The SEC boasts five teams in the nation’s Top 10, but each program has a weakness which could derail national championship hopes. Locking in a College Football Playoff berth would be easier if these problem areas are corrected down the stretch:

No. 1 MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS — Not so much Mississippi State’s defense — though it is last in the SEC at 428.8 yards per game — but more so the secondary’s vulnerability in getting beat over the top. Much of the ineptitude at the back end focuses on the UAB game during which the Bulldogs gave up three touchdown passes spanning 75 or more yards, but even in a 31-point win over South Alabama the following week, Geoff Collins’ group of defenders struggled. Four turnovers crippled the Jaguars’ chances, but several opportunities for big plays down the field were there. Biting on play fakes and bad angles have followed Mississippi State’s defensive backs throughout the season, but the Bulldogs have done an excellent job keeping teams out of the end zone.

No. 3 OLE MISS REBELS — Last in the West in rushing offense this season, Ole Miss hasn’t managed much success from its backfield behind an underwhelming offensive line. Since 2008, every BCS national champion’s had a running game ranked in the Top 30 nationally in yards per game. The Rebels’ current 151.3 average is 84th in the nation. Jaylen Walton and I’Tavius Mathers are both capable ballcarriers, but running lanes haven’t been there this fall. Based on the stats, Ole Miss doesn’t appear to be a Playoff threat without a balanced offense, but the silver lining involves the other side of the football. The Rebels are No. 1 in scoring defense at 10.6 points per game, a great sign as far as championships are concerned.  Outside of 2010 anomaly Auburn which routinely outscored opponents with Cam Newton, the last team standing in January has ranked in the Top 5 nationally in scoring defense over the last six years.

No. 4 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE — The lack of discipline across the board has been a bit of a surprise this season for the oft-locked in Crimson Tide. Alabama’s lost an SEC-high eight fumbles through seven games and is on pace to finish in the negative in turnover margin for the first time during Nick Saban’s tenure. An alarming outing on special teams at Arkansas (four fumbles) didn’t resemble the look of a Playoff contender. Saban placed the mishaps on players trying to do too much and the effort appeared to be cleaned up last week against Texas A&M. Regardless, outside of the SEC’s top punting unit unit, special teams has been the Achilles Heel throughout the season for the Crimson Tide who have missed four field goals in 13 tries. Since draining a 30-yarder against Southern Miss on Sept. 13, Adam Griffith’s missed the uprights on four of his last six kicks. Only Kentucky’s missed more field goals (5) this season.

No. 5 AUBURN TIGERS — The defending SEC champs have had issues up front on both sides of the football at times this season, but a major ongoing problem has been generating a pass rush. Making up for the loss of Carl Lawson has been more challenging than expected for Ellis Johnson and staff who have tried several different combinations and personnel packages at the line of scrimmage to get after the quarterback. Tied with three others teams at the bottom of the SEC with 12 total sacks (only South Carolina’s worse), the Tigers moved defensive back Brandon King to end during the bye week in prep for the Gamecocks to try and bolster the front four. King, a JUCO transfer in 2013, has played snaps at linebacker and will be utilized in a situational sense the rest of the way.

No. 9 GEORGIA BULLDOGS — Thankfully for Mike Bobo’s offense this season, the Bulldogs have been able to withstand injuries to several running backs and an indefeinite suspension to major weapon Todd Gurley to push out front in the SEC East despite Hutson Mason’s average play at the quarterback position. It’s been an adjustment at Georgia post-Aaron Murray. The Bulldogs are running the football at a higher rate with Nick Chubb and have kept game-changing decision out of Mason’s hands. The passing game’s 13th in the SEC at 171.3 yards per game — 54 yards fewer than the next closest Top 10 team (Auburn). Mason has been efficient however with 11 touchdown passes to only three interceptions (tied for the SEC low as a team). The question lies in whether or not Mason can make the necessary throws when trailing in the second half. Chubb’s provided enough offense in recent weeks to alleviate pressure but at some point, Georgia’s senior quarterback will have to win a game.