Trying to make sense of a season of crazy SEC mood swings as Alabama fits into the craziness

Welcome upside down.

Two months into the SEC college football season, they’re practically standing on their heads and wearing their jerseys inside out in what was a September and October trip to crazy town. The balance of power has swung back to the East Division for the first time in years, as 11 of the league’s 14 teams have been ranked at some point in the season.

Teams with preseason hype fell completely off a cliff (Texas A&M), while five teams that went unranked in August found themselves in the top 25 at some point during the season. Of course, Tennessee headlines this group and virtually every other ranking, as the Vols have he finished No. 2 in preseason voting heading into Saturday’s trip to top-ranked Georgia.

The list of SEC anomalies goes on from there.

  • Only five of the 14 teams have winning records in the league, including just two in the East with Georgia (5-0) and Tennessee (4-0).
  • Over the last 10 years, teams from the West have four of the five best overall records, but all seven have at least one loss through October, while Georgia and Tennessee are No. 1 and No. 2 in the AP poll. The West Division’s last undefeated team lost in October when LSU beat Ole Miss. That, combined with the fact that Alabama’s only SEC loss came to an East team, means the Tide can clinch the division on Nov. 12 in Oxford if it can be tied with a win over LSU. On Saturday.
  • Speaking of the Vols’ 52-49 win over the Tide, it not only ended Alabama’s 15-year winning streak, but also a streak of 27 straight regular season wins over SEC East teams. South Carolina in 2010 was the last team from this side of the league to beat the Tide before the postseason.

While Auburn (3-5, 1-4 SEC) became the first to fire its coach Monday, the Texas A&M tailspin was more of a story.

From a preseason No. 6 ranking to a Week 2 loss to Appalachian State, which briefly righted the ship with wins over then-No. 13 Miami and No. 10 Arkansas, the current four-game losing streak is league-wide. The wisdom of Jimbo Fisher’s $95 million fully guaranteed contract is being questioned just months after he signed the highest recruiting class in history.

The Aggies (3-5, 1-4 SEC) aren’t alone in the wild momentum swings during the season.

  • Florida (4-4, 1-4) went from unranked to No. 12 after a Week 1 win over preseason No. 7 Utah, but has won just one game against a Power 5 team since then, 24-17 over Missouri.
  • That same Missouri team was at the center of quite a bit of craziness. Twice, he came within inches of beating Auburn in the ultimate 17-14 gag job that gave Bryan Harsin his only (and final) SEC win of his second (and final) season with the Tigers. A week later, No. 1 Georgia led nearly all night before the Bulldogs found just enough offense to escape Columbia as 26-22 winners. And last week it ended – No. 25 South Carolina snaps four-game winning streak with a 23-10 win.
  • LSU is coming off a special teams collapse on Labor Day, losing 24-23 to Florida State and beating Tennessee 40-13 for a recent turnaround. A 45-35 road victory at Florida followed by a thorough 45-20 win at then-No. 7 Ole Miss has the Tigers as high as No. 15 in the AP poll.
  • Arkansas moved as high as No. 10 after beating 2021 playoff teams Cincinnati and South Carolina before losing three straight to Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State.

As the calendar turns to November, the SEC has five teams ranked in the AP poll, including three of the top six.

Alabama is in that group, but hasn’t always lived up to the No. 1 ranking, which it held twice. They received 54 of 63 first-place votes in the preseason, and finally, inconsistent play caught up with them on Oct. 15 at Tennessee. Still, it was a field goal away from a win that ended in a 52-49 loss. A week earlier, it lost its number 1 for the second time after winning.

Close losses over Texas (20-19) and Texas A&M (24-20) were enough to knock the Tide out of the top spot. Still, a loss at Tennessee won’t be fatal in the SEC West if it can beat LSU on Saturday and Ole Miss on Nov. 12.

In the East, Tennessee could essentially clinch the division title with a win at Georgia on Saturday. The Vols have Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt to close the season, needing two losses if they beat the Bulldogs to punch their ticket to Atlanta.

But for all the chaos, it could be Alabama-Georgia again at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in early December if the Tide does its job and the Bulldogs beat Tennessee and either Mississippi State or Kentucky.

There’s still a lot to play for over the next four Saturdays, but despite all the carnage on the road, the two August front-runners are in position to end the drama early.

Michael Casagrande is a reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @ByCasagrande or on Facebook.


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