessee

Tennessee isn't out of the woods yet, but they can see the clearing up ahead. Tennessee will have a walkover opponent in Ole Miss, and they should be able to easily handle progressively more competitive games against Alabama and South Carolina. Vanderbilt and Kentucky do not pose a threat.

Riding Shotgun: Florida & Georgia

For Florida to have a chance to win the SEC East, it would take the Gators winning out and Tennessee losing two of those games they shouldn't lose. Florida doing it's part is feasible, with Georgia in Jacksonville the biggest challenge, South Carolina at home and two other "Don't wreck the bus" SEC games in Mississippi State and Vanderbilt remaining on its schedule.

But if the Vols slip just once, Georgia would jump back into title game by winning out. Will the real Georgia Bulldogs please stand up? We should find out what the Dawgs are all about after they travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas in two weeks.

Back Seat: South Carolina

Technically, they're still in the picture, but practically, South Carolina can begin packing away their SEC division championship hopes for another year. South Carolina could've placed their destiny in their own hands with a win over Ole Miss, but that just wouldn't have been Gamecock-like. South Carolina could still re-group with Kentucky upcoming and an off-week before hosting Tennessee, but three consecutive tough league games (Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida) will probably provide the knockout blow.

Locked in the Trunk: Kentucky and Vanderbilt

Kentucky and Vanderbilt will play on Nov. 13 to decide the bottom spot in the SEC East.

SEC WEST

Driver's Seat: Auburn

For Auburn, there's no other team emerging to compete for the Western Division title. If the Tigers take care of Arkansas this week, it would all but guarantee them a trip to Atlanta and a Western division title.

Riding Shotgun: Arkansas

Is Houston Nutt a really good coach, a really bad coach, or something in between. We should at least be able to narrow it down to either the former or the latter in the next two weeks, as Arkansas goes to Auburn before hosting Georgia. The Hogs control their own destiny but that's little consolation when you see that they have four tough SEC tests remaining.

Back Seat: LSU, Alabama

LSU should win the remainder of its games. They face Troy State and Vanderbilt, then have a week off before finishing up the season with Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas in consecutive weeks. The Bayou Bengals can't expect Auburn to lose three times, but it's their only hope for repeating as Western Division Champs.

Alabama can still dream, but with three stout SEC foes and a direly needed non-conference win to aide its bowl chances, Bama should be thrilled if they could go 3-2 in the remaining five games, and satisfied with a 2-3 mark, neither of which would put Alabama in contention in the SEC West.

Locked in the Trunk: Ole Miss, Mississippi State

Ole Miss is 2-1 in the SEC, but it's hard to think the Rebels' victory over South Carolina was anything more than a fluke. Ole Miss has an open week before playing both Auburn and Arkansas, but it will probably be in the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State when the Rebs collect their next win.

For Mississippi State to finish with anything better than double-digit losses would be miraculous for the Bulldogs, who've lost to Division I-AA Maine and the state of Alabama's fourth-best team, Alabama-Birmingham.

THEREFORE:

Excepting a sharp turn for the worse, Auburn and Tennessee will meet on December 4th in Atlanta to decide the SEC Champion in "Moral Dilemna: Part II" for Alabama fans. And there's a better-than-fair chance that the winner of this game will be in the BCS National Championship game – unless it's the Vols.

Positionally, Georgia still has the best outside chance at winning a division title, but Georgia 2004 doesn't seem to have the offensive consistency to win what will be nip-and-tuck games against both Florida and Auburn. No need to brace yourself, but Tennessee-Florida-Georgia will likely finish one, two and three in the East, with South Carolina firmly entrenched in the number four spot. In a mild upset, Vanderbilt will likely get its first two-win SEC season since 1999 and edge Kentucky in the east.

In the West, only a self-destruction by Auburn (see 2003) will keep them away from Atlanta on December fourth. LSU and Arkansas will likely be playing for second place on Nov. 26 (I'll take LSU), and Alabama will be thrilled to be bowling and in the SEC West fourth spot ahead of Ole Miss.


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