SEC football is competitive every year, with this year being no exception so far. It seems like you can never accurately predict the divisional standings for neither the East nor the West. Honestly, even though I’m a Gator, I never would’ve guessed that Florida would be atop the East right now and would have such a good chance at actually winning the East. And although I knew LSU was going to be competitive, I probably still would have picked Alabama to be sitting at the top of the West right now. But as we Gator fans recently found out, things can change in a hurry.
That being said, I don’t expect too much to change too quickly in the races for the divisional titles in the SEC. Florida and Georgia both have a bye this week so nothing will change yet there. And LSU plays Western Kentucky so, barring some sort of catastrophic event, nothing will change there either. The only team whose status in the race to get to Atlanta seems to be in and kind of jeopardy is Alabama. Even though I was raised a Vol fan, I still think the idea of the Vols winning in Tuscaloosa this weekend is a bit farfetched. That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t enjoy a nice upset down there! But if everything stays the same this week with LSU and Alabama at the top of the West and Florida and Georgia at the top of the East, then the teams making a trip to the SEC Championship Game in December will be decided by two huge games in the next few weeks.
Florida & Georgia
One of those games happens to only be about a week and a half away. It’s a game that every Florida and Georgia fan counts down to every year…The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. This season, it almost ensures a Gator trip to Atlanta if they manage to pull out the victory over Georgia. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this game always seems to be a good matchup regardless of whatever else is going on for the teams during that season. And I doubt this year will be any different. I said it was entirely possible for the Gators to get the upset win last year and they did…in convincing fashion. This year it would actually be an upset for the Bulldogs to win, though.
First, the Bulldogs got absolutely dominated by Alabama at home. And now after losing at Tennessee and suffering an even bigger loss when star RB Nick Chubb went down with an ugly knee injury on the first snap of that game, Georgia looks like they’re in trouble. Last week they barely eked out an ugly 9-6 victory over Missouri. Georgia needs to find some kind of offensive rhythm during their bye week. With the Gators playing how they have been in recent games, I can assure you that nine points and less than 300 yards of total offense just won’t do it when they play Florida in Jacksonville. And the pressure of this game is increasing, as the Bulldogs know very well what is at stake in that game.
The Gators have also recently suffered a couple of big losses when they came up short in a hard-fought game at Death Valley less than a week after learning that QB Will Grier was suspended per NCAA rules. But at this point, the Gators still have a lot to prove. Coming close to beating LSU in their stadium after losing their talented QB doesn’t count as a W in the win-loss column. It may have been a moral victory for the Gators though. They were able to see that they are able to compete at the highest level even without their starting QB. The Gators honestly could have won that game and even though they didn’t win, the team stuck together and fought their way back into what started to feel like a hopeless game. That momentum and that heart can carry the Gators very far as long as they remember to stay humble. Any team is beatable on any given day and the Gators need to remember to play with that in mind if they want to beat Georgia in a week and a half.
LSU & Alabama
In the West it’s looking like it’ll also come down to one big game. But this game isn’t on neutral ground; this game will be played in Tuscaloosa in about two and a half weeks. Less than a month ago I would’ve looked at Ole Miss and expected them to be in the driver’s seat or at least be in close competition with LSU for that SEC West title. But as they did last year, Ole Miss started out strong and has since faded away. That means it’ll come down to the one-loss Alabama Crimson Tide (who lost to formerly strong Ole Miss) or the still undefeated LSU Tigers.
It’s hard to view Alabama as an underdog in any game while Saban is still their head coach. But since they’re ranked lower and they have a loss, I’ll consider them the underdog just this one time. It’s easy to see that Alabama has a complete defense that is more than capable of suffocating offenses this season. Their defense may be good enough to finally slow down LSU RB Leonard Fournette. Even with two interceptions a week and a half ago, the Crimson Tide beat Arkansas by 13. And despite those two interceptions during that game QB Jake Coker has finally seemed to settle in to the offense, which has given their team the extra boost it could have used earlier in the season.
LSU has found their strength in one player more than anything else this season. We should probably just go ahead and hand the Heisman trophy to RB Leonard Fournette right now because unless he gets injured, there is no contest. Last week he still managed to rack up 180 rushing yards against Florida’s tough defense. Those rushing yards combined with some interesting play calls by Les Miles were just enough to lead the Tigers to victory. But now that those plays have been used, what will LSU do when they face another strong defense in two and a half weeks in Tuscaloosa? That game will answer the question once and for all of whether or not Leonard Fournette is stoppable. And if
Fournette LSU wins that one, they’re almost certainly headed to Atlanta for what could be a priceless rematch on neutral ground against the Florida Gators.
We may have to wait a few more weeks to find out, but soon enough we’ll know who will be making a trip to Atlanta to fight for the SEC title. Right now all we can do as SEC football fans is anxiously await the two biggest games of the season. In case you missed it, the first of those games will be Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville on the 31st of October. The second game that we’ll be waiting for is LSU at Alabama on November 7th. Until then, I’m actually hoping for things to calm down a little bit as far as all this SEC football drama goes. Tennessee can stop losing games in the last quarter, Florida can stop letting their players shop at wellness stores without supervision, and Spurrier can refrain from breaking our hearts again.