Complete shock is the only way to describe how I felt after watching the University of Georgia, a team I have supported for as long as I can remember, lose this week, and I am sure others would agree with that sentiment.
The University of South Carolina’s win against Georgia is huge for the program. It is the biggest win of Will Muschamp’s tenure as head coach of the Gamecocks. A game this weekend against No. 9 University of Florida will determine whether or not that win was the sign of a program emergent or if it was just a fluke. Though I personally lean to the latter, given South Carolina’s performance in their other matchups, I would only be marginally surprised if I am proved wrong.
No. 3 Georgia lost to unranked South Carolina in double overtime — the Bulldogs’ first loss of the season and the first major upset with College Football Playoff implications. This loss was by far the biggest news of week seven of Southeastern Conference football. After this week, Georgia has dropped to No. 10 in the rankings and eliminated its margin of error. While it can afford another loss, it must beat Florida to make the SEC championship. The Bulldogs cannot maintain their playoff implications with any more than two wins, and the second would most likely be No. 11 Auburn University. While a two-loss SEC champion might make the playoffs, a one-loss SEC champion certainly would.
Transitioning to the week’s other influential matchups, Florida lost to No. 2 Louisiana State University in an exciting game that cemented LSU quarterback Joe Burrow as the Heisman front-runner. After this week, LSU looks dominant as it goes on to play Auburn and No. 1 University of Alabama back to back. Those two games should be the key to determining the eventual SEC West champion.
Auburn must win its games against Georgia and Florida, along with the rest of its SEC games, if it wants to represent the division in the SEC Title game by keeping pace with favorites LSU and Alabama. Assuming both go otherwise unbeaten, which it looks like they will after strong starts to the season with their quarterbacks and weak remainders in their schedule, LSU and Alabama can both afford one loss, as long as they beat the other. The week 11 game between them will likely determine the divisional winner.
The second tier of the SEC features Alabama’s asserting the gap between them and the rest of the conference by soundly defeating Texas A&M University. This result has dropped Texas A&M out of the rankings, eliminating any chance of a championship appearance. Mississippi State University was defeated by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in a game that had first-year coach Joe Moorhead describe his performance with “I did suck.” While he might have a bright future at MSU, his present status is pretty murky after this season.
While these two teams fell, University of Missouri defeated the University of Mississippi to rise to No. 22 in the rankings, which has potentially set the Tigers up for an SEC East title bid. However, the teams it has beaten are not exactly top contenders, and late season games against Georgia and Florida will determine if Missouri a valid threat. A loss against the University of Wyoming at the beginning of the season makes that doubtful.
In a battle of teams still looking for a second win, Vanderbilt University lost to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In case anyone was still wondering, Vanderbilt is not a good team and will not make it a bowl game like it did last year.
Looking further down the standings, the University of Kentucky defeated the University of Arkansas as both teams seek to scrap their way to a bowl game. Arkansas’ prospects look dim, as it will need to pull some major upsets if it wants a shot. Even though Kentucky is not a very good team as indicated by its 1-3 record, it does have enough easy games that it should win. As long as the team lives up to its modest potential, it should make a lesser bowl. Another team trying desperately to reach that sixth win is Ole Miss. It has a shot, but it must win against Texas A&M and Mississippi State. It will be hard but far from impossible.
The major game this weekend will be South Carolina vs. Florida. Florida should be the winner, but South Carolina will seek to pull another top 10 upset. The South Carolina defense is tough, as was proven against Georgia, and may prove too much for Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, who is still settling into the starting role after only a few weeks under center.
The big game the following weekend will be LSU vs. Auburn. LSU looks too dominant to doubt, though, and it should comfortably pull off the win. Auburn will always have the potential, however, for some magical wins as long as Gus Malzahn is the head coach. It can definitely win the game, and it must if it has playoff ambitions.
While the Gamecocks’ triumph over Georgia sent major waves of chaos throughout the SEC, there are still plenty of key matchups this weekend, which will have major implications for the playoff contenders of the conference.