Believe it or not, next Saturday will be Halloween already, and the middle of the SEC is as difficult to sort through as ever.
There seems to be a pretty clear path to Atlanta: the winner of Florida-Georgia will most likely play the winner of Alabama-LSU in the conference's marquee game, provided Ole Miss doesn't ruin everything for the conference by winning out themselves. The bottom few teams are also pretty distinguishable: Auburn is the worst in the SEC West, but they edge out Kentucky and the Triumvirate of Terrible that is Missouri, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt from the East.
The middle, however, is a mess. Team A lost to Team B, who lost to Team C, who probably shouldn't have lost to Team A but did anyway, etc. Ole Miss and Arkansas have been slapped with seemingly ugly non-conference losses to mid-majors, but it turns out that Memphis and Toledo are actually fine ball clubs themselves this season. Tennessee has more moral victories than most teams rack up in an entire season already, and Mississippi State has been posted up in the back of the room playing solid ball all fall.
As always, the consensus rankings can be found at Team Speed Kills.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide. It may have not been pretty, but a tired Alabama team took care of business against a rested rival looking to snap a long losing streak to the Tide. In fact, Alabama actually beat Tennessee by more than any other team has this season (Oklahoma won by 7 but needed overtime to do so). The Tide defense continues to prove itself as one of the best in the country, if not the best, and Derrick Henry keeps on putting up big numbers. However, the offensive line has to play a lot better than they have at times this season. It has become a legitimate concern, especially when Alabama's receivers aren't getting separation downfield.
2. LSU Tigers. LSU has the best running attack in college football, there is no question about this. If Brandon Harris can continue to play as well as he has the last few weeks, this team may just win the whole thing. The defense isn't the elite unit we have come to expect from the Bayou Bengals, but they aren't exactly mediocre. Also, Leonard Fournette still plays for this team, so LSU will have the best player on the field every week.
3. Florida Gators. The bye week came at a great time for a young team looking to transition through an abrupt change at quarterback.
4. Ole Miss Rebels. Hugh Freeze and company might have just saved their season with a dominating win Saturday night, as a loss to A&M might have sent the wheels flying off the wagon. The Rebel defense finally looked like what most expected it to coming into the season, holding the supposedly high-flying Aggie offense to 192 total yards and just 2.67 yards per play. The offense also dominated, and their performance just goes to show what adding an All-American talent at left tackle can do for a much-maligned front.
5. Mississippi State Bulldogs. Not many seem to have noticed, but Dan Mullen's squad laid a beat-down on the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday night. Dak Prescott had arguably his finest performance as a Bulldog, accounting for 6 touchdowns and 465 total yards. The defense gave up a decent chunk of yardage to Kentucky, but, much like last season, made stops when they needed to. This really is just a lesser version of last season's ten-win team.
6. Georgia Bulldogs. This is where things start to get really difficult to sort through. Georgia hasn't looked very good during the month of October, and the loss of Nick Chubb is tough to overlook, but Mark Richt's team is a win over Florida away from being in complete control of the East. Even without Chubb, this team has no reason why it should finish in the bottom half of these rankings.
7. Texas A&M Aggies. Another big-time game for Texas A&M, another bad loss. At what point do people start really questioning whether or not Kevin Sumlin can get it done in the SEC? Outside of their upset wins over Alabama in 2012 and Auburn in 2014, what has A&M done other than pad the stats against the bottom half of the conference? The defense that many have paraded as being greatly improved this year has been abused in SEC play for the most part, as they continue to get gashed in the run game.
8. Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols have lost to three top 15-ish teams by a combined thirteen points, seven of which came in overtime against Oklahoma. This is a good, young team. Tennessee fans are surely tired of hearing about moral victories, but the Vols are close.
9. Arkansas Razorbacks. Another team that's much better than their current 3-4 record indicates, the Razorbacks are once again looking like a team no one wants to play in November.
10. Auburn Tigers. The Auburn offense is starting to show some serious life, but the defense is bad. Will Muschamp obviously needs some time to remake this defensive roster. Peyton Barber is an under-appreciated workhorse in a conference full of them.
11. Kentucky Wildcats. The Kentucky defense resembled a bunch of traffic cones Saturday night, and the offense is simply too erratic to make up for defensive displays like that. This is clearly a young team learning how to try and win games, but they need real help shoring up that defense. Otherwise, another late-season swoon could be coming in Lexington.
12. Vanderbilt Commodores. Derek Mason finally got his first career SEC win, and he did so with a defense that completely smothered the Missouri offense. Vandy's got a few weapons on offense with guys like Ralph Webb and Darrius Sims, and that's good enough to give them the edge over Mizzou and South Carolina.
13. Missouri Tigers. Like Vanderbilt, the Tigers have a legitimate top half of the conference defense. They also have the worst offense in the SEC. Mizzou has scored 12 points in their last three games. They are 3/41 during that three game stretch on third down, and their actual runningbacks ran the ball 10 times for 15 yards Saturday night. Watching this team try and move the ball is cringe-worthy.
14. South Carolina Gamecocks. Emotional and inspired home win over Vandy aside, this is the worst team in the conference. At least Vandy and Mizzou have good defenses. South Carolina doesn't do anything well.