Even though many of the games this weekend are between mismatched teams, the stakes are still high for many SEC coaches.
A pair of SEC East coaches have the opportunity to make a bowl game for the first time as head coaches. Meanwhile, an SEC West coach is still fighting tooth-and-nail to keep his job and has a prime opportunity this weekend to prove himself.
Here are the SEC coaches with the most to gain and lose in Week 12.
Gain: Ed Orgeron
No. 16 LSU vs. No. 23 Florida – 1 p.m. Saturday in Baton Rouge, La. (SEC Network)
LSU administration has dialed in on Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher for the full-time head coaching job, which has been a distraction within the program. There’s no better way for Orgeron’s team to strike back than kicking the heck out of another Florida-based team in response.
Orgeron is still in consideration for the full-time head coaching job, but needs strong showings in the remaining games against Florida and Texas A&M to keep that flicker alive. Luckily, Florida proved against Arkansas that it is a mess by losing 38-10. With an even more talented running game and better defense, LSU could crush the Gators.
Lose: Butch Jones
No. 19 Tennessee vs. Missouri – 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn. (CBS)
For a coach whose program remains the favorite to win the SEC East, Jones can’t catch a break. After Tennessee lost several starters to injury, the Vols dropped consecutive games to Texas A&M, Alabama and South Carolina. They also needed a late charge from Josh Dobbs to beat Kentucky.
Only the bottom two teams in the SEC are left – Vanderbilt and Missouri. Tennessee has to crush both of them or fans could turn on him again. This was supposed to be Tennessee’s year, but the season fell apart. He will need to build some cache before what could be a rough season in 2017.
Gain: Mark Stoops
Kentucky vs. Austin Peay – 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Lexington, Ky. (SEC Network)
With a win over Austin Peay, Mark Stoops will reach a bowl game for the first time as a head coach. It’s been a long rebuild for Kentucky, one paved with uncertainty and missed opportunities. However, earning a spot in a bowl for the first time since 2010 will wipe that all away.
Kentucky has transformed its offense into run-first quickly, relying on the strength of Boom Williams and Benny Snell. The defense is also playing at a high level after Stoops took the unit over partway through the season. As recently as last week, the Wildcats still had a chance to win the division. Even without that, boosters have to be pleased.
Lose: Derek Mason
Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss – 8 p.m. Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. (SEC Network)
This was so close to becoming a memorable season for Vanderbilt, but an awful loss to Missouri derailed the Commodores and pushed them away from bowl eligibility. Now, Mason’s team has to win both of its remaining games against Ole Miss and Tennessee just to make its first bowl game under this coach.
Saturday is almost a must-win against an Ole Miss team starting a true freshman quarterback. Even though Shea Patterson had an electric first start, Mason needs this win just to rise above the 4-8 his team finished in each of the past two seasons. A loss would put him in a bad spot.
Gain: Will Muschamp
South Carolina vs. Western Carolina – 4 p.m. Saturday in Columbia, S.C. (SEC Network)
Even with a loss last weekend, Muschamp can lead South Carolina to its first bowl game since 2014 — and with a talent-devoid roster and true freshman quarterback at the helm no less. South Carolina just needs to beat Western Carolina and Muschamp’s first season will be a success.
The Gamecocks were in dire straits after Steve Spurrier retired midseason. The team was in a bad spot personnel-wise after questionable recruiting and attrition. However, Muschamp funneled all the misaligned pieces into wins over Tennessee, Missouri and Vanderbilt. There’s still plenty of building left to do, but Muschamp is starting to expel the demons from his tenure at Florida.