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Handicapping The Race To Atlanta

Who ya got? 

Seriously, just past the halfway mark of the season, who do you think will reach the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta?  Obviously the clear-cut preseason favorites are no longer in the driver’s seat.  Alabama is in the passenger’s seat while Florida looks to be in the trunk at the moment.  One more loss and the Gators will be tied to the bumper like Aunt Edna’s dog.

Take a look at the current standings and remaining schedules and you’ll see that the SEC race — even this deep into the season — is almost impossible to predict.  Which is exactly why we’ll make our poor predictions a little further down this page.


SEC EAST

School
SEC Record
Overall Record
Remaining SEC Games
1.  S. Carolina
2-2
4-2
@VU, UT, Ark, @UF
2.  Florida
2-3
4-3
UGA, @VU, USC
3.  Georgia
2-3
3-4
@UK, UF, @Aub
4.  Vanderbilt
1-2
2-4
USC, @Ark, UF, @UK, UT
5.  Kentucky
1-3
4-3
UGA, @MSU, VU, @UT
6.  Tennessee
0-3
2-4
Ala, @USC, UM, @VU, UK



South Carolina:  The Gamecocks will likely be without Marcus Lattimore when they visit Vanderbilt on Saturday.  Still, USC’s weakness is its pass defense and passing is not Vandy’s strength.  Tennessee at home should be another win.  Arkansas will be a big test considering the Hogs’ strength does point right at Carolina’s biggest weakness.  But if Lattimore is back, expect the Cocks to eat just enough clock to win.  That leaves the Florida game as USC’s most likely loss.

Florida:  Beating Carolina would be enough to send Florida to Atlanta… if the Gators win their other two conference games.  But having lost at home to Mississippi State, it’s certainly possible that the Gators could lose to a Georgia team that’s suddenly gotten hot or even to a Vanderbilt team that will be at home.  Again, if you can lose at home to a team that runs the ball 24 consecutive times, you can lose on the road at Vandy.  Best bet — Florida loses to Georgia but then rebounds to beat both Vandy and Carolina.

Georgia:  This weekend’s game in Lexington is a toss-up.  Because their defense showed up last week — albeit against Vandy — we’ll give Georgia the edge.  And due to Florida’s struggles, let’s take the Dawgs to upset Florida in their annual showdown.  That would put Georgia on the verge of Atlanta, but there’s no reason in the world to believe the Bulldog defense can slow, stop, hinder or pester Cameron Newton.

MrSEC.com Projection:  South Carolina gets to Atlanta with a 5-3 league record ahead of Florida (4-4) and Georgia (4-4).



SEC WEST

School
SEC Record
Overall Record
Remaining SEC Games
1.  Auburn
4-0
7-0
LSU, @UM, UGA, @Ala
1.  LSU
4-0
7-0
@Aub, Ala, UM, @Ark
3.  Alabama
3-1
6-1
@UT, @LSU, MSU, Aub
4.  Miss. State
2-2
5-2
UK, @Ala, Ark, @UM
5.  Arkansas
1-2
4-2
UM, VU, @USC, @MSU, LSU
6.  Ole Miss
1-2
3-3
@Ark, Aub, @UT, @LSU, MSU



Auburn:  The Tigers look unstoppable on offense, flimsy on defense.  Knowing LSU’s up-and-down play at quarterback (usually down), it’s likely that Auburn gets past LSU’s stingy D on Saturday.  Ole Miss’ defense looked good against Alabama’s run and this might be just the type of SEC trap game (on the road) that the Tigers could lose.  Think of Alabama coming off two big wins and then going on the road.  Auburn would be in the same situation.  Since we’re rolling the dice here anyway, let’s take the Rebels in the upset.  Auburn would then get well against Georgia and… and… lose their Iron Bowl matchup with Alabama.  Sorry Tiger fans.  The Tigers look like the better team right now, but this site is sticking with the preseason favorite.  For now.

LSU:  If the Jordan Jefferson/Jarrett Lee combo who played in Gainesville show up, the Tigers could run the table.  But we’ve seen a lot more of that other Jefferson/Lee combo at this point.  Here’s guessing the Tigers will lose to Auburn on Saturday and then to Alabama the following week.  LSU will get past Ole Miss and then they’ll end the season with a toss-up game in Fayetteville.  That outcome really doesn’t matter, because we’ve already tagged the Tigers with two losses.

Alabama:  Three weeks ago, the Tide looked unbeatable.  At Carolina, they looked flat and they couldn’t run the ball successfully.  While they showed toughness in their bounce back game with Mississippi on Saturday, their run game was once again slowed.  Still, the Tide have the best roster in the SEC.  They might win ugly from here on out — as they did for much of 2008 and 2009 — but they’re likely to win just the same.  Even at LSU.  Even against Auburn.

MrSEC.com Projection:  Alabama runs the table to reach Atlanta with a 7-1 SEC record.  Auburn and LSU each drop two games going down the stretch.


Alabama and South Carolina in the SEC title game.  That’s our pick.

But check back in a week to be safe.

 


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