Momentum matters. Need proof? Look no farther than Missouri, which hasn’t won a game since September, or Tennessee, which has seen its dreams of a conference title dashed.
It rolls in the other direction, too. Alabama, still unbeaten and marching toward another SEC West crown, will invade another in-form team, LSU, for a pivotal game this weekend.
Here’s a look at the momentum rankings for each SEC school leading up to Week 10:
Rolling: Other than Texas A&M and Ole Miss, no one has really given the Crimson Tide much of a game. A trip to Baton Rouge, however, always presents a unique challenge. In the Nick Saban era, six of the 10 meetings with LSU have been decided by seven points or fewer.
Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts continues to impress, ranking fourth in the SEC in passer rating and sixth in yards. He’s also second on the team in rushing yards (521) and the Tide’s leader in rushing touchdowns (9).
The defense has been outstanding as well. The unit ranks second in the conference in points allowed (11.7), first against the run and second in total defense. In addition, the Tide’s defense and special teams lead the nation with 12 touchdowns this season.
Neutral: After its disaster on the Plains, Arkansas took a much-needed week off in advance of its home date with Florida this weekend.
While the loss to the Tigers was no doubt humbling, the sky isn’t falling in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks are 5-3 and can still end the season on a high note. That said, matching up against Florida isn’t going to be easy.
Quarterback Austin Allen used the bye week to recover from a sore knee and is in line to start against the Gators. An offensive line that has struggled at times this season will be tested against a stout Florida front seven.
On the other side of the ball, Florida doesn’t have as strong of a ground game as Auburn, but the Hogs will still need to do a better job in that area on Saturday.
Rolling: For three quarters, Auburn and Ole Miss traded body blows. In the last 15 minutes, the Tigers did most of the punching to pull out a 40-29 win.
That’s five wins in a row for a team that seems to be getting better each week. The Tigers lead the conference in rushing and have climbed to third in scoring (36.3). Kamryn Pettway gashed the Rebels for 236 yards and a score, while Sean White turned in another efficient game from the quarterback spot.
Neutral: Although it did a good job against the run, the defense allowed 465 yards through the air. That’s the most since 2013 against Texas A&M and some guy named Johnny Manziel. Ironically, the Tigers won that game, too.
In reverse: With a trip to Georgia looming, the home date with Vanderbilt feels like a letdown spot for Auburn. It’s a cliche, but a “one-game-at-a-time” approach will work best this week against the Commodores.
Rolling: It wasn’t always pretty, but Florida’s 24-10 win against Georgia was certainly emphatic. The defense limited the Bulldogs to 21 yards on 19 carries and allowed only eight first downs in the game.
That meant the offense didn’t need to produce much. Jordan Scarlett was the workhorse, recording 93 yards and a score on 26 carries.
If that wasn’t enough good news for the Gators, Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina effectively gives Florida a two-game cushion, thanks to potential tiebreakers, atop the SEC East.
Neutral: Of course, a stumble at Arkansas on Saturday could draw Kentucky and maybe even the Volunteers back into the race.
In reverse: It’s tough to spin the offensive ineptitude against Florida as anything other than a disaster. From the wreckage, there’s Nick Chubb questioning the play-calling, fans wondering why the offensive line isn’t better and even some suggesting that the Kirby Smart era in Athens might be a short one.
That last bit is a little extreme, but a 4-4 record from a guy who was hired to take the program from good to great is hard for some to swallow.
The SEC doesn’t care about feelings, however. Georgia has to get right back on the horse with a trip to Kentucky to face the surging Wildcats.
Only a win in Lexington will quiet the critics, if only for a little while.
Rolling: If Alabama and Auburn are the league’s hottest teams, Kentucky is safely tucked in as No. 3. Three straight wins have the Wildcats on the verge of bowl eligibility and very much in the SEC East race.
Benny Snell and Stanley “Boom” Williams took turns pounding the Missouri defense last week, combining for 374 yards and 3 touchdowns on 57 carries in a 35-21 win.
Neutral: It’s worth pointing out that Kentucky’s winning streak has come at the hands of Missouri, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. Beating Georgia — even this year’s version — would not only elevate Kentucky to six wins but help it build some credibility as well.
Rolling: The Tigers are averaging 536 yards of offense and 41.7 points per game in three games under Ed Orgeron and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and had an extra week to prepare for Alabama’s visit on Saturday.
Beating up on Missouri, Southern Miss and Ole Miss is one thing but pushing the ball up and down the field against the Crimson Tide would be something else.
Neutral: Leonard Fournette was back to his electrifying self against Ole Miss, where he rushed for 284 yards and 3 touchdowns. That was 253 more than he had the last time he lined up against Alabama, so he’ll be plenty motivated on Saturday night.
Orgeron is making his case to have the “interim” removed from his job title and snapping a five-game skid to the Crimson Tide would become the first bullet point on his resume.
Rolling: Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald passed for 5 touchdowns and ran for another 2 scores as Mississippi State took down Samford. Donald Gray was a prime target, catching 4 passes for 204 yards and 3 touchdowns.
That snapped a three-game slide for the Bulldogs. Their reward? A home date with a rested Texas A&M squad.
In reverse: The primary culprit in the recent losing streak was the defense. A win is a win but allowing 41 points and 627 yards to an FCS opponent is troubling.
In reverse: October has come and gone, and on the heels of a 35-21 home loss to Kentucky, it passed without a Missouri win.
That’s four losses in a row for the reeling Tigers, who have allowed at least 500 yards of total offense in those games. That’s the kind of school record Barry Odom was hoping to avoid in his first year at the helm.
Injuries are piling up. Odom has taken over the defensive play-calling. Fan discontent is on the rise in Columbia West. A win at South Carolina would do wonders for the program but to do that would take a dramatic reversal in fortunes for this squad.
Rolling: Chad Kelly was the bright spot in the loss to Auburn, throwing for 465 yards and 3 touchdowns.
In reverse: It has been a remarkable season in Oxford. A team that stood toe to toe with Alabama and Florida State now owns a 3-5 record and is in serious danger of not being bowl eligible.
Georgia Southern comes calling on Saturday, bringing with it the nation’s 21st-best rushing offense. Stopping the run has been a sore spot for the Rebels, who rank last in the SEC and 118th nationally in that category.
Rolling: With an upset of Tennessee on Saturday, the Gamecocks leveled their record at 4-4 and are taking aim at a bowl berth.
On offense, true freshmen led the team in passing (Jake Bentley) and rushing (Rico Dowdle). The youth movement is paying off for Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.
The defense, under the direction of Muschamp and coordinator Travaris Robinson, has quietly climbed into the top half of the conference in both scoring and total defense.
With slumping Missouri visiting Williams-Brice this weekend, South Carolina seems poised to add another win to its current hot streak.
In reverse: Tennessee had an extra week to prepare and came into the game at South Carolina as a 15-point favorite. Things didn’t go as planned as the Volunteers fell, 24-21.
That defeat knocked over a few dominoes. First, it practically ended any hopes of catching Florida for the East crown.
Then, it led to the transfer of running back Jalen Hurd — the program’s sixth all-time leading rusher. That, of course, led to an array of columns questioning Butch Jones and the overall direction of the Volunteers.
We’re a long way from August, when Tennessee was a slam-dunk choice to win the East and a trendy pick to crash the playoff.
Rolling: The Battle of Aggies turned out to be a no-contest, as A&M blasted New Mexico State, 52-10.
Christian Kirk returned a pair of punts for touchdowns in a pretty comfortable day at the office for Kevin Sumlin’s team.
The Aggies visit Mississippi State this weekend, where they’ll look to stay in contact with Alabama in the SEC West standings. Texas A&M leads the all-time series, 5-4, and won last year’s game in College Station. The Bulldogs took a 48-31 win in the last Starkville meeting back in 2014.
Rolling: For the first time in Derek Mason’s tenure at Vanderbilt, the Commodores are on a two-game winning streak. It’s a modest stat, but a positive one to bring out of a bye week.
Neutral: Those good vibrations will be sorely tested on the road against Auburn this weekend. The Tigers have won five in a row but have actually lost the last two meetings in this series.
Vanderbilt earned a 17-13 win in 2012 and a 14-13 decision in 2008. Both of those meetings came in Nashville, but Auburn won the last game on the Plains, 35-7, in 2007.