SEC bowl projections, Week 5: What to do with Auburn?
Saturday’s Week 5 games saw no upsets in the SEC and few around the country. Among teams ranked in last week’s Associated Press poll, only No. 15 Cal and No. 24 Kansas State lost to unranked teams. And in both games where two ranked teams met, the higher-ranked team won.
Frankly, the most interesting result in the country was the upset that almost happened.
North Carolina came within a failed 2-point conversion of perhaps knocking off No. 1-ranked defending national champion Clemson. Had the Tar Heels gone ahead by a point by converting, the Tigers still would have had 1:17 remaining and two timeouts, and that Trevor Lawrence dude at quarterback. So saying that UNC would have won with that 2-point conversion is speculative.
But it’s fun to imagine the possibilities.
Had Clemson lost, the SEC bowl picture would have been thrown wide open.
In addition to Alabama and Georgia, the top 4 in our projections could very well have included No. 4 LSU. As it is, we are still projecting Oklahoma to be in the College Football Playoff, along with the Crimson Tide, Dawgs and Clemson Tigers, because the Sooners appear to have the easiest path to an undefeated season.
And what about Auburn? After taking apart Mississippi State on Saturday, the Tigers are 5-0 and look to have about as nasty of a defense as anybody in the country, certainly up front. So why is Auburn still not even projected into the New Year’s Day 6 here? Because, again, this is a projection of where teams will end up in December, not where they are at the end of September.
Put it this way: The SEC has five unbeaten teams ranked in the Top 10 of the AP poll — Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the West Division, Georgia and Florida in the East. Only Auburn has to play all four of those other top-10 teams. That’s too hard of a slog. Probably. If we’re wrong, the Tigers will nudge into at least the NYD6 if not the CFP projections.
As far as the middle of the SEC goes, Mississippi State did not move after its loss to Auburn, and two East Division rivals, Kentucky and South Carolina, produced the result we expected when the Gamecocks beat the Wildcats, so none of those teams move in our projections, either.
Arkansas kept things close against Texas A&M in the SEC’s tightest game of the day, but the Razorbacks saw their conference losing streak extend to 13, dating back to 2017. Sorry, Hogs, but even if you beat Western Kentucky (not a given after that San Jose State loss), you still have to win three SEC games to reach six victories and bowl eligibility. You need to win one SEC game before we entertain thoughts of you winning three.
As for Ole Miss, it’s interesting that the Rebels put up 31 points on Alabama, and that they led 10-7 early. But there was nothing to truly indicate that they are going to go 4-4 in the SEC, which is what they’d have to do to become bowl eligible after suffering two nonconference losses.
Vanderbilt and Tennessee are also still out of the picture, and Missouri remains in bowl limbo with the NCAA, so we’re only projecting nine SEC teams to go to bowls.
Now, on to our bowl projections: