Arkansas in position to climb from bottom of West to No. 2 in the SEC
Forget about who’s No. 1. Alabama’s got that wrapped up.
Who’s going to be No. 2?
In the SEC, that is.
At the top, Alabama looks like a College Football Playoff lock and the favorite to win a fourth national title in the last seven years.
A rung lower on the SEC ladder, Florida is still lingering, finding a way to win, albeit it an ugly way.
LSU, the SEC’s top team two weeks ago, has fallen down the ladder. The best the Tigers can hope for is a New Year’s Six bowl — and they’ll have to win two tough games to get there.
Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Texas A&M are fighting to climb over Florida and LSU.
Though Alabama seems firmly in the driver’s seat, there’s plenty of business left to settle in the last two weeks.
The drama will come just below the Tide.
No. 2 is up for grabs.
The schedule has ensured that Florida will finish with only one regular-season conference loss. But with Florida State and the West champion (Alabama) left on their card, the Gators’ fate is yet to be decided. They could be in the Playoff, or they could fall out of a New Year’s Six game.
LSU’s road to a New Year’s Six game includes a a few obstacles, too. Playing at Ole Miss this weekend won’t be easy. The Rebels need a strong finish — they have the Egg Bowl on the final weekend — to avoid squandering away a season that included a victory at Alabama. The Tigers were hammered the past two weeks by the Tide and Arkansas.
Look out from below. Arkansas is on the rise.
With games remaining against Mississippi State and Missouri left, Bret Bielema’s Hogs have a great chance to go 6-2 in the SEC and grab second place in the West. That fourth-down miracle lateral at Ole Miss could turn out to be the single most important play of the SEC season.
The Razorbacks’ power running game featuring Alex Collins coupled with its efficient passing attack led by Brandon Allen makes them tough to stop in November when weariness, aches and pains and cold weather make a physical team an especially unpleasant opponent.
How closely matched are Ole Miss and Mississippi State? They’re tied for No. 25 in the Coaches Poll this week. Both teams have great quarterbacks and outstanding receivers. Neither team has a solid running game.
Texas A&M, which beat Mississippi State, could still finish 9-3 with victories over Vanderbilt and LSU. The Aggies seem headed the wrong way, but freshman Kyler Murray should get better with experience. With LSU fading, winning the last two is a realistic possibility.
So who’s it going to be?
Let’s make a Hog call. Arkansas has a favorable schedule with two winnable home games. The Razorbacks have too much offensive punch for Mizzou in a Friday finale in Fayetteville. First, they’ll have to overpower Mississippi State, which Alabama did on Saturday.
Either LSU or Ole Miss could also finish 6-2 in the conference without the non-conference losses the Hogs count on their record. But the Hogs beat the Rebels and the Tigers. In November, they’re the better team.
While LSU may get a better bowl opportunity with a 10-2 record, Arkansas would be the better team at 8-4, and thus arguably, climb from the bottom of the SEC West to No. 2 in the conference in the final half of the season.