- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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After a wild, injury-plagued first half of the season for the SEC Eastern Division, we here at the SEC blog are sending out good vibes and well-wishes to all of the remaining players.
The East looks more like a medical ward these days. However, no one will feel sorry for these teams as they attempt to limp into Atlanta for the SEC championship game in December.
What a race it will be. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina all sit with one conference loss, while Missouri is undefeated. For now, Florida and Missouri control their own destinies; they face each other this weekend in Columbia, Mo. The winner takes hold of the SEC East but certainly doesn't lock it up, as both still have to play South Carolina. Florida also has Georgia remaining.
Here's to a photo finish in the SEC East!
As for the West, three teams are still vying for that spot in Atlanta. Alabama remains the nation's top team, but LSU and Texas A&M are creeping up. The Crimson Tide control their own destiny, and their showdown with LSU on Nov. 9 will serve as one last major hurdle before they travel to Auburn for the regular-season finale.
LSU plays host to A&M in a game that could decide the West if the Tigers upset Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
We'll also be on bowl watch. It might be safe to say that the eight SEC teams currently sitting inside the AP poll will make bowls, but there are still teams teetering on the edge.
Vanderbilt has made back-to-back bowl games, but with an 0-3 SEC start the Commodores are in danger of missing out on the postseason for the first time under James Franklin.
Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee all have three wins right now, but challenging second halves could spoil postseason trips for all four.
Bold prediction: South Carolina will win the SEC East. That means the Gamecocks will need Georgia to lose at least one more conference game, while they win out. It can, and will, happen. Missouri and Florida pose threats, but South Carolina gets Florida at home and Mizzou is down its starting quarterback.
Looking forward to: The East race is going to be great, but what about the Heisman race? Quarterbacks Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray and even Zach Mettenberger could find themselves deep in the running as the season goes on. McCarron is the only one with less than 1,800 passing yards (1,407), but he's also on the No. 1 team in the country.
Top five games:
1. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 9: This continues to be college football's best rivalry. Two sledgehammers will meet in a game that could decide who represents the West in the SEC championship and could basically serve as a quarterfinal for the national championship. Les Miles versus Nick Saban? Yes, please!
2. Texas A&M at LSU, Nov. 23: If the Tigers do beat Alabama earlier in the month and the Aggies continue their winning ways, then consider this the new semifinal for the SEC championship game. Two great offenses could light up the scoreboard inside Tiger Stadium.
3. Florida vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville, Fla.), Nov. 2: Even with all the craziness in the SEC East, this game could still decide the East champion. No matter how either team is playing, this game is always exciting, and something crazy always seems to happen.
4. Florida at South Carolina, Nov. 16: Another game that could decide the East. South Carolina is probably still steaming after its turnover-filled slopfest inside the Swamp last year. Now the Gamecocks get a wounded Florida team at home.
5. Alabama at Auburn, Nov. 30: This game could be very interesting on the Plains. Auburn is a team on the rise, while Alabama hasn't been perfect. The Tide's defense is getting better, but expect an amazing atmosphere and a few tricks up Gus Malzahn's sleeves.