SEC West at the Halfway Point

OK, it's not exactly the halfway point.  Some teams have played 7 games, which is more than half way.  We've played 6, which is half way.  So now that the season is half+ in the books, what are we looking at?

I think it's pretty clear that Alabama is the best team in the West, and quite possibly in the entire country, right now.  That could change in the second half of the season, and I'm certainly not saying they're unbeatable.  In fact, South Carolina could have beaten them if they had taken better advantages of some opportunities, but right now it's a proposition that is hard to dispute.  After all, South Carolina didn't take better advantages of some opportunities.

We've decided that, for the moment, Alabama is the best team in the division.  Who is the second best?  Right now there is not enough information to determine.  I think Mississippi State, despite their near-victory over us, is clearly the weakest team in the division.  In the middle, it's a big mess.  We have four teams (Ole Miss, LSU, Auburn, and Arkansas) all who are legitimately in contention to be the 2nd best team in the West.

 

Right now it would appear that LSU has the leg up in that race, sitting at 3-1 in the conference.  Arkansas is at 1-3 and would appear to be a sinking ship at first glance.  Ole Miss and Auburn, each with 2 losses, appear to be in the middle, but looks can be deceiving.  

Despite our 3 conference wins, LSU has only beaten one SEC West opponent, and that was Mississippi State.  Arkansas, despite its 3 conference losses, is the only team of the 4 to have actually beaten another member of the club, and they got that win in spectacular fashion, trouncing Auburn two weeks ago.  Their losses have come to Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.  There's no crime in losing to Florida and Alabama at this point, especially when the loss to Florida was so closely fought.  The gap between LSU and Arkansas is not that wide, and if Arkansas can win out they would have a good chance of being the #2 team in the West, but they would need just a little help.

So when does this pack start separating itself?  Let's start with this weekend when all 4 teams are in action against each other.  LSU plays Auburn, and Ole Miss plays Arkansas.  There are lots of different permutations, but let's just say that the loser of the Ole Miss vs. Arkansas game is probably out of it, especially if it's Arkansas.  You just can't be the second best team in the West with 4 conference losses.  Ole Miss could conceivably recover from its third loss of the season as there are no time bombs ticking on the schedule down the road.

Considering Auburn @ LSU, if LSU wins, Auburn is probably out of the running, with 3 losses in the conference, two of which are to SEC West opponents, and Bama still on the schedule for later.  If Auburn wins, LSU comes right back to the pack and Auburn erases its disadvantage due to losing to Arkansas and Kentucky.

This is the first week in a while that I am genuinely excited about the entire day's slate of SEC games.  The headliner is Tennessee vs. Alabama, but these 4 SEC West teams playing each other is huge.  We will know a lot more about the SEC West race after this Saturday than we know now.  Of course, if Arkansas and Auburn win, what we'll know is that it's still a jumbled mess.  If Ole Miss and LSU win, then those two teams break off from the pack, at least until Ole Miss and Auburn play each other one week later.

Now all of this is not to say that these teams are fighting for second place.  They are not.  LSU still controls its destiny in the SEC.  If we win out, we're going to the SEC Championship Game.  Right now, that looks like a very tall order, as there are good teams out there on our schedule and we haven't looked like world-beaters.  But it seems that every year, some team that looked average early in the season improves in the second half of the season.  Last year, it was Ole Miss.  Back in 2001, it was LSU.  Will it happen for someone again this year?  Why not us?  

It's not too late to meet every goal if we're the team to make a big leap this year.  Mainly, we need Jordan Jefferson to advance in his development.  If that happens, look out.  If it doesn't, we're fighting for second place.

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