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SEC teams ready for dash to bowl eligibility

By: Wally Hall
Published: Thursday, November 9, 2017
Bret Bielema, Arkansas head coach, talks to an official in the second quarter against Coastal Carolina Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Bret Bielema, Arkansas head coach, talks to an official in the second quarter against Coastal Carolina Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

Taking a look around the SEC with three games to go, you see every team but Ole Miss has a shot at getting bowl eligible.

For some it is a very long shot, but no one is mathematically eliminated so far. The Rebels, of course, sanctioned themselves over some NCAA issues, and one of the punishments was no bowl game this year. If they hadn't, they would be one of the long shots.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, needs to win two of its final three, but that won't be easy. The Razorbacks go to Death Valley on Saturday, although it won't be as anti-freeze crazed at 11 a.m. as it would at 7 p.m.

The Hogs then host Mississippi State, 7-2 and the surprise team of this season, and close out the season the day after Thanksgiving in Fayetteville in what should be a payback showdown with Missouri.

Georgia has clinched the SEC East division with its 6-0 conference record. It could become the only East team to have a winning record against the West if it can beat Auburn.

The SEC East is currently 2-9 against the West. Georgia beat Mississippi State, and South Carolina took care of the Razorbacks.

Auburn, 5-1 in league play, is still in the hunt to win the West, but it has both Georgia and Alabama to play -- the two undefeated teams who are ranked Nos. 1-2 in every poll.

Mississippi State, who gets the Crimson Tide this week, and LSU have two losses but could get a tie for the title if Bama loses twice, which happens in November about as often as we celebrate a tax-free-on-anything November, or basically never under Nick Saban.

If Georgia and Alabama go into the SEC Championship Game undefeated and it is a close game -- regardless of which one wins, and it appears to be wide open -- most likely both would make the College Football Playoff. If that happens and the pairings were announced today, three of the Power 5 Conferences would be howling at the selection committee's moon.

Expect to hear a lot of the old "We beat each other up" from the Pac-12, Big 12 and definitely the Big Ten, who would be out as independent Notre Dame and Clemson from the ACC would complete the field.

However, some are suddenly questioning whether the Tide are vulnerable after losing linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton for the season to an injury.

After the first game of the season, the Tide lost two linebackers who will play in the NFL, and Saban just called out "next."

They lost a defensive end. "Next."

So far, the Tide have proven to be deep enough to overcome any injury, and no one ever questions their preparation and coaching.

Most people have reached their Duke limit with Alabama -- tired of the consistent winning and domination -- but Saban is part of the reason that today there are six SEC coaches listed in the top 30 of Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin has replaced Tennessee's Butch Jones as the No. 1 coach, but Jones is No. 2. Bret Bielema remained at No. 5.

Jones is the only one who doesn't have enough games left to help himself. The Vols opened the season ranked No. 25 in the AP poll and 24 in the coaches poll. They are 4-5 and winless in the SEC.

Also on the list are Missouri's Barry Odom, Auburn's Gus Malzahn and LSU's Ed Orgeron. Malzahn and Orgeron have winning records and are bowl eligible. Mizzou has won three in a row and has games left with Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas.

Winning the last six in a season should definitely buy Odom another year.

Basically, the SEC is the SEC. The East is a beast but the West is the best.


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Sports on 11/09/2017


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