The SEC West has been better than the SEC East for a while now. The West has won five straight SEC titles (Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Auburn), and it’s becoming increasingly likely that it wins a sixth this season.
The fact that the West is the strongest division in college football comes as no surprise, but after five weeks, the gap between the two divisions is wider than anyone anticipated. Arkansas would finish second in the East. That’s not an indictment of the much-improved Razorbacks, who should have beaten Texas A&M, but it is a testament to how down the East is this season.
The leader of the East division after September – and also the defending division champion – lost to Indiana last week at home. Yikes. Missouri’s win over South Carolina was the most surprising outcome of the weekend, especially considering that the Gamecocks had a 20-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Steve Spurrier warned everyone last week that his team wasn’t very good, and they lived up to that billing on Saturday.
The door is wide open for Georgia to take control of the division again, but the Bulldogs had their own struggles at home against Tennessee. Todd Gurley is still the best player in college football, but it has become apparent that the Bulldogs aren’t that good around him. Hutson Mason looked average, and was actually outplayed by Tennessee’s Justin Worley (maybe the presence of Peyton Manning helped). Also, Jeremy Pruitt’s revamped Georgia defense was torched again. The Vols only mustered 10 points against Oklahoma two weeks ago, but Georgia’s defense made them look like last year’s Denver Broncos.
This Georgia team has shown up for two straight SEC games, and if they continue to play this way, they’ll get beat at least once more. This year has the potential of being even weirder for the East, and there’s a possibility a three-loss team could represent the division in Atlanta.
The West, however, is loaded. It might be as good as it’s ever been. Arkansas, who was supposed to be the doormat of the division, outplayed Texas A&M for about 57 minutes. One of the hardest things to do in coaching is taking a team with a losing culture and teaching them how to win. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Razorbacks, but this team will pull off at least one upset this year.
Texas A&M snuck out of Arlington with a win, but they’ll have to play better the next three weeks. The Aggies travel to Starkville this weekend to take on Mississippi State, followed by a home game versus Ole Miss and a road game against Alabama. Kenny Hill wasn’t nearly as effective against Arkansas as he was against South Carolina, but he made big plays late in the game when the Aggies needed him most.
Florida State played its first true road game of the year against N.C. State, and the Seminoles were nearly upset by the Wolfpack. Jameis Winston threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns in his return, but he also tossed two interceptions. Winston’s decision-making on the field has never been questioned, but he’s already thrown four picks in only two games against FBS opponents.
However, Winston did make some huge plays late in the game, including a 21-yard scramble to put the game away. It is apparent that this Florida State team isn’t nearly as dominant as the team that won the national title last year, but the schedule is easy enough that they still have a good chance of making it to the playoffs. The matchup with Notre Dame on October 18 is setting up to be a huge game for both teams.
The Big 10
14. Oklahoma State The Cowboys’ lone loss of the season came against Florida State in the opener, and since then Mike Gundy’s team has won three consecutive games.
13. Nebraska Ameer Abdullah is one of most dynamic playmakers in college football, and he has the Cornhuskers at 5-0 entering a big showdown at Michigan State this weekend.
12. Michigan State Despite an early season loss to Oregon, the Spartans are still in great position to win the Big 10. That might not result in a playoff birth, but Michigan State would at least have a chance if they ran the table.
11. Georgia Georgia struggled to put away Tennessee, but Todd Gurley was still very impressive. Gurley rushed for a career-high 208 yards, and he’s at the very top of any Heisman list at this point of the season.
10. UCLA The Bruins finally came alive last Thursday night in Tempe. A 62-27 blowout victory over Arizona State on the road finally showcased the potential people raved about before the season started. If UCLA can get past Utah this weekend, a huge matchup with Oregon awaits in two weeks.
9. Notre Dame Everett Golson completed 25 straight passes in the win over Syracuse, and the Fighting Irish improved to 4-0 on the year. Notre Dame faces its first big test of the season this weekend against Stanford.
8. Mississippi State The Bulldogs have had two weeks to prepare for Texas A&M, and this game is setting up to be the biggest of Dan Mullen’s career. Mississippi State needs to knock off either Texas A&M or Auburn next week to have a chance to win the SEC West.
7. Florida State A pedestrian performance without Jameis Winston against Clemson is excusable, but the Seminoles played poorly against N.C. State again last Saturday. Florida State still won by 15 points, but giving up 41 points to N.C. State is concerning. The Seminoles have two easy wins before Notre Dame visits Tallahassee on October 18.
6. Baylor Baylor’s strength of schedule through four games has been pretty terrible, but the Bears have dominated every team they’ve faced. We should find out more about the Bears in their next three games against Texas, TCU, and West Virginia.
5. Alabama Since the season opener against West Virginia, Alabama hasn’t really been tested. However, we’ll find out quickly about this Alabama team over the next four games. Road trips to Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Tennessee await in October, as well as a home game against Texas A&M.
4. Auburn The Tigers haven’t played particularly well in three weeks, and but they are 4-0. Auburn has yet to play a complete game this season, and they’ll likely need one in the next two weeks if they want to stay undefeated.
3. Oregon Oregon hasn’t played since nearly losing to Washington State, but they get a home game this Thursday night against an undefeated Arizona team. Don’t be surprised if the Ducks light up the scoreboard against the Wildcats to make up for their lethargic performance in Pullman a week ago.
2. Texas A&M The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Aggies after their narrow victory over Arkansas. A road trip to Starkville this Saturday is followed by a home game against Ole Miss and a road game at Alabama.
1. Oklahoma The Sooners had the week off last week to prepare for TCU. It could potentially be a trap game for the Sooners, although having a bye week ahead of time should be beneficial.
Just Missed the Cut: Ole Miss, Stanford, LSU, East Carolina, BYU, Wisconsin
• I wonder if Florida misses Jacoby Brissett?
• Forget what I said a week ago. Missouri totally belongs in the SEC!
• The Raiders fired head coach Dennis Allen. Sounds like it’s Lane Kiffin time again in Oakland.
• It was a really bad week for Tom Brady Hoke.
• Charlie Weis is now being paid by two schools not to coach.
Cole Frederick (@ColeFred24) is a staff writer for The High Screen and a student at the University of Mississippi.