The SEC's chances of having two teams in the College Football Playoff took a major hit this past weekend when Auburn fell to Texas A&M. Now, with TCU passing up Alabama, the nation's “elite” conference has just one team in the top four. That could change quickly, though, with a Crimson Tide win over Mississippi State on Saturday.
Here's a look at where all the SEC playoff contenders stand heading into Week 12.
Record: 9-0 (5-0)
Rank: No. 1
Next big obstacle: Saturday at Alabama
Reason for optimism: The Bulldogs are so close they can almost taste it. Having won the SEC West just once (1998), State can all but lock up the division title by beating Alabama on Saturday. They will go into Bryant-Denny Stadium as underdogs, but Dak Prescott & Co. have already played in a couple of big games this season and managed to remain unbeaten.
Cause for concern: Mississippi State has won just two of its past nine visits to Tuscaloosa, and prior to that had even less success there. The Bulldogs' 1997 win in T-Town was the first time the program had won there since 1957. In other words, history is decidedly in Alabama's favor on Saturday with the Crimson Tide enjoying a 24-2 series record at home since the 1957 loss.
Who they'll be rooting for this week: Georgia over Auburn
-- David Ching
Record: 8-1 (5-1)
Rank: No. 5
Next big obstacle: Saturday vs. Mississippi State
Reason for optimism: It doesn't have to be pretty so long as you survive, and that's exactly what Alabama did this past weekend when it came back to beat LSU in overtime. Though the win might have lacked style points, it proved that the Crimson Tide could win a tough game on the road.
Cause for concern: Those were four-plus quarters of pure SEC brutality in Baton Rouge. T.J. Yeldon isn't close to 100 percent after aggravating an ankle injury and Reggie Ragland played with a broken hand that's surely sore today. But there's no time to rest and recover as Alabama welcomes No. 1-ranked Mississippi State to town on Saturday.
Who they'll be rooting for: Kansas over TCU, Colorado over Oregon
-- Alex Scarborough
Record: 7-2 (4-2)
Rank: No. 9
Next big obstacle: Saturday at Georgia
Reason for optimism: Despite Saturday's stunning loss to Texas A&M, Auburn's chances of winning the SEC West and reaching the College Football Playoff are not dead yet. At No. 9, the Tigers are the top-ranked two-loss team, and they could still jump some of the one-loss teams in front of them with road wins at Georgia and Alabama to finish the season.
Cause for concern: Auburn isn't going to beat Georgia or Alabama if it doesn't start playing defense. The Tigers were solid through the first five games, but ever since a loss to Mississippi State last month, it has fallen apart. They have given up 31 or more points in four straight games, and it doesn't get any easier Saturday against Todd Gurley and the Bulldogs.
Who they'll be rooting for: Alabama over Mississippi State
-- Greg Ostendorf
Record: 8-2 (4-2)
Rank: No. 10
Next big obstacle: Nov. 22 at Arkansas
Reason for optimism: There's still a decent chance that a two-loss SEC champ (from the West) could still make it into the playoff. Strength of schedule for those guys is just too good. The Rebels also enter their bye week ranked fourth in ESPN's Football Power Index and has a 40.6 percent chance to win out, the highest in the SEC.
Cause for concern: The Rebels got help with Texas A&M beating Auburn, but now needs Alabama to beat Mississippi State. That's certainly not out of the question, but a Mississippi State win would clinch the West for the Bulldogs. And will two losses be too many? The Rebels probably have zero chance if they don't win the SEC.
Who they'll be rooting for this week: Alabama over Mississippi State
-- Edward Aschoff
Record: 7-2 (5-2)
Rank: No. 15
Next big obstacle: Nov. 15 vs Auburn
Reason for optimism: The Bulldogs had little trouble with Kentucky last week and could clinch the SEC East this weekend. A win over Auburn and a Missouri loss would give the Bulldogs the division. Win out and take down an SEC West foe in Atlanta, and the Bulldogs could back right into the final playoff spot.
Cause for concern: Two losses hurt, especially for an SEC East team. That division just hasn't been very good at all, and the playoff committee will probably hold losses to South Carolina and Florida against the Dawgs. Missouri still has to lose a game, and then the Dawgs need Georgia Tech and Auburn to win every game but the ones in Athens.
Who they'll be rooting for this week: Texas A&M over Missouri
-- Edward Aschoff