By Aaron Moser
After six weeks of gridiron action, the SEC has seemed to break itself into levels of championship contention.
Entering the 2019 season, most, including myself, thought that Georgia was going to run away with the SEC East due to their exceptional talent, including the experienced tandem of Jake Fromm and D’andre Swift.
However, with Florida’s win against Auburn on Saturday, and Missouri’s defensive renaissance this season, the Bulldogs may have more formidable challengers than what was originally expected.
Week 7 provides several matchups that will continue to separate the wheat from the chaff. Missouri hosts Ole Miss for Homecoming, Alabama travels to College Station and the most anticipated clash of the weekend will be Florida at LSU.
Here is how the SEC breaks down after Week 6:
- #3 Georgia 5-0 (2-0)
- #7 Florida 6-0 (3-0)
Georgia has expectations to make the College Football Playoffs. Those beliefs were confirmed when the Bulldogs welcomed Notre Dame into Athens and defeated them 23-17.
Florida boosted their status by defeating Auburn on Saturday. While it was certainly not pretty (the Gators turned the ball over four times), a 64 yard receiving TD from Freddie Swain and an 88 yard TD run by Lamical Perine put them over the top.
Gritty wins have been the Gators’ theme for this season, and their defense continues to be their calling card, allowing just 14.3 points per game against FBS opponents.
However, Death Valley night games have traditionally been death sentences for LSU opponents. If Kyle Trask wills Florida to victory, they will be in prime condition for a battle with Georgia on Nov. 2.
On the bubble:
- Missouri 4-1 (1-0)
Since being upset by Wyoming in Week 1, Missouri’s defense has been playing with their hair on fire. After giving up 37 points to Wyoming, the Tigers have allowed just 31 combined points in their past four games.
Unfortunately, the Tigers’ defense may have suffered a serious blow on Saturday, as LB Cale Garrett, who was having an All-American season, suffered a torn pectoral tendon and underwent surgery. His timetable for return is indefinite.
He was leading the SEC in tackles per game (8.4) and is tied for the league lead with three interceptions. He has scored three defensive touchdowns this season.
It will be difficult for the Tigers to replace his leadership and production, but their offense can pick up the slack, as they have churned out 30+ points in 12 straight games.
Missouri already defeated South Carolina handedly 34-14, and have a relatively light schedule the next three weeks. After a bye week they will have an upset opportunity between the hedges. An upset may seem extremely unlikely, but Georgia will being coming off their Florida rivalry high. A drop in focus from the Bulldogs is not a wild proposition.
If Missouri can maintain their defensive renaissance and Kelly Bryant can continue to execute, the Tigers are a serious dark horse candidate in the east.
- South Carolina 2-3 (1-2)
The Gamecocks rebounded well from their Columbia, Missouri drumming by drilling Kentucky 24-7 two weeks ago. They have a long way to go, but if the running game led by Clemson-transfer Tavien Feaster can continue to take pressure off of freshman Ryan Hilinski, they have an outside shot. Unfortunately for South Carolina, that fire of hope will likely get stamped out by Georgia this week.
- Kentucky 2-3 (0-3)
- Tennessee 1-4 (0-2)
- Vanderbilt 1-4 (0-3)
This group is a combined 3-11 overall and winless in the SEC.
- #1 Alabama 5-0 (2-0)
- #5 LSU 5-0 (1-0)
- #12 Auburn 5-1 (2-1)
Per usual, college football always brings something new and strange to the table. This season has been no exception, as it seems Oklahoma has a defense, and Alabama and LSU both have explosive offenses. The 9-6 “Game of the Century” that LSU won back in 2011 now seems a long way in the past.
The Tigers’ new spread offensive scheme has worked miracles, as the Bayou Bengals are leading the nation in points per game at 54.6 while sustaining their dominant defense. They already picked up a major win earlier this season by defeating Texas in Austin 45-38. However, Joe Burrow, who is racking up Heisman-level statistics, will face the best defense he has faced all season in the Florida Gators this week.
Led by Tua Tagovailoa and their own exceptional offense, Alabama has rolled through their schedule. Texas A&M will be their first true road test of the season. If the Crimson Tide can escape a slip up on Kyle Field, they will be in good shape for war against LSU on Nov. 9.
Auburn stays a true contender for the West, as their only loss is against Florida and they have already defeated Texas A&M and Mississippi State. They still have plenty of opportunities to challenge the top of the SEC, as LSU, Georgia and Alabama remain on their schedule. They travel to Baton Rouge on Oct. 26.
On the bubble:
- #24 Texas A&M 3-2 (1-1)
Texas A&M is largely unproven, but they have also played one of the most difficult schedules in the nation so far. Clemson and Auburn handled them, and they are a long shot to defeat Alabama.
They have struggled to develop a running game to take the offensive load off of Kellen Mond, and Mond will need some “Manziel magic” to upset the Crimson Tide. Their bubble will likely burst after this week.
- Ole Miss 3-3 (2-1)
- Mississippi State 3-2 (1-1)
Ole Miss and Mississippi State have garnered a few SEC wins by beating up on the bottom feeders of the conference, but both lost their key non-conference games. I do not currently have a whole lot of confidence in either team as both have been forced to go to backup QBs early in the season.
Ole Miss can raise their profile if they can spoil Missouri’s Homecoming. Mississippi State upset LSU in Starkville two seasons ago, and they will get another upset shot on Oct. 19.
Both will likely fall to the “Not happening” category after the next two weeks.
- Arkansas 2-3 (1-1)
Arkansas’ current best moment of this season was continuing their tradition of giving Texas A&M everything they have and still losing in the end. Their loss to San Jose St. further proves that they are a long way from living up to the Darren McFadden era jerseys they have worn this season.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org