Three weeks into the college season and the SEC finds itself without a top-two team for the first time this year. The conference still boasts six teams inside the top-25, though, and things are about to get very interesting as the conference schedule enters full swing.
As (arguably) the nation’s best conference starts eating its own for the next two months, let’s examine the odds on who will emerge with the SEC title and a likely berth in the NCAA playoffs.
Odds to win the 2015 SEC Title:
(3) Ole Miss: 5/2
The Rebels scored the upset of the season last year when they knocked off Alabama; but after pooping their pants down the stretch, they missed out on the SEC championship game. This year, led by Chad Kelly at quarterback, the Rebels did it again, topping the Tide in Tuscaloosa last weekend. They are now the SEC frontrunners.
(7) Georgia: 3/1
The favorites in the weaker SEC East, the Bulldogs have seamlessly replaced a legend at running back, Todd Gurley, with sophomore Nick Chubb. Chuckle at his name all you want, teams weren’t laughing when he shredded Louisville in the Belk Bowl last year for 266 yards. Coming out of the gate strong this year, Georgia is looking to pick up steam before they host Alabama on Oct. 3rd in what can only be described as THE BIGGEST GAME OF THE SEASON (or, you know, that week).
(12) Alabama: 4/1
Nick Saban’s group were favorites until they got steamrolled by Ole Miss at home. But they still have a legitimate shot at the title given that there is a ton of football to be played and they already rolled over Wisconsin, 35-17, in Week 1. Derrick Henry looks to be the next in a long line of unstoppable ‘Bama backs running behind an always strong offensive line.
(8) LSU: 9/2
After their opener was cancelled, the Tigers first taste of action was against a tough Mississippi State team, so you could excuse them for not looking their best in a tight 21-19 win. Luckily, running back Leonard Fournette is a beast and should challenge Henry and Chubb for the title of best rusher in the conference. They put the boots to Auburn last weekend and will be a definite contender. But games at Ole Miss and at Alabama keep them from the upper echelon of the odds.
(14) Texas A&M: 10/1
The Aggies opened the year with a slight upset over Arizona State and, while that helped them jump into the national rankings, their real season doesn’t start until a neutral site game against Arkansas next weekend. The Aggies only play three true road games this year, and having the likes of Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State visit College Station could be the difference between a title game berth and also-ran status.
(25) Missouri: 12/1
In case people forgot, Missouri earned the honor of getting crushed by Alabama in the championship game last season. Early glimpses of this year’s team haven’t been promising, though. Without running back Russell Hansbrough in the lineup, they’ve had zero success on the ground, pulling out a close 27-20 win over lowly Arkansas State two weeks ago, and nipping UConn 9-6 in Week 3. As of now, they’re only slated to face two ranked opponents this year, so the light schedule could aid a team that looks a little lost.
The Volunteers suffered a tough loss in Week 2, blowing a 17-point lead against Oklahoma en route to a 31-24 OT setback. With a very young group, mental letdowns like that are bound to happen. But a win of that magnitude would’ve been a huge confidence builder heading into their conference schedule, which begins with a visit to Florida on Sep. 26. This team is building towards big things in the coming years, and there’s a chance they get there ahead of schedule by knocking off ‘Bama or Georgia.
The Gators got the job done on the road this week against an up-and-coming Kentucky team (14-9). The team looked better than the “embarrassing effort” coach Jim McElwain saw against East Carolina in Week 2, though there are clearly still big questions on offense. Rolling with redshirt freshman Will Grier under center, the Gators will have to shock a lot of folks if they want to emerge out of the crowded SEC; their entire October schedule, alone, is against ranked opponents. They did pull off an upset of Georgia last season, though, and under a new head coach, perhaps this team can show the discipline required to emerge from a weaker SEC East?
Can we address how dumb it is that three teams in one conference are named the Tigers? It’s about as dumb as Auburn would’ve looked had they dropped that game to FCS school Jacksonville State last week. Jeremy Johnson was supposed to be the heir apparent to Nick Marshall, but the junior QB wasn’t able to protect the football in the first two games. (In a conference dictated by great defenses, that isn’t a recipe for long-term success.) Then his squad got plain-old overpowered by LSU, giving up over 200 yards rushing to Fournette in a 45-21 blowout.
(Photo Credit: Thecoiner [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)
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