And then there were three. Well, technically there’s still six because crazier things have happened. But after Saturday's games, the SEC has three bona fide contenders for the College Football Playoff. Find out where they stand, along with the three teams still clinging to hope, in this week’s playoff tracker.
Record: 8-0 (5-0)
Rank: No. 1
Next big obstacle: Nov. 15 at Alabama
Reason for optimism: The Bulldogs keep cruising along. They will play their final nonconference gimme of the season this weekend against UT-Martin, providing an opportunity to get the starters off the field early ahead of next week’s showdown with Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Cause for concern: Last week’s narrow win against Arkansas provided evidence that Mississippi State can look awfully average if quarterback Dak Prescott isn’t 100 percent. He threw for a career-high 331 yards against the Razorbacks, but also tossed two interceptions and limped around the field for much of the game. The Bulldogs need him to stay healthy or that No. 1 ranking will be in jeopardy.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: LSU over Alabama
-- David Ching
Record: 7-1 (4-1)
Rank: No. 3
Next big obstacle: Nov. 15 at Georgia
Reason for optimism: It hasn't always been easy, but Auburn has navigated through the nation’s hardest schedule with just one loss. Trips to Georgia and Alabama remain, but win out and the Tigers are in the playoff. That’s all you can ask for at this point in the season. It doesn’t hurt that Georgia took a gigantic step backward on Saturday.
Cause for concern: Nick Marshall and this Auburn offense are clicking right now. The same can’t be said for the defense, though. The Tigers were lit up again Saturday at Ole Miss, and if not for two late turnovers, it might have cost them the game. They also committed a season-high 13 penalties for 145 yards against the Rebels.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: If Alabama loses at LSU this week, Auburn could lose the season finale in Tuscaloosa and still win the SEC West (assuming it wins its other remaining games). And it keeps the door open for a five-way tie. Who doesn't want that?
-- Greg Ostendorf
Record: 7-1 (4-1)
Rank: No. 5
Biggest remaining obstacle: Nov. 8 at LSU
Reason for optimism: After Ole Miss' loss to Auburn last weekend, the Crimson Tide control their own destiny. If they win out, they'll finish on top in the West and play in the SEC championship game. A trip to LSU won't be easy, but the remaining two games against ranked teams -- Mississippi State, Auburn -- both come at home.
Cause for concern: They don't call it Death Valley for nothing -- and the Tigers' record there after dark speaks for itself. If Alabama is going to prove it belongs in the playoff conversation, it has to survive this weekend's game at LSU.
Who they’ll be rooting for: If Kansas State beats TCU and Utah beats Oregon, Alabama's chief competition in the debate over the best one-loss team in college football will be much more manageable.
-- Alex Scarborough
Record: 7-2 (4-2)
Rank: No. 11
Next big obstacle: Nov. 22 at Arkansas
Reason for optimism: After two losses, the Rebels’ hopes seem all but dashed. They didn’t drop too far in the rankings, so that’s a plus. But if Ole Miss is going to have any chance at the final four, the Rebels have to win out and win the SEC. Auburn needs to lose two more, while Alabama and LSU need to lose one, all of which is possible with Alabama playing Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State this month.
Cause for concern: Having two losses is damning at this point. The Rebels need help from teams that are on a roll, especially Auburn. Then there are injuries. Star receiver Laquon Treadwell (leg/ankle) and linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche (ankle) are out for the season, while left tackle Laremy Tunsil is dealing with a biceps pull.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Alabama over LSU
-- Edward Aschoff
Record: 7-2 (3-2)
Rank: No. 16
Next big obstacle: Nov. 8 vs. Alabama
Reason for optimism: During their three-game winning streak -- particularly in the last two games against Kentucky and Ole Miss -- the Tigers got back to playing traditional LSU football. They leaned heavily on the run and on a tough defense, earning two wins. After last weekend’s open date, they should be in good physical shape for Saturday’s showdown with Alabama.
Cause for concern: This is Alabama, which owns a three-game winning streak over the Tigers. LSU has to win to remain in the hunt for the SEC West title and for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Tigers look much better lately, but they’ll need to play their best game of the season to beat the Crimson Tide.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Texas A&M over Auburn
-- David Ching
Record: 6-2 (4-2)
Rank: No. 20
Next big obstacle: Nov. 15 vs Auburn
Reason for optimism: This was supposed to be an easy jog to Atlanta for the Dawgs, but after getting routed by Florida, Georgia is now very much on the outside looking in. Georgia has to win out and win the SEC to have a chance. It also needs Missouri to lose one more, which could happen with Tennessee, Texas A&M and Arkansas left on the schedule.
Cause for concern: Well, two losses appears to be the kiss of death, and Georgia lost to a relatively unimpressive Florida team. A trip to Kentucky and a home game with No. 3 Auburn loom. Also, Missouri ends the season playing three teams that have gone a combined 3-12 in SEC play.
Who they’ll be rooting for this week: Vanderbilt over Florida
-- Edward Aschoff