Alabama still is the league’s only unbeaten team, Auburn is lurking behind the Tide in the West and the SEC East is as wide open as ever.
All the games this week are conference clashes, so we’ll start figuring things out at the top, and the bottom, of the standings.
Let’s see how things line up in the Week 11 storylines for each school:
Mississippi State and Alabama
Learning the lesson: Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn’t usually need any help motivating his team, but he got a big favor from Mississippi State in advance of their game (noon ET, ESPN).
The Bulldogs caught Texas A&M sleepwalking last week. They handed the Aggies a loss that sent them tumbling out of the College Football Playoff picture. Saban can play clips from that game and say “make sure this doesn’t happen to you.”
As a 29-point home favorite, it doesn’t seem likely.
Don’t tell that to Dan Mullen’s squad, though. Nick Fitzgerald and the offense chewed up big chunks of yardage against A&M. The Bulldogs defense largely kept one of the league’s most potent offenses in check.
At 4-5, the Bulldogs have some work to do to become bowl eligible. That means two wins between now and the end of the season — with Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss serving as the opposition.
South Carolina and Florida
A homecoming and a fight through adversity: South Carolina coach Will Muschamp was fired by Florida in 2014 after four years and a 28-21 record. He’s saying all the right things this week, but it’s not hard to imagine him enjoying a win against the Gators a little more than he otherwise might.
He has plenty of other things to worry about when his Gamecocks visit Gainesville (noon ET, CBS). Plenty of jokes have been made about the SEC East, but the SEC bylaws state that one of those seven schools has to play for the title in Atlanta.
The State’s Josh Kendall outlined the Gamecocks’ path to an East crown, and that complicated journey starts with a win on Saturday.
The Gators, sitting atop the heap, have some issues. Quarterback Luke Del Rio is out with a right shoulder injury. Starting linebackers Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis will miss the South Carolina game, too.
With the offense stagnating and injuries mounting, Florida coach Jim McElwain will have to find a way to coax his team over the finish line.
Kentucky and Tennessee
All about the East: All that stuff we just said about Florida and South Carolina’s chase for the East title applies to the Wildcats’ and Volunteers’ meeting in Knoxville (noon ET, SECN).
Kentucky missed a chance to join Florida atop the standings when it suffered a narrow loss to Georgia last week. Thanks to the Gators’ loss at Arkansas, the Wildcats didn’t lose any ground.
With a game against winless Austin Peay looming, Kentucky’s goal no longer is six wins. Beating Tennessee and trying to complete a run to an East title is the focus now.
To do that, Kentucky will have to contend with a dreadful history. Tennessee has won 30 of the last 31 games between the schools.
After a loss to South Carolina two weeks ago seemingly ended its chances to win the division, Tennessee walloped Tennessee Tech last week and watched the rest of the division back up.
Now, if it can win out and Florida loses a conference game, Tennessee will play for the SEC title.
Auburn and Georgia
Staying hot and getting consistent: Auburn was wobbly at times against Vanderbilt but still came away with its sixth consecutive victory. The Tigers bring that streak, and a lot of confidence, into their game at Georgia (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS).
With the SEC’s best rushing (and total) offense and a defense that’s allowing 16 points per game, it’s easy to see why the Tigers are 10-point favorites between the hedges. It’s believed to be the largest spread against the Bulldogs at home since the mid-1990s.
Injuries are a concern. Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway (quad) and quarterback Sean White (shoulder) are less than 100 percent. Linebacker Tre’ Williams and defensive lineman Andrew Williams missed the game last week.
No matter who’s available to play, if it wants to face Alabama for a shot at the West title in the season finale, Auburn needs to win.
Georgia has had plenty of success in this series lately, winning eight of the last 10.
To keep that up, the Bulldogs need to run the ball effectively with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The pair combined for 215 yards in the win against Kentucky.
Georgia also needs to do a better job of stopping the run. The Bulldogs are third in the league in rush defense but allowed 186 against the Wildcats last week.
Vanderbilt and Missouri
Avoiding the cellar: Just as someone has to win the SEC East, someone has to finish at the bottom. After these teams clash at Faurot Field (3:30 p.m. ET, SECN), that’s where the loser will be.
The Commodores stood toe to toe with Auburn last week, before falling by seven on the Plains. Kyle Shurmur’s 221 passing yards was his second-highest total of the season. The defense held the Tigers well below their season averages in yards and points.
That’s been the issue for Missouri in recent weeks — its defense giving up yards and points in staggering numbers.
In their five-game slide, the Tigers have allowed an average of 552 yards and just under 40 points per game. There has been modest improvement in the past two weeks, but there’s still much work to be done on that side of the ball.
LSU and Arkansas
Avoiding an encore and pressing forward: The last two times LSU has lost to Alabama, it has followed up that disappointment with another against Arkansas. The Tigers invest plenty of energy and emotional capital into games against the Crimson Tide, and sometimes, it carries over.
Interim coach Ed Orgeron is working to make sure it doesn’t this time (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).
“There’s no question I know we’re going to bounce back,” Orgeron said. “I know these guys, I know this team, I’ve been with them, and this is not going to affect us. … We’ll continue the same approach and get better. I believe we’re just getting started.”
The Razorbacks had their bounceback game last week, shaking off a thumping by Auburn by coming out of a bye week and hammering Florida.
Bret Bielema’s squad also will look to snap a pattern of alternating wins and losses that dates to mid-September.
Ole Miss and Texas A&M
Picking up the pieces: When does a team win and lose on the same day? Ask Ole Miss, which defeated Georgia Southern but lost starting quarterback Chad Kelly for the season with a right knee injury.
Jason Pellerin looks to be the new starter as Hugh Freeze weighs pulling the redshirt off Shea Patterson. With the Rebels sitting at 4-5, it’s hard to imagine Freeze wasting a year of eligibility for a prized 5-star quarterback unless he has to.
Texas A&M also suffered a quarterback injury, with Trevor Knight hurting his right shoulder. Jake Hubenak likely will start in place of Knight when the Aggies host Ole Miss (7:30 p.m. ET, SECN).
Texas A&M fell out of the College Football Playoff picture with its loss last week, but there’s still plenty left for it to achieve this season. A 10-win season and a New Year’s Six bowl are very much in play.