There are only three undefeated teams left in the Southeastern Conference. All three, the Alabama Crimson Tide, Tennessee Volunteers, and Texas A&M Aggies, play each other within the next three weeks.
October is generally the month where the contenders and pretenders begin to separate themselves in college football. Teams start getting into the meat of their conference slate and there are few cupcake games left.
This October sets up to be the same, especially in the SEC.
The Alabama Crimson Tide will play three consecutive ranked teams before their bye week. The gauntlet begins this weekend against the 16th ranked Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville.
Alabama is currently a 13 point favorite over the Razorbacks. However, Bret Bielema’s teams have played the Tide very tough the last two seasons. Alabama narrowly escaped two years ago with a 14-13 win. Last season the Crimson Tide won 27-14 but was down 10-7 late in the 3rd Quarter.
Even after Arkansas, the road doesn’t get any easier for Alabama.
The next week the Crimson Tide travel to Neyland Stadium in Knoxville to face the 9th ranked Tennessee Volunteers. Just one week later the 8th ranked Texas A&M Aggies come to Tuscaloosa. The Aggies will be coming off of their bye-week before playing the Crimson Tide.
Alabama’s opponents combined win-loss record through the first 5 weeks stands at just 11-14. The next three are 14-1 currently.
The Crimson Tide will need to continue to play at a high level to make it to the bye-week unscathed. Lane Kiffin’s offense will need to get off to better starts. The defense will need to continue strangling the life out of opposing offenses. Also, special teams will need to continue setting up good field position for the offense.
While Alabama’s own schedule looks daunting, it doesn’t get any easier for Tennessee and Texas A&M.
The Volunteers and Aggies will play each other this weekend at Kyle Field in a top 10 match-up. The winner of that game will be riding high. However, both have Alabama set up as their next opponent.
Should any of these three teams make it through this stretch undefeated they will control their own destiny in terms of getting to Atlanta. If everyone drops one, things get very interesting the rest of the way for the SEC.
Tennessee is the school that can most afford to lose a game and still be okay in terms of getting to Atlanta. The Volunteers have essentially a two game lead on the Florida Gators in the East standings. Alabama is the same way over Ole Miss in the West, but a loss to the Aggies sets up a potential 3 way tie at the end of November between those three programs.
As usual, Alabama cannot afford to look forward at all in terms of who needs what record to win the West. In fact, Nick Saban won’t let that happen. We know that the Crimson Tide will be completely focused on beating the Arkansas Razorbacks this weekend.
The road to Atlanta is never easy. And Alabama has a big test this weekend and the following two weeks.