Like much of the season, this past weekend was a little odd for the SEC. Only 3 undefeated teams remain, and if you had told me that it would be A&M, LSU, and Florida, I would've laughed in your face. We're 5 games into the season, and MSU has already been practically eliminated from a chance at getting to Atlanta. But this season is far from over. And given the weirdness of the SEC this year, a shot at 9 wins for this team is still likely. Let's take a look at the remaining games:
Starting with Kentucky: The Wildcats have been up and down on their way to being 4-1. It looks like they might make bowl eligibility this year, which would be a huge feat for their program. They looked promising with a win over then ranked Mizzou, but as I said earlier in the season, the Cats have struggled to hold onto their first half leads and have had a hard time maintaining their composure against tougher teams. Well, this past weekend they didn't even have the excuse of playing an SEC opponent.
The wildcats trailed Eastern Kentucky by 14 points in the 4th quarter. For those that don't know, the Eastern Kentucky Colonels are an FCS team that are 2-2 on the year. They're not a rigorous opponent by any stretch of the imagination. And the Cats struggled to keep up with them, having to go into overtime to eventually beat them. Many have been predicting that Kentucky could come into Starkville and beat the Bulldogs. But so far the only road trip we've seen them take was a 26-22 win over a dilapidated South Carolina team that nearly came back. This might be an interesting game to keep an eye on, but don't expect to see Kentucky as a favorite over the Bulldogs. They simply aren't good enough right now.
Now over to Mizzou: As much as MSU fans want to complain about our offense, I'm sure Mizzou fans would be clamoring for it right now. The Tigers started the season complaining about the lack of respect they were receiving from the media. That's something we can relate too. However, even though the Tigers are 4-1, it seems like they're worse than their record. Their defense is great, but their offense couldn't cut through a wet paper bag right now. Of their 4 wins, the Tigers have a 3 point win against UConn in Columbia, a 7 point win over Arkansas State, and a 14 point win over South Carolina (the team that I mentioned that is dilapidated just a paragraph earlier).
So, this team will be tougher to beat than Kentucky given that this game is in Columbia, but you can't convince me that MSU won't have a legitimate chance to win this one. The Tigers are struggling to find a reliable solution at quarterback and will have to play host to Florida, then go on the road to Georgia and Vanderbilt in the coming weeks. The Tigers are going to have to hope their defense can carry them through the next 4 games, because beating both of the Bulldogs and the Gators with a true freshman quarterback will be an incredibly difficult task. If MSU can repeat their performance from the Auburn game, they'll beat Mizzou.
And now, Alabama: At this point, it's likely that State is 7-2, with wins over all of their out of conference opponents, and taking both games against their SEC East foes. This one is going to be tough. Even with the Saban machine being considerably less dominant than it has been in years past, this is still a hard game to win. As we saw our rivals to the north beat them, it was largely due to Bama continuously shooting themselves in the foot with stupid turnovers and bad quarterback play. And even after 5 turnovers, the Tide still had a shot at winning. Yes, this game is in Starkville, but this is still a Nick Saban coached team. The Bulldogs will be hard pressed to find themselves on top here unless they can force multiple errors out of the Tide. This will be a tough one. MSU can win this, but it isn't as sure of a thing as the games against Kentucky and Missouri are.
After Alabama, we have Arkansas: MSU has only one victory in the state of Arkansas, a 2013 come from behind victory in Little Rock. The Hogs haven't been anywhere near as good as expected. They're missing several key pieces due to injury and that has been the biggest cause to their 2-3 start on the season. But with losses to clearly inferior Toledo and Texas Tech, and then choking against Texas A&M after having a lead late in the 4th, the Razorbacks are not looking as sharp as many expected and predicted. Yes, they were able to beat Tennessee this past weekend, but that's also a function of Butch Jones not being able to hold on to double digit leads. It's hard to tell exactly how this Arkansas team stacks up in the West, but given what we've seen to date, I expect MSU to get their second win in The Natural State.
And finally, the Egg Bowl: Ole Miss, what happened to you? You were on top of the world just a couple of weeks ago, but you struggled against Vandy at home and then got demolished by Florida. Not that this upsets me, but it's incredibly perplexing. Which Ole Miss is the real Ole Miss, the one who forced 5 turnovers from Bama in Tuscaloosa or the one who pooped the bed in Gainesville? As for your quarterback, Chad Kelly has all the talent in the world, but for whatever reason he still reminds me of a cross between Bo Wallace and Johnny Manziel. And you want him to be more Manziel than Wallace, but that's not what we've seen outside of Tuscaloosa and Oxford. Hugh Freeze and the Rebels still have plenty of season to redeem themselves and brush off what happened in the Swamp, but man is it hard to come back from that.
The Egg Bowl is notoriously tough for the road team, especially as of late. Both Mississippi teams are built eerily similar this year, with neither team having incredible success running the ball, two very talented quarterbacks, stout defensive front sevens, and then two of the best receiving units in the conference. This will likely be another tough game for the Bulldogs to win, but it's incredibly possible for State to bring the Golden Egg back to Starkville and grab their 9th win of the season.
It might be hard for many in the fanbase to believe we can go 6-1 down the stretch of our remaining 7 games. It might be difficult to imagine that this team can find enough of an offense to help out this defense. It might be tough to conceive that this team can still have a great year, but it's entirely possible. This season, many predicted that this Bulldog team would struggle to get to 6-6. And given the nature of the SEC, it's still possible they're right. But if we take a step back and look around the conference, it's entirely possible for this team to fight its way to 9-3.