The SEC West has been wide open for the majority of the season, with the two teams from Mississippi and Alabama being the front runners along the way. All four teams had no more than one conference loss heading into this past week.
The game in Oxford that pitted Ole Miss against the Auburn Tigers was an almost sure playoff elimination game, and perhaps, even eliminating the loser from winning the division. With a few breaks and missed calls by the refs, Auburn pulled out a close one like they are accustomed to doing.
Mathematically speaking, a two loss Ole Miss and LSU are still alive to make it to the conference championship. However, they would need to win out and have some unlikely things take place for that to happen.
For instance, Ole Miss would need LSU to beat Bama this upcoming weekend. They would need Auburn to lose to both Georgia and Alabama. They would then need LSU to lose one more conference game, maybe to Texas A&M or Arkansas. Not likely.
The three teams with the best chance to take the crown now appear to be Mississippi State, Alabama, and Auburn. Mississippi State and Alabama are the only two left that control their own destiny. Auburn would need both Alabama and Ole Miss to beat Mississippi State.
Assuming Bama beats LSU, the November 15th game in Tuscaloosa between Mississippi State and Alabama is shaping up to be the most important game of the year. If the Bulldogs can win that game, all they would need to do would be defeat Vanderbilt to clinch the division. If the Crimson Tide win that game, Mississippi State would need to win the Egg Bowl and have Auburn beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl. How exciting will that day be if the West depends on the results of two of the biggest rivalries in college football?
If you're a Mississippi State fan, you should pull for LSU to upset Alabama this Saturday. If that happens, Mississippi State would have two cracks at it as far as winning the division. They could beat Alabama in two weeks, and if they lose that one, could still win it by beating Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. This is assuming the game against Vanderbilt is a W, of course.
If Alabama does in fact beat LSU, you have to assume they are the favorite at that point. They have the fortune of playing Mississippi State and Auburn at home, a huge advantage in big games like these.
The next debate involves a one loss team in second place still making the college football playoff, even though they didn't have to play in the SEC Championship game. There are two scenarios in which that could most likely happen. The first is Bama winning out and Mississippi State winning the Egg Bowl. Once again, for the topic at hand, we're assuming automatic W's here against UT Martin and Vandy. The second instance would be both Mississippi State and Auburn winning out.
If the latter happens, Auburn is a sure lock for the playoff as a second place, one loss team. MSU was #1 and Auburn was #3 in the nation in the latest poll released by the playoff committee. That means if both win out, both are getting in.
If the first instance happens, Bama would win the division and Mississippi State would be the one loss team sweating it out at the end. At that point, The Bulldogs' only loss would be to the #1 or #2 team in the country. You would have to think there would be no way they could be left out in that situation.
There is also the possibility of Auburn winning out, and Mississippi State beating Bama but losing to Ole Miss. Once again, Auburn would get in as the second place, one loss team. Mississippi State would still probably get in as long as they won the SEC Championship game, but there would be a lot more uncertainty than there would have been if that one loss were to Bama.
Basically what I'm saying is this: Auburn and Alabama are without a doubt making the playoff as a one loss team, and Mississippi State COULD be left out with one loss, but probably won't.
There is a lot of football left to play, and who knows how fuzzy this thing could get. There is still the possibility of the unthinkable happening, with five teams tied with two losses in the west. For the sake of our heads not exploding, let's hope that doesn't happen. One thing is for sure... The SEC West is the best in college football, and the division needs to be represented by two of these teams in the first ever college football playoff.