5 potential upsets that could determine who wins the SEC West
Although the SEC West runs through Tuscaloosa each year, there are a few teams capable of knocking off the Crimson Tide in 2017. That might sound crazy to Alabama fans, but it’s true. LSU and Auburn will be legitimate College Football Playoff contenders, and this might be a year somebody dethrones the Crimson Tide.
There is a canyon-sized gap between what is expected to be the top three finishers — Alabama, LSU and Auburn — and the rest of the pack. Still, even if Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Texas A&M enter the season without realistic SEC Championship aspirations, the Razorbacks, Bulldogs, Rebels and Aggies have proven they can pull off upsets in recent years.
Anything can happen in the SEC West, and this year might be one of those instances where the division’s representative in the championship game comes down to the final week of the season. Here are five potential upsets that could determine who ultimately makes it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship on Dec. 2.
Week 3: LSU at Mississippi State
The past three meetings were decided by a touchdown or less. Last year, the Bulldogs outscored the Tigers 17-0 in the second half and nearly pulled off an upset before leaving Baton Rouge with a 23-20 loss.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen understands how to play LSU, and considering the Bulldogs open with Charleston and Louisiana Tech, Mullen and his staff should have plenty of time to prepare for the Tigers.
LSU has been prone to upsets in recent years, and a loss in Starkville would leave Tigers fans wondering if first-year head coach Ed Oregeron was the right hire.
The Tigers would have plenty of time to rebound after falling to an SEC foe in mid-September, but that won’t stop LSU fans from panicking.
Week 6: Alabama at Texas A&M
Is it likely? Of course not. But for the sake of this story, which is focused on potential upsets that would shake up the SEC West race, the Aggies upsetting the Crimson Tide fits the bill.
How could it happen? Texas A&M must get off to a fast start in 2017 to build confidence. If the Aggies take down UCLA in the opener and upend Arkansas and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks, Texas A&M could be 5-0 when Alabama visits Kyle Field on Oct. 7.
Sure, that’s a lot of ifs. But those Aggies would be riding high leading up to their biggest test of the season. Considering Alabama’s only two SEC games before this matchup are against Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide might not be ready for the bright lights of Kyle Field.
Week 7: Auburn at LSU
If Auburn is going to be a serious contender, it must win on the road. Yes, even in Death Valley, where it hasn’t won since 1999. This marquee matchup has major implications for both teams after last year’s meeting proved to be the final nail in LSU head coach Les Miles’ coffin.
Auburn believes Jarrett Stidham is the guy, and a victory in Death Valley could be the confidence boost the Tigers need to be in the SEC West title mix.
LSU, meanwhile, will be ready to go after suffering a last-second loss in last year’s contest. But this game is part of LSU’s toughest four-game stretch. A victory over Auburn could be enough to spark a strong November for the Bayou Bengals.
If Auburn pulls off the road upset, it will give their rivals in Tuscaloosa a reason to worry.
Week 8: Auburn at Arkansas
The Razorbacks had their share of disappointing losses in 2016, though, it’s likely none stuck more than the 56-3 thrashing it took in Auburn last fall.
This year’s rematch has the making of an upset, especially if Auburn escapes Baton Rouge with a win one week earlier. Auburn will be playing its eighth consecutive game — its bye comes in Week 9.
Even without Rawleigh Williams III, Austin Allen should be able to put up big numbers against Auburn’s retooled secondary. If Auburn upsets LSU, don’t be surprised if the Razorbacks flip the script and find a way to salvage last year’s one-sided bloodbath.
Week 13: Alabama at Auburn
Nobody would be surprised if the Crimson Tide roll into Auburn with a perfect record. The Tigers might only have one loss when the Iron Bowl kicks off on Nov. 25.
On paper, Alabama is the better team, but it was in 2013, too. It has better coaching, better talent and all of the mystique that comes with being college football’s most dominant team throughout the past decade. It had all of that in 2013, too.
Strange things happen in the SEC West, especially during Rivalry Week. And this year will be no different.
The Tigers have a chance to shake up the College Football Playoff landscape and advance to Atlanta.
Even with a loss, the Crimson Tide could still find themselves in the four-team playoff. Can you imagine an Iron Bowl rematch in the national semifinals? Please, Football Gods, throw us a bone and make it happen.