Looking back at my preseason picks now that we are in the final month of the Southeastern Conference football regular season, the 2019 schedule is playing out not too differently than expected, but there have been a few exceptions.
This week, the featured game in the league is LSU’s appearance at Alabama, with the winner emerging with the lead in the West. I forecast both teams would arrive at game nine undefeated and that has happened. I also predicted the Tide would prevail with this game being in Tuscaloosa. While Alabama is favored to win, the fact that LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is having a monster senior season gives his team more than a puncher’s chance for knocking the Tide out of the ranks of the unbeaten.
For the SEC East, my prediction was that Georgia would get to the league championship game undefeated. While the Bulldogs have the inside track to be in Atlanta to face the SEC West champ, they still have work to do for that happen because of a surprising loss at home to South Carolina. If the Bulldogs can lose to the Gamecocks, they can certainly do the same thing when they arrive at Auburn a week from Saturday. But for that to happen, Coach Gus Malzahn’s team will need to be much more efficient offensively than we have seen for much of the season.
Auburn is 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the SEC with no game this week, which is probably a good thing to be able to work on the offense and rest the defense. The Tigers have a chance to outdo my prediction of an 8-4 finish that included a 4-4 SEC record. However, for that to happen they are going to have to upset either Georgia or Alabama. Defensively, the Tigers are playing well enough to do that, but the offense and special teams play doesn’t look up to such a major task.
In the SEC West, the Aggies of Texas A&M are not playing at the level I expected and the same goes for Mississippi State, which has been impacted in a major way by suspensions to key players.
In the East, the Florida Gators have been better than expected and Tennessee has performed worse, although the Vols have shown signs of improvement in recent games. In studying Missouri, Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt during the summer, all looked like flawed teams and that has proven to be the case this fall.
Closer to home, one of the big questions about the Auburn team is how important is it going to be to the players to step up and assume the spoiler role in the rivalry games vs. the Bulldogs and Tide? With the disappointment of being on the outside looking in at the competition for a championship, barring some really unusual developments with the teams from Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa, this Auburn team can’t reach its preseason goals. However, there is still plenty to play for in the rivalry games, especially considering the recent struggles the Tigers have had in matchups vs. Georgia and Alabama.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter