College Football: Which SEC Team is Most Likely to Make the Playoffs?
Is it possible to be too good? For the South Eastern Conference, this may be the case. With a bevy of teams at the top of the league already earning at least one big win through the first five or six games of the 2015 campaign, the SEC might be it’s own worst enemy when it comes to getting a school into the College Football Playoff.
At the top of the league are five teams worth noting as having a legitimate shot at the playoffs. The Ole Miss Rebels were flying high before the Florida Gators upended them a couple weeks ago. Now the Gators are the new trendy pick in the conference. The Alabama Crimson Tide are still ranked inside the top 10 in the AP Poll, despite losing to Ole Miss a few weeks ago. The other two contenders at this point are the LSU Tigers and Texas A&M Aggies, who are also ranked inside the top 10 and hold unbeaten records. All of these teams still have a tough schedule ahead of them, so picking one team for the playoffs is a tall order.
Is it possible that the all-powerful SEC gets left out of the playoffs despite having so many solid teams? Maybe. The better question: Which team is most likely to make the playoffs in the SEC? With that, we have ranked the five teams in order of their chances of making it to the tournament:
5. Ole Miss
While the Rebels still have a fair shot of qualifying for the playoffs, their huge loss to the Gators will (in all likelihood) be too much to overcome. Of course, the saving grace at this point for Ole Miss is the fact that they beat Alabama. That’s an obvious resume booster, but the Rebels still have plenty of work to do before the end of the year if they want to reach their goals.
Ole Miss still has a couple of huge games on their schedule; at home against Texas A&M and also at home against LSU. If they can win both these games — and some other teams fall — the Rebels’ case will be very strong. However, that’s a big if. The Aggies are playing hot right now and the Tigers boast a powerful running game and a strong defense. Ole Miss is good enough to win at least one of these games, but winning both will be a challenge. Best case scenario for this team is a 10-2 record and a solid bowl. The playoffs feel like a stretch at this point.
4. Texas A&M
The Aggies have been playing well this season. They’ve produced offensively with quarterback Kyle Allen and look pretty solid on defense, giving up no more than 27 points in any single game. They’ve shown they can blow teams out and win close, like in their overtime contest against Arkansas. Playing with a chip on their shoulder, nobody expected Texas A&M to be this good. Now, they are in prime position for the College Football Playoff.
Ranking the Aggies fourth here isn’t a shot at them. Instead, it is a testament to the strength at the top of the SEC. What sets this team back is the fact that their most difficult games are still ahead of them. In the next two weeks, they will have a huge contest against Alabama at home and will travel to play at Ole Miss. This will really test the Aggies’ talent.
Still, even if they survive those two games, they have to finish the season against LSU on the road. With so many tough battles remaining, the Aggies are likely to pile up a couple of losses, which would end any hopes of a playoff berth.
Yes, Alabama has already lost a game this season. Yes, they don’t look as strong as they have in past seasons. Despite these facts, the Crimson Tide have a great shot at making the College Football Playoff. This a battle-tested team that has already played several tough teams this season, so they will be ready for anything that comes their way. They have a great runner in Derrick Henry and a defense that is still among the best in the country. Simply put, this isn’t a team that you look forward to facing because they are just so tough to beat.
Looking at their schedule, the Tide does face some big challenges in the second half of the season. The game against Texas A&M on the road this coming weekend will set the tone for both teams for the remainder of the campaign. Then, the bitter rivalry with LSU will be renewed in early November in Tuscaloosa. What’s going against Alabama is the fact that they can’t afford another slip up. One more loss and they won’t be in consideration for the playoffs. That game at LSU will likely be the difference.
Few teams have burst onto the national scene like the Florida Gators have in the past couple of weeks. After a tight win against Tennessee, the Gators crushed Ole Miss before handling defending SEC East champion, Missouri. Now, the Gators find themselves in the top 10 of this week’s AP Poll. With a defense that isn’t giving up a lot and an offense that is proving capable behind quarterback Will Grier, Florida may very well be in the four-team playoff come January.
However, two big tests remain on the Gators’ schedule. They’ll get their first one this upcoming weekend when they travel to Baton Rouge to take on LSU. If they can get past the Tigers, the contest to end the season against in-state rival Florida State could be critical for both teams. 10 wins appear to be a guarantee for Florida, but an undefeated season with a playoff berth is a realistic possibility as well.
The Tigers have yet to play their best football in 2015. That’s a scary sentiment for a team that is currently number six in the nation. Leonard Fournette is the clear frontrunner for the Heisman and, along with a pretty stout defense, has led LSU to a 5-0 start. Even though the road ahead is only going to get tougher for this team, they have the makeup of the best in the conference and seem to have the best shot at representing the SEC in the playoffs.
This weekend, LSU and Florida will face off in Baton Rouge. The Tigers’ home-field advantage is one of the best in the nation and the Gators will have a tough time coming out on top. Then, LSU and Alabama will square off in a few weeks, which could be the biggest game of the entire SEC season. This will be a difficult one for the Tigers to win on the road, but anything can happen with that crazy rivalry.
To end the season, LSU will get a road game at Ole Miss and a home contest against Texas A&M. So, while the Tigers have the most difficult schedule of any SEC team on this list, they are the most likely team to make the playoffs. Call us crazy, but this LSU team is legit.