Wednesday, November 7, 2012
What's left to play for in the SEC
By Chris Low
Not everybody in the SEC is still playing for a championship or even a bowl game.
Some coaches are playing to save their jobs, and others already are on the way out.
But in these final three weeks of the regular season, everybody’s playing for something.
Here’s a look:
Alabama (9-0, 6-0)
Playing for: The Crimson Tide, who’ve been No. 1 all four weeks in the BCS standings, have their sights set on a third national championship in the past four years. They’ll have to win out, including the SEC championship game, to get a shot at another crystal trophy. No team has won three outright national titles in a four-year span since Notre Dame in the late 1940s.
Arkansas (4-5, 2-3)
Playing for: It was a nightmarish start for the Hogs, who lost four of their first five games after beginning the season ranked No. 10 nationally. Just to be bowl eligible, they’ll have to win two of their last three games against South Carolina and Mississippi State on the road and LSU at home.
Auburn (2-7, 0-6)
Playing for: Just two years removed from winning a national championship, Gene Chizik is coaching for his job, although some on the Plains think he’s already doomed. The Tigers are assured of their first losing season since 2008 and are trying to avoid their first winless season in the SEC in more than 30 years (1980).
Florida (8-1, 7-1)
Playing for: The Gators can win the East Division title and get to the SEC championship game only if Georgia is upset by Auburn on Saturday. Otherwise, they’re playing for an at-large BCS bowl berth and would be in good shape to get a Sugar Bowl invite if they can win out and finish 11-1, which would entail winning at Florida State in the regular-season finale.
Georgia (8-1, 6-1)
Playing for: The Bulldogs can clinch the East Division title and a second straight trip to the SEC championship game by winning at Auburn on Saturday. Georgia still has an outside shot at getting into the Discover BCS National Championship Game, but would need to beat Alabama in the SEC championship game and hope two of the other three unbeaten teams (Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon) lose.
Kentucky (1-9, 0-7)
Playing for: Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart announced Sunday that Joker Phillips would not be back next season as coach. The Wildcats are off this weekend and then get Samford at home and Tennessee on the road. A second straight win over Tennessee would be quite a way to send out Phillips as coach, and the Wildcats also are trying to avoid their first winless season in the SEC since 2000.
LSU (7-2, 3-2)
Playing for: The Tigers’ only hope of getting to the SEC championship game would be if Alabama lost its last two league games to Texas A&M and Auburn, which is highly unlikely. The Tigers, assuming they finish 10-2, could land in the Sugar Bowl if Florida loses another one.
Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2)
Playing for: After back-to-back blowout losses to Alabama and Texas A&M, the Bulldogs are just trying to stop the bleeding. It won’t be easy. They travel to LSU this weekend. If Mississippi State can manage two more wins, it would be the second time in the past three seasons that the Bulldogs had recorded nine wins.
Missouri (4-5, 1-5)
Playing for: It has been a tough, injury-filled first season in the SEC for the Tigers, who need to win two of their last three games to qualify for a bowl. They play at Tennessee this weekend and then get Syracuse at home and Texas A&M on the road.
Ole Miss (5-4, 2-3)
Playing for: Coming into the season with a 14-game SEC losing streak, Ole Miss has been one of the surprises of the league in Hugh Freeze’s first season and is only one win away from going to a bowl. The Rebels could lock up a postseason trip this weekend at home against Vanderbilt.
South Carolina (7-2, 5-2)
Playing for: The Gamecocks are out of the running for the East Division title, but could record a second straight season of 10 or more wins, which has never happened in school history. They could also land in the Sugar Bowl as an at-large BCS team if Florida, Georgia and LSU all lose another game.
Tennessee (4-5, 0-5)
Playing for: Much like Chizik at Auburn, Derek Dooley is hanging by a thread and fighting to save his job. It may be a lost cause. The Vols are on their way to their worst defensive numbers in school history, but they can still finish with a 7-5 record and get to a bowl game.
Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2)
Playing for: After close losses to Florida and LSU, Texas A&M has a chance to make some serious noise nationally this Saturday with a win over Alabama. Even with a loss, the Aggies would be awfully attractive to the Cotton Bowl at 9-3, which wouldn’t be a shabby debut season in the SEC.
Vanderbilt (5-4, 3-3)
Playing for: The Commodores are chasing history. With one more win, they would be headed to a bowl game for the second straight season, which has never happened in school history. They also have a chance to post a winning record in the SEC, and the last time that happened was 30 years ago (1982). Vanderbilt plays at Ole Miss this weekend and then gets Tennessee at home and Wake Forest on the road.