JOHN HARRIS ASKS WHICH TEAM WILL FINISH THIRD IN THE SEC
Who’s number three?
It’s not an often asked question, but it’s evident that Alabama and Georgia, last year’s College Football National Championship combatants, are the two best teams in the SEC.
By a LONG shot.
So, which team is third? Why does that matter, really?
Well, New Year’s Day Six bowl games seem to love SEC teams.
In 2014, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Alabama earned invitations to the NYD Six games. In 2017, three teams also were invited - Alabama, Georgia and Auburn. So, the third place team in the conference will earn consideration for a New Year’s Day Six invitation.
And, that team would be?
Well, there are three teams at 5-1 right now. Kentucky lost last week at Texas A&M after an undefeated 5-0 start. Running back Benny Snell was bottled up and the weaknesses on offense were exposed by a stout A&M defense. Kentucky also must tangle with Georgia in a few weeks, but that game is in Lexington and the remainder of the schedule is more than manageable in the SEC East. So, the Cats will be in the mix.
Florida is also 5-1 and trounced LSU in Gainesville. The defense is fantastically lights out, but offensively there are still some serious rough spots. The only real challenge on Florida’s schedule the rest of the way is a visit to Jacksonville on October 27th for the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, the annual get together with the University of Georgia. Similarly to Kentucky, the Gators don’t have a ranked team on the schedule not named Georgia the rest of the season. So, Florida should stay in the mix, regardless of its loss to Kentucky earlier this season.
LSU is 5-1, but the schedule is a wee bit more difficult and by saying a wee bit, I really mean A LOT in the SEC West. The Tigers struggled on offense in Gainesville last week and lost to the Gators...and now face #2 Georgia this weekend. Then, they face #24 Mississippi State next week and #1 Alabama three weeks from Saturday. They’ll close the season at College Station where the Aggies have played well this season.
Speaking of the Aggies, could it be Texas A&M? The 4-2 Aggies still have road trips to Mississippi State and Auburn, but the way its defense is playing right now, it’s going to be a tough squad to beat anywhere. It may come down to a visit from LSU in the finale for that overall third spot in the conference. The Aggies have faltered in the second halves of seasons for the past five years so not many will take them seriously until Jimbo Fisher’s team proves them wrong.
Mississippi State and Auburn are 4-2, but they both have Alabama remaining on the schedule, plus Mississippi State has LSU and Auburn has Georgia as well.
Nothing is clear cut in the SEC. Except at the top. Alabama and Georgia rule the roost while 12 other teams fight for the next rung down, one that might be ultra-important come bowl season.