Three weeks into the 2016 season, six undefeated squads remain in the SEC. Saturday’s slate will pare that number further, as four of those teams face each other (Tennessee-Florida, Arkansas-Texas A&M), while Georgia duels a dangerous Ole Miss team on the road.
This got us thinking: How likely is it that each of these teams actually stays undefeated? No team has gone 8-0 in SEC play since LSU did in 2011, and even that was before the Tigers lost to Alabama in the national championship game. You’d have to go back one more year to find the last truly undefeated SEC team: Cam Newton-led Auburn (14-0).
So with more big matchups on tap in Week 4, SEC Country took a crack at predicting the first loss for the current unbeatens, and gave a percentage chance that a given school keeps its winning streak going through the regular season. This is the result:
Tennessee: Sept. 24 vs. Florida
Last 3-0 start: 2004 (wins against UNLV, Florida, Louisiana Tech)
Chances of going 12-0: 3 percent
The 3-0 mark has eluded the Vols for 11 years. Based what we’ve seen in the first three weeks of 2016, we’re not so sure the Vols can make it 4-0 against a very, very good Gators defense. The Florida secondary — Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Marcus Maye — and the front seven (a national-best 16 sacks already) makes passing a virtual non-option for Mike DeBord. As long as the linebackers account for Josh Dobbs on designed runs and scrambles, Tennessee won’t score much. The Gators will have their hands full with Tennessee’s defensive front, but improved O-line play has resulted in the rushing attack averaging a whole 1.5 yards more per carry than last season’s mark. The capable tailback committee of Jordan Scarlett, Mark Thompson and Lamical Perine keeps everyone fresh, too. Sorry, Vols, but this sad streak goes to 12.
Arkansas: Sept. 24 at Texas A&M
Last 3-0 start: 2013 (wins against Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford, Southern Miss)
Chances of going 12-0: 7 percent
Texas A&M has beaten Arkansas four years running, and while those games have been close, this group is the most complete team of the Kevin Sumlin era. The Aggies boast the nation’s No. 15 scoring defense, 12 sacks in three games and, amazingly, the SEC’s second-best rushing attack. Arkansas has one impressive win (at TCU), but A&M already has two (UCLA, Auburn). This matchup might go into overtime again, but the Aggies have too many weapons at their disposal to not exploit a few soft spots on the Hogs roster — namely right tackle and the secondary.
Georgia: Sept. 24 at Ole Miss
Last 3-0 start: 2015 (wins against Louisiana-Monroe, Vanderbilt, South Carolina)
Chances of going 12-0: 18 percent
The Rebels are already 1-2. At this point, they either regroup, rally from the early defeats and learn how to finish games, or they fade into the background of an ultra-competitive SEC West. Judging by the way Georgia’s defense struggled to keep up with Missouri when the Tigers went up-tempo, this will be an especially tough draw for the Bulldogs. Chad Kelly and his receivers obviously pose more of a threat than Drew Lock & Co. Georgia doesn’t have to defend the offenses of Ole Miss or Texas A&M every year, and that lack of familiarity plus a still-struggling offensive line doesn’t bode well.
Alabama: Oct. 22 vs Texas A&M
Last 3-0 start: 2014 (wins against West Virginia, Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss)
Chances of going 12-0: 35 percent
Four years ago, we got the Johnny Manziel Tuscaloosa Upset Special. This year, the Aggies have another thorn in Alabama’s side at quarterback in Trevor Knight, who upset the Tide while playing for Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. Texas A&M is a more well-rounded group than Ole Miss, one with an offensive line that performed very well against a stout Auburn defensive front, that features a similarly fast-paced spread offense. Knight isn’t of Kelly’s caliber as a passer, but with Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil, Alabama will have a tough time keeping everyone locked down. Defensive coordinator John Chavis will get crafty using Myles Garrett, too. Athletically, Garrett should scare Jalen Hurts when he’s in space.
Florida: Nov. 5 at Arkansas
Last 3-0 start: 2015 (wins against New Mexico State, East Carolina, Kentucky)
Chances of going 12-0: 17 percent
The Gators have toughies against Tennessee, LSU and Georgia, but if there’s any team that can really test their defense, it would be Arkansas. A heavy dose of Rawleigh Williams plus Austin Allen finding his favorite red zone target, tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, could give the Hogs enough room to outlast Florida at home. Bret Bielema is only 2-4 against SEC East teams, but the 2016 group looks like a different breed than previous editions. Allen might be the most talented quarterback Florida faces this season, as well.
Texas A&M: Nov. 12 vs Ole Miss
Last 3-0 start: 2015 (wins against Arizona State, Ball State, Nevada)
Chances of going 12-0: 15 percent
The Rebels lost to two very good teams and by this stage of the season, the offensive line should be gelling and ideally so would the rushing defense. Even though defensive coordinator John Chavis has a reputation for being able to stifle spread offenses, the reality is that nobody can truly say they’ve figured out how to completely stop them. Look at what Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly just did to Alabama, which needed two key turnovers and a punt return touchdown to win. There are so many options built into a given play, and Kelly has the mobility and the arm to pull them all off, that defending Ole Miss will always be difficult… unless you have, like, five NFL defensive backs on your squad. (Could the Jacksonville Jaguars beat Ole Miss? My column, coming soon.)