With this past weekend’s shenanigans, canceling games and whatnot, the SEC is in an interesting spot. In fact, for fans, it might be a little difficult to understand exactly how things need to shake out the rest of the year. Let’s run it down and see what’s happening.
NOVEMBER 14th - 4 GAMES POSTPONED
Auburn vs Mississippi State
Alabama vs LSU
Georgia vs Missouri
Tennessee vs Texas A&M
Those four games were scratched because of COVID, and all moved to December. For most of these teams, it was the first postponement, but LSU has only played five games this year instead of six or seven. They and Missouri are the only SEC teams that have played just five games.
LSU is already taking on Florida on December 12th after that game got pushed from earlier in the season, and now they’re trying to figure out what to do with Alabama since that game was missed over this past weekend. Let’s be frank, LSU/Alabama isn’t going to affect the SEC West standings, but it is a divisional game and needs to be played over LSU/Florida.
Let’s look at the standings as they are at the moment:
In the West, It really does appear to be a two-horse race (even if that’s a mirage). Alabama’s got what can be construed as a two-game lead since they hold the tiebreaker over Texas A&M, and the rest of the schedule is about as easy as pie, save for the Iron Bowl. Kentucky, Arkansas, and LSU are the rest of the slate, and it’s extremely unlikely that the Tide are going to lose half of the rest of their games while A&M or Auburn win out.
What if that happens? Well, if Texas A&M wins out, then nothing as long as Alabama doesn’t lose two. If Auburn wins out and Alabama loses one other, then the Tigers are your SEC West Champions. It’s supremely unlikely, but Arkansas doesn’t look horrible these days. You never know. After that, Auburn’s got the tiebreaker on the three teams behind them in the West, and then there’s poor Mississippi State. Gross. We’ll see them on December 12th.
When it comes to Texas A&M, though, Auburn will play them after the Iron Bowl, but they won’t be done, since Ole Miss has to visit sometime in December. A&M has to play Tennessee on the 12th, though, and so the Rebels may only get played on SEC Championship Saturday. It’s a mess.
In the East, it’s a similar story, with the Gators up by a game over Georgia with the tiebreaker also in their advantage. Florida’s got four fairly easy games coming up with no contests against a team with a winning record. The way Kyle Trask is playing, poor Vandy, Kentucky, Tennessee, and LSU are all in trouble. They’ll likely finish at 9-1 and head to the SEC title game to play Alabama.
Georgia’s going to miss Atlanta for the first time since 2016, and promising moments for other teams this year are going to turn into a surface disappointment without the buffer of non-conference wins to help the record. We’ve already lost one coach in the league with Will Muschamp getting sacked over the weekend, but you’re unlikely to see any more departures with the economics of a pandemic looming large.
Speaking of that...
The red is basically uncontrollable spread. There are more positive COVID cases than ever before, and we’re seeing more games get tossed as a result. We’re seeing teams unable to handle a bye week when the players’ schedules aren’t in the dominion of the strenuous game week schedule.
Right now, we’re going to have to play games on SEC Championship Saturday. Games that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but an extra home game will help. Still, what happens if we get any more postponements? Thanksgiving week isn’t going to be helpful. What happens if we get through the conference championships and then players go home for Christmas?
The conventional wisdom early on when the schedule was being crafted was that cross-division games need to be played first, so that we’re avoiding rematches in the SEC Championship in recently-played matchups. Now, you think maybe we should’ve gotten the division games in first.
Auburn’s going to have some players miss the Tennessee game this weekend, most likely, but we’re not sure who it’s going to be yet. In the end, you might not see a team the rest of the year playing at full strength.
Will we get it all in? Who knows. First things first, we get to see Auburn play again on Saturday, and they’ll have a chance to avenge one of the more frustrating losses in the Malzahn era when Tennessee comes to town for the first home night game of the season. War Eagle!