The final week of the regular season is upon us. We’re moving closer to a final ranking of the conference, but there’s still one more regular-season week, filled with traditional rivalry games, that could shake things up. In honor of Thanksgiving (we hope you had a great one by the way), we’ll do food-inspired tiers this week:
Start From Scratch
14. South Carolina
The signs of progress shown in prior weeks by interim coach Shawn Elliott were as cooked as the Thanksgiving turkeys after the Gamecocks dropped a game to in-state FCS foe The Citadel last week. A beatdown from potentially playoff-bound Clemson awaits and then a coaching search, followed by a new beginning in Columbia.
Trying To Get To The Dessert Table
The Wildcats blew the doors off of Charlotte. That normally wouldn’t be considered a real admirable effort for an SEC team, but with all the craziness in the SEC last week, every win, particularly by teams in the East, should be valued. At five wins, a home victory over in-state rival Louisville this weekend would send the Wildcats back to the postseason for just the 12th time since the 50s and the first time since 2011. With a wild-and-crazy coaching carousel coming up, Mark Stoops, who has helped UK take some steps forward, could be a dark horse name to watch for some of the openings. He’s probably figured out by now that it’s not easy to win a lot of football games in Lexington.
What happened to the emotional farewell that was expected in Gary Pinkel’s final home game against Tennessee? Thousands of fans showed up disguised as empty seats and the Tigers looked fairly lethargic as the Vols slowly but surely put them away in a 19-8 contest. They have one more chance to extend Pinkel’s career with a tough road trip to Arkansas, where the Tigers will be looking for win No. 6. I’m supposed to be unbiased, but I’d have no problem with Mizzou getting the win for Pinkel. Regardless, get well soon coach.
The Commodores were seemingly eliminated from postseason contention last week after getting blanked by Texas A&M. Unless….there is a small chance that some 5-7 teams could make the postseason this year due to a shortage of overall bowl-eligible teams. And to help their chances even more, teams with the best APR scores will get first priority. So figure out a way to get a third win in the last four games against UT, and there’s at least a slight chance that the improved Commodores could backdoor their way into the postseason.
The Weird Casseroles
The Tigers aren’t great, but also might not be quite as bad as they looked early in the season. With very little consistency at quarterback, the loss of their top WR and some key injuries on defense, the Tigers are likely heading to a 6-6 finish unless they pull off a stunner against Alabama. But every loss with the exception of one (LSU) has been a one-score game, so while they failed to live up to expectations, they also weren’t completely awful this year. Gus Malzahn and Will Muschamp didn’t forget how to coach their side of the ball, but there will be some shaking up over the offseason on The Plains.
What was that, Georgia? The Bulldogs needed overtime to knock off Georgia Southern last week. Add that as another bizarre chapter in the 2015 season for the Bulldogs. Mark Richt will probably get another year, but a loss to underachieving rival Georgia Tech this weekend would make his seat extremely warm heading into bowl season.
8. Texas A&M
The Aggies have been a difficult team to figure out this year, but they put their best foot forward on Saturday, going to Nashville and blowing out a scrappy Vanderbilt team 25-0. Despite a midseason swoon, the Aggies can still put together a very respectable 9-3 campaign with a win over LSU this week. Defensive coordinator John Chavis might end his former boss Les Miles’ career with the Tigers if the Aggies get the victory.
Saturday’s 19-8 win at Missouri didn’t earn the Vols a ton of style points, but simply put, that was the type game that the Vols would’ve lost in recent years. The schedule has been favorable for UT down the stretch, but Butch Jones, despite some early mishaps in the season, has the Vols learning how to win. Among SEC teams, only Alabama has a longer winning streak than the Vols right now. Fans will wonder what could’ve been after some blown leads early in the year, but assuming all goes according to script against Vandy, this year will be a nice step in the right direction for UT.
Oh, LSU. Oh, Les. What happened? You looked like legitimate national title contenders just a few weeks ago, but after three straight losses of 16 or more points, it looks like Miles could be on the way out and LSU is no longer in any kind of postseason conversation other than what mid-tier bowl it will end up in. Just giving my two cents that aren’t nearly as valuable as the $15+ million that LSU boosters have reportedly raised to buy Miles out – give Les at least one more season. The Tigers get one more chance against former DC John Chavis to either save Miles’ job, or at least to send him out a winner.
The Hogs went flying up the power rankings last week, only to fall back to earth a bit after a disappointing 51-50 loss to a red-hot Dak Prescott and Mississippi State. Just looking at the last several weeks, Arkansas has looked like a contending-level SEC team. But those bizarre losses to Toledo and Texas Tech earlier this season will keep this season from living up to a lot of preseason expectations.
4. Mississippi State
Give Dak Prescott a ton of credit. This isn’t a loaded team and he’s put it on his back several times this year to give the Bulldogs a very respectable season. He was an absolute beast against the Razorbacks – throwing for over 500 yards and five touchdowns in the win. Quick word of advice for Dan Mullen this offseason: if the coaching carousel spins to you, jump on. It won’t be easy in Starkville without your stud quarterback in the coming years.
Hoping Alabama Drops the Cake
3. Ole Miss
The Rebels can technically still end up with a trip to Atlanta. They need Alabama, which plays earlier in the day on Saturday, to fall to undermanned rival Auburn for that to happen. Even if that were to occur, the Rebels would need to win the Egg Bowl against a determined Mississippi State team to secure the trip to Atlanta. The odds are low for Ole Miss, but the meal isn’t technically over yet.
Battling For the Final Slice
This ranking is solely on results, not how the Gators have looked in recent weeks. Florida has looked nothing like a Top 25 team, much less a team that can technically still make the playoffs, the last few week after barely pulling out wins against Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic. There’s still a ton to play for, however, if the Gators can pull it together against Florida State and then carry that momentum to Atlanta the next week when they represent the East, most likely against…
Win and you’re in. It’s simple for the Tide. Alabama is better than Auburn, and though there have been some crazy occurrences in this rivalry, the Tide should be able to take care of business in this one. The Tide remains in the driver’s seat for the West, the SEC and a berth in the college football playoffs. It doesn’t look like anybody will stop them, but this has been a season of the unexpected on many levels.