Ranking the 14 SEC teams going into Week 9 as contenders, bowl teams, pretenders and hopeless:
1. MISSISSIPPI STATE (6-0, 3-0; LW: 1)
Contender (CFP and SEC): ’Dogs must show they’re comfortable being The Hunted.
2. OLE MISS (7-0, 4-0; 2)
Contender (CFP and SEC): Rebels doing things right, but three top-25 tests remain.
3. ALABAMA (6-1, 3-1; 4)
Contender (CFP and SEC): Rout of A&M has restored Tide’s title cred.
4. GEORGIA (6-1, 4-1; 5)
Contender (CFP and SEC): Todd Gurley returning would make SEC East fave a beast.
5. AUBURN (5-1, 2-1; 3)
Contender (SEC): The Tigers can be a CFP player, but schedule is sooooo tough.
6. LSU (6-2, 2-2; 7)
Bowl team: Tigers fighting for respectability this season and best possible bowl trip.
7. MISSOURI (5-2, 2-1; 10)
Contender (SEC): Despite big Georgia loss, Tigers are only real SEC East challenger.
8. TEXAS A&M (5-3, 2-3; 6)
Bowl team: Way Aggies are falling, ULM may be last win (at Auburn, Missouri, LSU).
9. SOUTH CAROLINA (4-3, 2-3; 12)
Bowl team: So much more was expected of Gamecocks this season in SEC Least.
10. KENTUCKY (5-2, 2-2; 8)
Bowl team: Improved but exposed by LSU, none of Cats’ remaining games a sure win.
11. FLORIDA (3-3, 2-3; 9)
Pretender: Gators looked like they mailed it in on Will Muschamp vs. Mizzou.
12. ARKANSAS (3-4, 0-4; 11)
Pretender: For bowl, Hogs have to beat UAB, win two vs. MSU, LSU, Ole Miss, Mizzou.
13. TENNESSEE (3-4, 0-3; 13)
Bowl team: After Bama rest of games are winnable, but winning three more is a chore.
14. VANDERBILT (2-5, 0-4; 14)
Hopeless: Bowl game? Bowl game? Commodores have two wins left in them, max.
Game of the Week
No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 24 LSU, 6:15 p.m. (ESPN)
The history, the hatred, the heated rivalry that only comes from a border battle: LSU vs. Ole Miss has it all and this year once again has national championship implications — this time for the Rebels. Ole Miss is angling for a shot at its first SEC championship since 1963 and hasn’t been unbeaten this deep into the season since 1962. The Rebels bring the nation’s best scoring defense into this game (10.6 ppg), though LSU is a surprising eighth nationally (17.6). Ole Miss’ offense struggles to run the ball (81st nationally) but really hasn’t been called on to win a game because the defense has been so good, allowing 15 or fewer points five times this season. LSU’s offense is hardly flashy, either, but the Tigers are finding their identity as a power running team and a comfort zone behind QB Anthony Jennings. Meanwhile, the defense appears to have rediscovered some toughness after a torching at Auburn.
Around the SEC
ESPN’s “College GameDay” show will broadcast live from the LSU Parade Grounds from 8-11 a.m. ... For the first time since The Associated Press poll began in 1936 one conference has four teams ranked in the top five: No. 1 Mississippi State, No. 3 Ole Miss, No. 4 Alabama and No. 5 Auburn. All, of course, are from the SEC West. ... Arkansas’ 45-32 loss last Saturday to Georgia was the first loss this season by an SEC West team to a team from outside the SEC West. ... Arkansas has lost 16 straight SEC games, the nation’s longest active in-conference skid. The Razorbacks’ last SEC win was Oct. 13, 2012 over Kentucky (49-7).