Seth Pollock, 23 Sports

*NOTE: This power ranking isn’t necessarily just about ranking the best teams in the SEC 1-14. It’s about that, who has and who hasn’t been impressive, and who’s putting it together.

  1. Alabama 11-0, (7-0)

All year, Alabama had one mulligan to use. Against Auburn, they don’t necessarily get a mulligan. Lose this one, and it can be argued the resume just isn’t there for a trip to the playoff. No SEC Championship,no SEC West Championship, biggest wins over LSU and Mississippi State?  Unless we get some more #chaos, that’s not a playoff resume. Let’s see how the Tide respond to a must win.

  1. Auburn 9-2, (6-1)

Not only is the Iron Bowl at stake on Saturday, not only the 2017 SEC West race, possibly the 2017 SEC title and the National Championship, but the future of the division might be at stake on Saturday. The cool thing about college football, and specifically the SEC West, is it’s so interconnected. Tommy Tuberville coached at Ole Miss before coaching at Auburn. Houston Nutt coached at Arkansas before coaching at Ole Miss. Nick Saban won a national title at LSU, and has since won four more at Alabama.

We might be seeing that scenario once again. FootballScoop is reporting that the chatter in the industry is that Gus Malzahn may be open to leaving Auburn for Arkansas after the Iron Bowl. At first it might sound perplexing, but it makes some sense if you think about it. Auburn is a really tough job. They fired a coach who two years previous won the national title. The entire program exists in the shadow of Nick Saban and Alabama, who’ve won four of the last eight national titles. The kick six was pretty amazing, but that was four years ago now and Auburn hasn’t won the Iron Bowl since. That doesn’t mean Gus Malzahn hasn’t done a great job, it just means that the entire Nick Saban experience has led to remarkably high standards.

Gus Malzahn played at Arkansas for two years in the 80s. He’s a high school coaching legend there. His first year as a college OC was at Arkansas and his first year as a college head coach was at Arkansas State. At a program that’s been 13-34 in SEC play since 2012 he could be the guy to turn it around, and the expectations would be much more manageable. Plus, he’d have a chance to choose the AD that will replace Jeff Long.

The issue is timing. If Auburn loses the Iron Bowl, Malzahn can take the Arkansas job immediately. But if Auburn wins, they have an SEC title game to play. If their rematch with Georgia goes the way their first game with the Bulldogs went, they’ll have a playoff to win. Can Arkansas wait around? Would Gus still take the job if Auburn made the playoff?

Who knows?

And, by the way, the coach FootballScoop says Auburn has already vetted in case Gus were to leave? Bobby Petrino, the former Arkansas coach.

The SEC West is weird.

  1. Georgia 10-1, (7-1)

This is exactly how a championship level team should be able to bounce back. Kentucky isn’t very good, but several close wins gave them a pretty good 7-3 record coming in. And Georgia destroyed them, with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combining for five touchdowns on the ground. Now they just need to make sure they don’t get tripped up by the triple option.

  1. Mississippi State 8-3, (4-3)

An ugly win still counts as a win. And I give Mississippi State a lot of credit for this one. Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium appeared to be about half empty for an 11 a.m. and Arkansas got off to a quick 14-0 lead. But the Bulldogs fought back, even when stupid plays like this one went against them. Nick Fitzgerald had three total scores, and MSU won it on the final drive. If this team wins the Egg Bowl and their bowl game, they’ll go down as one of the best Mississippi State teams of all time.

  1. LSU 8-3, (5-2)

LSU knows who they are. And given a rainy Neyland Stadium field, they ran it again and again down Tennessee’s throats, 43 times for 200 yards, including 24 carries for Derrius Guice. That, combined with a couple of muffed punts by Tennessee gave LSU the advantage and a pretty simple formula to run the clock out on the Vols.

  1. South Carolina 8-3, (5-3)

Wofford was exactly what we thought they were: A pretty good FCS team that had the potential to stay with the Gamecocks for a bit but not for sixty minutes.

This week, South Carolina plays the biggest game of their season. Beating archrival #2 Clemson at home on Saturday would be a program-defining victory.

  1. Texas A&M 7-4, (4-3)

Last week at Ole Miss was a must win for Kevin Sumlin. They won. This week at LSU is another must win for Kevin Sumlin. And it still might not matter.

  1. Missouri 6-5, (3-4)

What a turnaround! When Mizzou took a 35-0 nothing lead on Vanderbilt before half Saturday night, the world officially stopped making sense. The Tigers sputtered a little bit in the 3rd quarter, but still were able to leave Nashville with an impressive 45-17 victory.

With that win, athletic director Jim Sterk made the official announcement: Barry Odom’s coming back. As he should, obviously. This has been a remarkable run. But to pour cold water on Mizzou fans more than the injury to Michael Porter Jr. already has, I’m still not entirely convinced Barry Odom is the guy to win as big as Pinkel did in Columbia. Going to a bowl is great, but since 2000 only one SEC non-interim head coach has been fired without taking their team to bowl (Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss). There’s a lot more for this team and program to prove. But if they keep playing like they’re playing, they’ll be able to.

  1. Kentucky 7-4, (4-4)

Kentucky’s just not very good. They’re good at winning close games and that’s it. They’ve played two games against good teams, and they’ve lost by 38 and 29.

  1. Florida 4-6, (3-5)

After the Mizzou debacle they’ve put together two straight weeks of real effort. This week it resulted in a 36-7 win over UAB. This season has been a disaster, but they can at least salvage a good finish if they knock off equally disappointing Florida State.

  1. Ole Miss 5-6, (2-5)

The Rebels were close to that upset! But next week matters more anyway.

  1. Arkansas 4-7, (1-6)

That has to be a frustrating loss. The Hogs gave it their all against Mississippi State, but it wasn’t enough. They’ll have one last chance for an upset against Missouri before Bret Bielema is officially fired.

  1. Tennessee 4-7, (0-7)

Interim head coach Brady Hoke and the Vols didn’t get outclassed against LSU. They just ran into a better team that had a running game in conditions perfectly suited for a team with a good running game.

  1. Vanderbilt 4-7, (0-7)

With all the talk of coaching changes, I legitimately don’t understand why Derek Mason isn’t on the hot seat. Vanderbilt doesn’t have a great fan base and academics make it hard to get players into the university, but the right coach can win there. James Franklin proved that, winning 18 games his final two years.

In four years, Derek Mason has won 17 games. Six against Power Five teams. A 5-26 record in SEC play. At SEC media days, he made the point of saying that Vanderbilt football was on the rise. Instead, the ‘Dores have taken a clear step back. The right coach can win at Vanderbilt. We don’t have much evidence that’s Derek Mason.