We’re down to just two unbeaten teams in the SEC, and soon enough, only one will remain.
Texas A&M is 6-0 after handing seemingly-unsinkable Tennessee its first loss of the season. Looming on the other end of its by week is a titanic road trip to Tuscaloosa, where Alabama awaits. Whether the Tide are still undefeated or they’re 6-1 after a Vols upset, Week 8 will be huge in shaping the SEC West and, in turn, the conference’s likely College Football Playoff entrant.
Here’s a fresh set of bowl projections six weeks into 2016:
|Peach (Dec. 31, Atlanta) — CFP||#1 Alabama||#4 Washington||Top 4, Playoff rankings|
|Fiesta (Dec. 31, Glendale) — CFP||#2 Clemson||#3 Ohio State||Top 4, Playoff rankings|
|Orange (Dec. 30, Miami) — NY6||Tennessee||Louisville||Big Ten/SEC/ND vs ACC #1|
|Sugar (Jan. 2, New Orleans) — NY6||Texas A&M||Oklahoma||SEC #1 vs Big 12 #1|
|Cotton (Jan. 2, Arlington) — NY6||Miami||Boise State||At-large vs at-large|
|Rose (Jan. 2, Pasadena) — NY6||Michigan||Arizona State||Big Ten #1 vs Pac 12 #1|
|Citrus (Dec. 31, Orlando)||Ole Miss||Wisconsin||SEC #2 vs ACC/Big Ten|
|Outback (Jan. 2, Tampa)||Florida||Nebraska||SEC#3-8 vs Big Ten #2-4|
|TaxSlayer (Dec. 31, Jacksonville)||Georgia||Florida State||SEC #3-8 vs ACC/Big Ten|
|Music City (Dec. 30, Nashville)||Arkansas||Penn State||SEC #3-8 vs ACC/Big Ten|
|Texas (Dec. 28, Houston)||Auburn||TCU||SEC #3-8 vs Big 12 #4|
|Belk (Dec. 29, Charlotte)||Kentucky||Wake Forest||SEC #3-8 vs ACC #3-6|
|Liberty (Dec. 30, Memphis)||LSU||Oklahoma State||SEC #3-8 vs Big 12 #5|
|Birmingham (Dec. 29, Birmingham)||Boston College||UConn||SEC #9** vs American|
|Independence (Dec. 26, Shreveport)||Troy||Georgia Tech||SEC #10** vs ACC|
|No bowls: Miss State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Missouri||**Replaced by fill-in|
Playoff picture clearing up?
Navy upsetting Houston eliminated the need to account for an undefeated Group of Five team with major resume points. Boise State has a shot at finishing 12-0, but arguing the Broncos deserve a top-four ranking would be tough — their best victories would be Washington State, Oregon State, BYU and Air Force.
So you’re probably looking at the top Power Five team from each conference, minus the Big 12, getting into the Playoff. Even if one of either Baylor or West Virginia goes undefeated and wins the Big 12 outright, you’d think the Huskies hold an edge if they’re a 12-1 conference title-winner. Plus, do we really think Baylor or West Virginia go undefeated?
The dates to highlight are Oct. 22 (Texas A&M at Alabama), Oct. 29 (Clemson at Florida State, Washington at Utah) and Nov. 26 (Michigan at Ohio State). Those games look like the biggest roadblocks for my four Playoff picks.
With so much football left on the docket, it feels irresponsible to even mention the phrase “clearing up.” But you can reasonably argue that there are six or seven teams a good cut above the rest. ESPN’s latest FPI ratings more or less agree. So at least for now, there’s not much drama at the top.
Tier II teams
In the SEC, these are Texas A&M, Tennessee and Ole Miss.
Even if the Rebels wind up with four losses, they’re still unlikely to drop past the Citrus Bowl. You can find far worse defeats than Florida State (at a neutral site) and Alabama. Tennessee still should get to 10 wins with little trouble. As the Vols get healthier, they’ll get even more dangerous. And the Aggies actually might be a more well-rounded team than Alabama this season (shhhhhh).
Some combination of these teams will wind up in the Sugar, Orange/Cotton and Citrus Bowls. That seems pretty apparent by now.
Best of the rest
There aren’t many teams that could creep up into Tier II, but Auburn and LSU fit the bill. Both Tigers offenses have received a much-needed injection of energy — Auburn since Rhett Lashlee took over play-calling duties, and LSU since the Les Miles/Cam Cameron duo got canned.
Finishing 8-4 is a real possibility for either team. For now, we’ll stick with them heading to one of the Texas/Liberty bowls, but Ole Miss hasn’t played either team yet. The Citrus Bowl could come calling if either somehow knocks off the Rebels.
Oh, and Kentucky’s defensive improvement over the past couple of weeks has been enough that 6-6 and a bowl berth are actually within reach for Mark Stoops and the Wildcats. Mississippi State, Missouri and Austin Peay are all beatable. We’ll see if they can finally seal the deal.
Week 7 SEC games to watch:
- Alabama at Tennessee
- Ole Miss at Arkansas
Four teams have byes, including Texas A&M and Auburn, so it’s a pretty quiet slate. Alabama-Tennessee is far and away the biggest matchup — almost every game the Crimson Tide play from here out will be “worth watching” — but don’t sleep on Hogs vs. Rebels, a pair of two-loss teams trying to recover from early setbacks. Plus, last year’s wildly entertaining game gave us the Henry Heave.
Projected SEC standings entering Week 7:
|SEC WEST||SEC EAST|
|Alabama (12-0, 8-0)**||Tennessee (10-2, 6-2)|
|Texas A&M (11-1, 7-1)||Florida (8-4, 5-3)|
|Ole Miss (9-3, 6-2)||Georgia (8-4, 4-4)|
|Auburn (8-4, 5-3)||Kentucky (6-6, 4-4)|
|LSU (7-5, 4-4)||South Carolina (5-7, 2-6)|
|Arkansas (7-5, 3-5)||Missouri (5-7, 1-7)|
|Mississippi St (4-8, 1-7)||Vanderbilt (3-9, 0-8)|
|** = SEC champion|