Six Graphs: Saturday in the SEC

LSU's not in action Saturday, but there's still a major showdown in the SEC West on tap to go with an annual dose of the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. The TSD crew shares its thoughts on today's games inside.

In today’s edition of “Six Graphs,” the TSD staff has fun dissecting the rest of the Southeastern Conference as LSU enjoys the first of its two bye weeks.

Before we share our takes, here’s a quick look at the slate of SEC games on Saturday (all times Central):

ULM at Texas A&M – 11 AM, SEC Network
Florida vs. No. 11 Georgia – 2:30 PM, CBS
Kentucky at Missouri – 3 PM, SEC Network
No. 3 Auburn at No. 4 Ole Miss – 6 PM, ESPN
Old Dominion at Vanderbilt – 6 PM, ESPNU
Arkansas at No. 1 Mississippi State – 6:15 PM, ESPN2
Tennessee at South Carolina – 6:30 PM, SEC Network

TOPIC: This Saturday in the SEC

Ben Love: When you really boil it all down, there’s honestly only one game on the docket that gets the heart pounding. That’s the top-five matchup pitting Auburn against Ole Miss in Oxford. Having seen LSU play both teams, I can tell you the (other) Tigers are a lot more dynamic and diverse offensively and aren’t that drastically far behind the Rebs in terms of defensive talent either, especially with linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche done for the season.

So that would seem to point to a win for War Eagle in the land of the Grove, but it must be pointed out that Auburn has been a different team away from Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2014, losing in fairly convincing fashion at Mississippi State and barely squeezing out a win at mistake-prone Kansas State. I think that means this one stays tight, but I’ll be shocked if the home team wins its second game of this season against an SEC team from the state of Alabama.

The other usual attention-grabber is Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville, but the intrigue this year has shifted to Todd Gurley’s absence and Will Muschamp’s presence. Neither is terribly popular amongst the respective fan bases. Still, shame on the Dawgs if they can’t drag victory back to Athens in this edition of the Cocktail Party. Elsewhere top-ranked Mississippi State should dust off Arkansas in Starkville (whether Dak Prescott is 100 percent or not) while there are two other SEC East games that frankly don’t do much for me. The home teams in those contests – Missouri and South Carolina – should probably win, but not much surprises me anymore in that division.

Hunter Paniagua: Ben provided a solid analysis of the two teams involved in this Oxford showdown, so I’ll try to focus more on the ramifications of this contest. Either team would feel much less comfortable with their playoff hopes if they fell to two losses. With the number of quality one-loss teams in the current landscape, the loser of Saturday’s game would likely need some serious help to get back in the top four.

But at the same time, I don’t think a loss for either team would be the end of it, particularly for Auburn. Ole Miss has two more opportunities for a “quality win” (Auburn and Mississippi State). Auburn has three (Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama). What these initial rankings from the committee showed is they’re going to weigh victories against quality opponents much more than “good losses,” which is why the Rebels stayed at No. 4 while a team like Notre Dame is down at No. 10.

It would take absolute chaos, but a two-loss SEC team can still have a legitimate claim to the top four if the rest of the cards fall their way. A team like Auburn could by the end of the season claim wins against Kansas State, LSU, Georgia and Alabama, even if they lose to Ole Miss. That’s still an impressive resume. Ole Miss probably needs this win more than the Tigers do, but I can still see a scenario — albeit an absolutely insane one — where the loser of this game still has a shot at the playoff by the end of the year.

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