It wasn’t long ago that Kentucky and LSU were two of the most disappointing programs in the SEC, but both have quickly turned things around.
Saturday will be perhaps the biggest game of LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron’s career, as he has an opportunity to capture the full-time position with a win. Will Muschamp and Mark Stoops also have the ability to buy more cache with their programs.
Conversely, Georgia and Arkansas wasted good starts and are simply in search of bowl eligibility. This weekend’s matchups will be vital.
Here are the SEC coaches with the most to gain and lose in Week 10:
Gain: Ed Orgeron, LSU
No. 15 LSU vs. No. 1 Alabama, 8 p.m. Saturday in Baton Rouge, La. (CBS)
LSU has improved steadily the past few months under interim coach Orgeron. The Tigers have won three straight, covering all three and adding wins over SEC opponents Missouri and No. 23 Ole Miss. However, nothing has prepared LSU to play Saturday’s opponent: The Crimson Tide.
For all intents and purposes, Orgeron’s only shot to earn the full-time job comes on Saturday night under the lights. LSU has not beaten Alabama since Nov. 5, 2011 – five years to the day. If Orgeron can lead his team to a win over the unquestioned best team in the nation, it would be the biggest feather in the cap of Coach O’s career.
Lose: Kirby Smart, Georgia
Georgia at Kentucky, 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Lexington, Ky. (SEC Network)
Remember when Kirby Smart was the most popular man in the state of Georgia? Yeah, me neither. After consecutive losses to Vanderbilt and Florida, the Bulldogs are just 2-4 in the SEC and perhaps even in danger of missing a bowl. The situation would be even more dire had Jacob Eason not led a miraculous winning drive against Missouri.
Georgia is in the midst of a six-game winning streak against Kentucky, but the Wildcats have suddenly catapulted up to No. 2 in the division. Bulldogs fans and alums are already considering replacements for Smart, even though he’s still only coached six games. Lose this game and the seat will only get warmer. It might be his first year, but this is Georgia.
Gain: Will Muschamp, South Carolina
South Carolina vs. Missouri, 4 p.m. Saturday in Columbia, S.C. (SEC Network)
For the first time since maybe 2012, Muschamp is not on the hot seat after leading the Gamecocks to consecutive wins for the first time since Nov. 22, 2014. The most recent was a program-changing win over No. 18 Tennessee, which earned Muschamp unencumbered support from the fan base.
It was clear coming into the year that this was a bonus season for South Carolina fans. While Steve Spurrier was an electric coach for the Gamecocks, he generally gave up on recruiting the last few years and left the cupboard bare. Despite the talent disparity, South Carolina can all but lock up bowl eligibility with a win over Missouri this weekend at Williams-Brice. That would be an incredible step for the program.
Lose: Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Arkansas vs. No. 10 Florida, 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark. (CBS)
Arkansas started the season on a hot streak, but have quickly fallen down the ranks of SEC teams. Shockingly for a Bret Bielema team, the offensive line and running game have been ineffective, forcing Austin Allen into difficult spots and dropping the Razorbacks down to No. 5 in the SEC West.
The SEC East has been pitiful this season, accumulating a 1-7 record against the West, but Arkansas has to play the one competent team. Florida has perhaps the best defensive backfield in the nation and enough of a push in the front seven to cause problems. Lose this game badly and Bielema could be in trouble.
Gain: Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Kentucky vs. Georgia, 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Lexington, Ky. (SEC Network)
Perhaps no coach has improved his stock as quickly as Mark Stoops. Kentucky gave up a massive lead in its first game and followed up by embarrassing itself against Florida, but the Wildcats have now won four of five games and sit at No. 2 in the SEC East.
Obviously, the Wildcats probably don’t actually have any chance of winning the East, but to be involved in the race this late is a coup for Stoops. It wasn’t long ago that fans had a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Stoops’ buyout, but he has firmly entrenched himself at Kentucky with his performance this season.