Four teams are still very much alive in the SEC West this season as we enter the ‘put up or shut up’ stretch of defining moments. There’s also a fifth team, LSU, that could really spice things up a bit if the Tigers upset Ole Miss in Death Valley:

RELATED: Road to Atlanta — East Guide

OLE MISS (7-0, 4-0)

The next two games are likely season-defining for the Rebels, a team many expected to finish a game or two back of Auburn and Alabama in the SEC race and hover around the 9 or 10-win mark this season based on a talented roster. Hugh Freeze’s squad has exceeded expectations with a reliable senior quarterback, playmakers on the outside and a takeaway-happy defense. In all facets, third-ranked Ole Miss looks like the SEC’s most complete team through eight weeks.

REMAINING SEC GAMES: at LSU, Saturday; vs. Auburn, Nov. 1; at Arkansas, Nov. 22; vs. Mississippi State, Nov. 29

VERDICT: Having played one more SEC game than its Magnolia State rival thanks to last week’s bye, Ole Miss is in the best position to win the West and reach Atlanta with just four league contests remaining. With the nation’s top-ranked scoring defense, the Rebels should be favored in every game the rest with the Egg Bowl possibly determining the division.


The Bulldogs play their first game as No. 1 this weekend in Lexington, a 13.5-point favorite over a team hoping to recover from last week’s 38-point loss at LSU. Mississippi State has the SEC’s most balanced offense with two player of the year candidates in Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson. Dan Mullen’s previous ineptitude against nationally-ranked competition in Starkville is all but forgotten on the heels of three straight wins over Top 10 teams.

REMAINING SEC GAMES: at Kentucky, Saturday; vs. Arkansas, Nov. 1; at Alabama, Nov. 15; vs. Vanderbilt, Nov. 22; at Ole Miss, Nov. 29

VERDICT: There’s two games on the schedule that were circled eight times over during the bye week — Alabama and Ole Miss. If the Bulldogs lose in Tuscaloosa then win the Egg Bowl against an unbeaten Ole Miss, we’re looking at a three-way tie in the division if the Crimson Tide win out. Can you imagine the headache?

ALABAMA (6-1, 3-1)

Armed and dangerous, Alabama’s not a football team any SEC opponent wants to play at the moment coming off one of its most impressive wins during the Nick Saban era. Both sides of the ball are playing at an elite-level since the midseason loss at Ole Miss and if special teams play gets cleaned up, the Crimson Tide’s very much a formidable threat down the stretch.

REMAINING SEC GAMES: at Tennessee, Saturday; at LSU, Nov. 8; vs. Mississippi State, Nov. 15; vs. Western Carolina, Nov. 22; vs. Auburn, Nov. 29

VERDICT: The Crimson Tide no longer control their SEC Championship destiny, but winning out would all but ensure a College Football Playoff berth. During the 2011 season, Alabama finished second in the West, but won the national title with a shutout of LSU. We could see a similar scenario if a wins over top-ranked Mississippi State and dangerous Auburn come to fruition. The good news? Both of those contests come in Tuscaloosa.

AUBURN (5-1, 2-1)

Auburn’s had a week off to recover from a humbling loss at Mississippi State, one that snapped the Tigers’ nine-game winning streak against SEC competition. Auburn got away from what it does best in the first quarter and never recovered from an early three-touchdown deficit. Expect a much different start to Saturday’s game as the Tigers go for their 13th straight home win under Gus Malzahn.

REMAINING SEC GAMES: vs. South Carolina, Saturday; at Ole Miss, Nov. 1; vs. Texas A&M, Nov. 8; at Georgia, Nov. 15; at Alabama, Nov. 29

VERDICT: Facing the SEC’s toughest schedule the rest of the way, it’s not likely the Tigers get through their final five conference games unscathed. You can certainly consider this weekend’s matchup with South Carolina and a home game against Texas A&M on Nov. 8 as wins, but three road trips to Top 10s is a brutal chore. Auburn will have college football’s best resume if it finishes 11-1 and one could make a solid argument that even a 10-2 regular season deserves a possible look from the selection committee against other one-loss Power 5s in the mix.