<
>

SEC slant: Who wants to win the East?

If you like judging teams based on head-to-head results, you might concede that Indiana should win the SEC East. After all, the Hoosiers did beat Missouri, and Missouri beat Florida and South Carolina. On the other hand, Missouri lost to Georgia. But Florida and South Carolina both beat Georgia, so what do you make of that? Somehow we have gotten here today with three teams vying for division lead. It's confusing, but let's take a look at where the race stands.

MISSOURI (7-2, 4-1)

Remaining schedule: Saturday at No. 24 Texas A&M, Nov. 22 at Tennessee, Nov. 28 vs. Arkansas

Chances of winning out: 0.6 percent

The case for: Facts are facts. Missouri is in first place in the East. A Georgia loss and a Missouri win on Saturday would all but guarantee the Tigers a trip to Atlanta. Though their offense has been shaky at times, they do have arguably the best tandem of defensive ends in the SEC in Shane Ray and Markus Golden. If Maty Mauk can get hot throwing the football, Missouri could give a West team a serious challenge.

The case against: Missouri hasn’t beaten a ranked team all season. So how good are the Tigers? They did lose to Indiana and were blown out at home by Georgia, which was blown out on a neutral site against Florida. Going on the road to Texas A&M won’t be easy, seeing as the Aggies love to throw the ball around and the Tigers' secondary loves to be accommodate receivers with several yards of cushion. Survive A&M and a win against Arkansas isn’t guaranteed.

GEORGIA (7-2, 5-2)

Remaining schedule: Saturday vs. No. 9 Auburn, Nov. 22 vs. Charleston Southern, Nov. 29 vs. No. 22 Georgia Tech

Chances of winning out: 19.1 percent

The case for: The best player in the SEC is back on Georgia’s sidelines. With Todd Gurley's return, the Bulldogs' offense just got that much more explosive. Not that Nick Chubb was sliced meat or anything. But with those two running the football and that offensive line, Georgia has a chance to stay in any game. The question is whether the defense can stop the run long enough to keep them in it.

The case against: Setting aside Georgia’s defensive woes, what about the play of the quarterback? Hutson Mason was never going to be Aaron Murray, but he was supposed to be better than this. He has been efficient (15 touchdowns, three interceptions), but he has also thrown for the 84th fewest yards of any quarterback in the country. Without the threat of a vertical passing game, Georgia’s offense has a low ceiling. Without a stout defense, there is not much to make up for it.

FLORIDA (5-3, 4-3)

Remaining schedule: Saturday vs. South Carolina, Nov. 22 vs. Eastern Kentucky, Nov. 29 at No. 3 Florida State

Chances of winning out: 14.3 percent

The case for: Momentum is on the side of the Gators. After hitting rock bottom against Missouri, Florida has been playing good football. Will Muschamp is on his way to saving his job thanks to resounding wins against Georgia and Vanderbilt in back-to-back weeks. Treon Harris has provided a spark to an offense that desperately needed one, and, in turn, the defense has been able to get some rest on the sideline and show once again how talented it really is.

The case against: A win against South Carolina on Saturday would go a long way toward saving Muschamp’s job, but it might not have an impact on Florida’s hopes of winning the division unless Missouri and Georgia both lose. Because the Gators put themselves in an early hole with three conference losses, they don't control their own destiny. With Eastern Kentucky and Florida State to close out the season, there won’t be any more opportunities to improve their SEC standing after this weekend.