Before we get sideways about the SEC and the College Football Playoff, understand this:
The SEC has a better chance of getting no teams in the final poll on Dec. 7 than two teams.
The conference is that good – and could take each other out one by one over the next six weeks of the season. It begins this weekend with No. 3 Auburn at No. 4 Ole Miss, and continues the following week with No. 6 Alabama at No. 19 LSU, and the week after that with No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 6 Alabama.
And on and on and on until – maybe – there’s one league team with one loss after the SEC Championship Game.
And even that’s not a given. Bottom line: sit back and relax, because the pressure only gets greater with each passing week.
1. Mississippi State: A solid choice for the top spot, even if one of those early wins against a ranked team (Texas A&M) looks bad now, and another (at LSU) is slowly creeping back to respectability. QB Dak Prescott has been wearing a protective walking boot for much of the last two days, but is expected to be ready to play this weekend. Up next : vs. Arkansas.
2. Florida State: The Seminoles have victories over two teams in the initial poll: No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 21 Clemson. Yet we still haven’t seen this team play its best game. When it happens – if it happens – we’ll know it. There’s a whole lot of cakewalk left in the final six weeks of the season. FSU simply has to avoid a meltdown. Up next: at Louisville.
3. Auburn: The selection committee obviously was impressed with Auburn’s non-conference road victory (are you listening, SEC brethren?) against No. 9 Kansas State. Because other than that, the Tigers have an ugly loss at Mississippi State and a win over an average South Carolina team. Up next: at Ole Miss.
4. Ole Miss: A controversial pick – but the right pick. We’re too often creatures of the moment, trapped by one game instead of seeing the big picture. The Rebels not only beat Alabama, they held the team that scored 18,000 points on Texas A&M to 10 measly offensive points. Losing 7-3 on the road in the toughest environment in the game – with your quarterback playing his worst game of the season – is nothing to be ashamed about. Up next: Auburn.
5. Oregon: This is what the selection committee is all about: rewarding a team through the eye test. Or more specifically, not penalizing a team because injuries prevented them from playing at full strength in a loss. So unlike the last two seasons, the Ducks get a second chance. Let’s see if they embrace it – or if they blow it. Up next: Stanford.
6. Alabama: Complain all you want about Alabama’s spot. The reality is the Tide is fortunate to be here. In the one game that meant something this season, Alabama was manhandled by Ole Miss. The score, and the last-second interception, didn’t do the totality of the defeat justice. Alabama gets credit for a nice non-conference win against West Virginia, but other than that, the wins aren’t impressive. Up next: bye week.
7. TCU: The committee obviously likes the Frogs, not only because of how they have played this fall – but because that last-second loss at Baylor actually strengthened their resume (although it did nothing for Baylor; but that’s another story for another time). Up next: at West Virignia.
8. Michigan State: Way back in September, when Michigan State had the Oregon game in Eugene and let it slip away, it was clear this Spartans team could find its way back to the CFP. There’s still work to be done – and losses ahead of them to be had – but MSU is in good position in Week 1 of the poll. Up next: bye week.