1. Alabama (8-0 overall, 5-0 SEC)
Is there a better annual game in the country than Alabama-LSU? We say no, and it's tough to argue with the cold, hard fact that including Saturday's annual renewal, the Tide and the Tigers will have played four times in the last three years and in each of those games the No. 1 team in the country was on the field. Yes, please.
Saturday: vs. LSU, 8 (CBS)
2. Auburn (8-1, 4-1)
Do you want some even better news if you're an Auburn fan than the blissful two months of Tigers football that has been the 2013 season to date? Here are but two items of interest: First, ESPN recruiting guru Jeremy Crabtree said this week he thinks Auburn's on-the-field success will help it land a better recruiting class than Georgia or Florida. No. 2, want to guess how many seniors are listed on Auburn's offensive two-deep? Zero. As the surprise factor of the boomerang turnaround of the Gus Bus is starting to fade, the future looks blazingly bright on the Plains. Heck, I dressed up as Gus Malzahn for Halloween, for crying out loud. And Brick killed a guy. That escalated in a hurry.
Saturday: at Tennessee, noon (ESPN)
3. Missouri (8-1, 4-1)
Can we believe in these Tigers? Absolutely. Missouri is built around two fundamental truths that apply to any level of football. The Tigers exploit matchups on offense -- yes, they ran for 3-bills against Tennessee, but the fact that the Vols had to respect the Tigers' dangerous perimeter guys opened huge running lanes -- and they are nasty across the defensive front. Right now, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is the front-runner for SEC defensive player of the year.
Saturday: at Kentucky, noon (ESPNU)
4. LSU (7-2, 3-2)
Want to know how good LSU is and how loaded that program is? This is officially a rebuilding year for the Tigers, who had to replace 10 defensive players from last year's team. Ah, to be a fan of a program that rebuilds in a season that could end with a trip to the Sugar Bowl. And know this, the Pelican State is so flush with high school football talent that if LSU keeps half of it in house this year -- including the No. 1 player in the country, running back Leonard Fournette -- the Tigers could have the best recruiting class in the USA.
Saturday: at Alabama, 8 (CBS)
5. Texas A&M (7-2, 3-2)
Is Johnny Manziel the Heisman front-runner? Nope, and it's not because of anything he hasn't done on the field, where he's simply been the best and most entertaining player in the country. In truth, Johnny Football's off-the-field antics aren't even hurting him too much. Nope, Johnny Canadian Football League's hopes for a Heisman repeat have been quashed by (a) huge interest surges in Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, two quarterbacks who have their teams in the BCS mix; (b) the fact that Johnny Merchandise is chasing the image of last year's roller-coaster ride of football frenzy and freedom that was fabulous; and (c) there's a very real chance that Johnny Signature is not even the best player on his team. Receiver Mike Evans is just that good.
Saturday: vs. Mississippi State, 3:30 (CBS)
6. South Carolina (7-2, 5-2)
Is this the SEC definition of irony? Longtime Kentucky tormenter Steve Spurrier needs the Wildcats to deliver a Bluegrass Miracle, Part Deux against Missouri this weekend. Spurrier, who has whipped more Kentucky hide than Willie Shoemaker and Gary Stevens combined, and the Gamecocks are mired in a crossfire that is the SEC East tiebreaker. Also of note: South Carolina will need Auburn to deliver against Georgia next week, which also seems somewhat ironic, since Spurrier famously quipped about a fire at the Auburn library, "It's a shame, too, because some of those books had not been colored in yet."
7. Georgia (5-3, 4-2)
Can we now make an argument that Todd Gurley is the most valuable player in the SEC? Well, if we're going to talk SEC value, there's a fair discussion. Let's see: Johnny Manziel has to be at the table. So does Connor Shaw, the South Carolina quarterback who is the ultimate glue guy. Gurley deserves mention, too, because with all the injuries Georgia has endured, the offense has a completely different feel when he's on the field.
Saturday: vs. Appalachian State, 12:30 (Pay-per-view)
8. Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3)
Want a sneaky Cotton Bowl dark horse? Hello, Ole Miss, which easily could close with a spring to the finish and win out this month to post a 9-3 record. Year two of the Hugh Freeze project has been an overwhelming success, and the biggest worry for Colonel Rebel Black Bear fans has to be how high will Mr. Freeze's name rank on some high-profile ADs' lists this offseason.
Saturday: vs. Arkansas, 12:21 (WDSI)
9. Florida (4-4, 3-3)
On the subject of ADs coaching lists, it was what, two years ago, that current Florida coach Will Muschamp was the hottest name out there? Yes, Muschamp landed one of the game's plum jobs, but his time in Gainesville has been filled with peaks and valleys. And know this, if the Gators limp to the finish -- games against South Carolina and Florida State are still ahead -- and Florida finishes 6-6, Muschamp will be 24-14 after three years with the Gators. Not bad. After all, that's one win better than Ron Zook's 23-14 mark in his three years with Florida.
Saturday: vs. Vanderbilt, noon (SportSouth)
10. Tennessee (4-5, 1-4)
How orchestrated is UT's recruiting effort right now? Butch and Co. are running a very synchronized effort in which after each bad loss so far this season, somehow, magically, a four-star prospect commits to UT. Hmmmmm? Coincidence? Or planned assembly? Seems a little too brick-by-brick to be happenstance, no? Wonder who will be committing this Sunday? After all, the Vols allowed more than 300 yards to Missouri and its backup quarterback, and the Auburn Tigers will bring a top-10 rushing offense nationally to Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
Saturday: vs. Auburn, noon (ESPN)
11. Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4)
Are the Commodores a bowl team? Quite possibly. A win this week at the Swamp would be huge for Vandy's bowl hopes -- and even bigger for Muschamp's moving fund -- but even if the 'Dores fall against Florida, their last three games of hosting Kentucky, visiting Tennessee and hosting Wake Forest is hardly murderers row.
Saturday: at Florida, noon (SportSouth)
12. Mississippi State (4-4, 1-3)
Are the Bulldogs a bowl team? Most likely not. While Vanderbilt has a favorable slate in November, the Bulldogs have some chores ahead. Saturday, it's a trip to College Station. Then Alabama comes calling. After that comes Arkansas and then a monstrous home game against Ole Miss. Yep, it looks like the postseason runs through Oxford for Mullen and Co.
Saturday: at Texas A&M, 3:30 (CBS)
13. Kentucky (2-6, 0-4)
Why did Julius Randle not make the preseason basketball All-America team? Yep, it's that time of year in the state of Bluegrass and Beam.
Saturday: vs. Missouri, noon (ESPNU)
14. Arkansas (3-6, 0-5)
Does Bret Bielema survive this Arkansas debacle? Most likely. The trainwreck that has become the Hog Call from Hades is steamrolling toward a 3-9 finish. Since this is year one of Bielema's time in Arkansas, he likely won't be led to slaughter this offseason, but his seat will be quite warm sooner rather than later. Here's another item: It could be possible that Team Bielema starts looking around, possibly pulling the self-presevation slaughter before the wolves come calling. That's enough livestock references for the time being.
Saturday: at Ole Miss, 12:21 (WDSI)
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...