Well, that didn’t last long.
Days after debuting at No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings, in what only could have been the selection committee’s attempt to rustle up controversy, Texas A&M looked decidedly un-Playoff worthy in Saturday’s nasty Starkville stinker. Rejoice, Washington fans.
That means Auburn, which held off a feisty Vanderbilt squad at home on Saturday, is now riding shotgun in the ultra-competitive SEC West, setting up what should be a massive Iron Bowl at the end of the month.
Let’s dig into all that and more in this fresh set of bowl projections:
|Peach (Dec. 31, Atlanta) — CFP||#1 Alabama||#4 Washington||Top 4, Playoff rankings|
|Fiesta (Dec. 31, Glendale) — CFP||#2 Michigan||#3 Clemson||Top 4, Playoff rankings|
|Orange (Dec. 30, Miami) — NY6||Wisconsin||Louisville||Big Ten/SEC/ND vs ACC #1|
|Sugar (Jan. 2, New Orleans) — NY6||Auburn||West Virginia||SEC #1 vs Big 12 #1|
|Cotton (Jan. 2, Arlington) — NY6||Penn State||W Michigan||At-large vs at-large|
|Rose (Jan. 2, Pasadena) — NY6||Ohio State||Utah||Big Ten #1 vs Pac 12 #1|
|Citrus (Dec. 31, Orlando)||Texas A&M||Virginia Tech||SEC #2 vs ACC/Big Ten|
|Outback (Jan. 2, Tampa)||Florida||Nebraska||SEC#3-8 vs Big Ten #2-4|
|TaxSlayer (Dec. 31, Jacksonville)||Tennessee||Florida State||SEC #3-8 vs ACC/Big Ten|
|Music City (Dec. 30, Nashville)||South Carolina||Indiana||SEC #3-8 vs ACC/Big Ten|
|Texas (Dec. 28, Houston)||LSU||TCU||SEC #3-8 vs Big 12 #4|
|Belk (Dec. 29, Charlotte)||Georgia||Miami||SEC #3-8 vs ACC #3-6|
|Liberty (Dec. 30, Memphis)||Arkansas||Baylor||SEC #3-8 vs Big 12 #5|
|Birmingham (Dec. 29, Birmingham)||Kentucky||USF||SEC #9 vs American|
|Independence (Dec. 26, Shreveport)||Ole Miss||Georgia Tech||SEC #10 vs ACC|
|No bowls: Mississippi State, Missouri, Vanderbilt|
A changed landscape
For the first time all season, I have the SEC filling all 10 of its tie-in bowl berths. The biggest factor is Texas A&M’s loss. That opens the door for Auburn making the Sugar Bowl and 7-2 Penn State sliding into the Cotton Bowl. The Nittany Lions face Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan State over the final three weeks — combined record: 9-18 — while the Tigers get mediocre Georgia and Alabama A&M before the Tide. Both will get the wins they need, and their resumes to this point are darn strong.
If the Aggies offense struggled like that against Mississippi State, you wonder how they’ll do in Week 13 against LSU, which just shut out Alabama for three quarters. But for now, a 10-2 or 9-3 Texas A&M squad still holds more appeal than LSU, Tennessee or Florida.
The Tide wound up outlasting LSU, 10-0, in a throwback Death Valley slugfest. They should hold onto their No. 1 spot for now by virtue of name power. But Michigan is probably creeping up on the top spot after throttling Maryland 59-3 at home in yet another blowout.
The SEC East is a mess, and not the fun kind
The SEC East is what happens if you give a kid some crayons and say “draw me a football division.” Florida, the supposed leader of the pack, looked punchless on the road against Arkansas. Expecting wins at either LSU or Florida State seems like wishful thinking right now.
The Gators’ offensive catastrophe coupled with Kentucky’s loss to Georgia leaves room for — you guessed it — Tennessee to jump back into the race. The Vols get Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt, and probably wind up at 9-3. Florida State, which I’ve also got finishing 9-3, would make for an intriguing matchup.
Lastly, you’ve got teams on the cusp of making a bowl game in Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky. Objectively, the Wildcats are the best among these three teams. But even if this is the first bowl of the Mark Stoops era, are we really expecting UK fans to get geared up and travel to the Belk, Liberty or Music City bowls?
South Carolina also has the advantage of a fun quarterback to watch in young gunslinger Jake Bentley. Georgia plays an ugly brand of football, to be sure, but the possibility of a Bulldogs vs. Mark Richt matchup is guaranteed to create buzz.
Sorry, ‘Cats fans. On the bright side, USF will make for a fun matchup, and your team is destined for a better fate than the Chad Kelly-less Ole Miss Rebels.
Week 11 games to watch:
- South Carolina at Florida
- Kentucky at Tennessee
- Auburn at Georgia
- LSU at Arkansas
- Ole Miss at Texas A&M
Loads of good games on tap. The big one will be in Athens, where Auburn — now in control of its own fate in the SEC West — needs to prove it can stay hot against a beatable Georgia team.
Down in The Swamp, we’ve got the Muschamp Bowl, which could be a sneaky tough game for the Gators. South Carolina is playing better of late.
And then we’ll get a better idea of how the SEC East finally plays out in Knoxville, where a wounded group of Vols will try to regroup on offense after a cupcake breather vs. Tennessee Tech.
Projected SEC standings entering Week 11:
|SEC WEST||SEC EAST|
|Alabama (12-0, 8-0)**||Tennessee (9-3, 5-3)|
|Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2)||Florida (7-4, 5-3)|
|Auburn (9-3, 6-2)||Kentucky (6-6, 4-4)|
|LSU (7-4, 5-3)||Georgia (6-6, 3-5)|
|Arkansas (8-4, 4-4)||South Carolina (6-6, 3-5)|
|Mississippi State (5-7, 3-5)||Missouri (3-9, 1-7)|
|Ole Miss (5-7, 2-6)||Vanderbilt (4-8, 1-7)|
|** = SEC champion|