Fall is in full swing as temperatures get lower and my jackets get thicker. Despite my best efforts to dress warmly this weekend, I was still quite chilly. Thankfully, SEC football is beginning to heat up and help keep me cozy.
The most important game of this past weekend ended in then-No. 2 LSU eking out a three-point victory over No. 9 Auburn. This catapulted the LSU Tigers to the number one spot in the country. It was an impressive win, but for the first time, LSU’s offense looked good, but not exceptional. Despite Auburn’s losing and dropping out of the top 10, they still have a chance at a promising bowl season. Should they win out, which would require beating No. 8 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama, they will be guaranteed a New Year’s Six bowl game. They would also have a small chance at making the playoffs if these wins are impressive enough, given the opposing teams’ rankings at the time.
While Auburn tries to figure out how to move forward, LSU knows exactly what it has to do next. In two weeks, LSU must go to Tuscaloosa and beat Alabama at home. Thankfully, it has this weekend off to prepare; however, fitting for Halloween, Alabama also has the weekend off to prepare. For them, this means just as much ritual sacrifice as it does practice.
This matchup will more than likely determine the SEC West champion, as well as who heads to the conference championship on the division’s behalf. The biggest question about this game is whether or not Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will be recovered from injury and ready to play. Still, with the SEC West championship being the most important game of the regular season, expect both teams to bring their A-game.
While the SEC West championship is clearly a race between two top teams, the SEC East is more competitive and less impressive. Despite Missouri looking surprisingly competitive for a while, a loss to Kentucky quickly dampened any hopes of a Cinderella season. Missouri’s next two games — the only remaining ones they are not favored to win — are against Georgia and Florida. Though Missouri certainly has a shot at winning both, nobody will watch those games expecting a Tiger victory.
Kentucky is past its hard games and should be favored in the last four games to close out the season. An eight-win season is certainly something for them to feel satisfied about. Another team likely to finish with a similar record is Texas A&M. They have two easy games followed by games against LSU and Georgia that they are expected to lose. While Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher’s record for his first two seasons isn’t quite what his salary would imply, there is reason to get excited about next year.
Another second-year coach who isn’t quite meeting expectations is Mississippi State Coach Joe Moorhead. The Bulldogs have a 3-5 record with only three winnable games left — I’m going to preemptively assume a loss to Alabama — so a chance at a bowl game looks like it will come down to a rivalry game matchup against Ole Miss.
Ole Miss will likely not make a bowl game at the conclusion of this season; they will be focused on bringing Mississippi State down with them. If Joe Moorhead loses to Arkansas or, in a divine miracle, to Abilene Christian, next season will likely be his last to prove himself. Arkansas Coach Chad Morris likewise needs to win this game if he wants a chance at another season.
Looking to this weekend, the most important game by far is the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, or the Georgia-versus-Florida game. Both teams have only one loss in the SEC, and this game should determine the winner of the SEC East championship. Georgia’s offense looks extremely questionable, and the Bulldogs will have to play better than they have in the past few weeks if they want to win. Georgia is favored, but this game should come down to the wire. The rest of the close games next week are between teams trying to keep a shot at a bowl game alive.
James Travis is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. TAILGATES AND TRADITIONS appears online and in print every other Friday.