SEC rankings: Mississippi State, Alabama battle for top spot

The game of the year in the SEC comes this weekend, when Mississippi State visits Alabama in what could prove to be a play-in for the SEC Championship Game. Meanwhile, Auburn's hopes of winning the SEC West hinge not only on beating Georgia but on getting some help, as well. Missouri and Georgia continue to be the top contenders in the SEC East, but like Auburn, Georgia needs a Missouri loss to claim the division. The overall strength of each division, however, continues to be lopsided in favor of the West. Moving up this week: Texas A&M. Moving down: Kentucky.

1. Mississippi State (9-0, 5-0 in SEC)

Up next: at Alabama, Saturday, Nov. 15
The skinny: The litmus test for the Bulldogs' standing as the top team in the league comes in a major road challenge against a Crimson Tide team MSU hasn't beaten in Tuscaloosa since the Mike Shula era.

2. Alabama (8-1, 5-1)

Up next: vs. Mississippi State, Saturday, Nov. 15
The skinny: Coming off a tough road win over LSU, Alabama comes home with a chance to take the lead in the SEC West. Running back T.J. Yeldon could be limited after an ankle sprain suffered at LSU.

3. Auburn (7-2, 4-2)

Up next: at Georgia, Saturday, Nov. 15
The skinny: Tigers defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson must plug some holes and fix whatever has ailed the Auburn defense of late, and Georgia's offense isn't an easy solution. This could be another high-scoring affair, which Auburn has gotten used to the last few weeks.

4. Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2)

Up next: at Arkansas, Saturday, Nov. 22
The skinny: The Rebels get the week off before finishing with two SEC West games, against the Razorbacks and rival Mississippi State.

5. Georgia (7-2, 5-2)

Up next: vs. Auburn, Saturday, Nov. 15
The skinny: Mark Richt's team gets Todd Gurley back this week in the offensive backfield, but it's the Georgia defense that is the greater concern, especially against Auburn.

6. LSU (7-3, 3-3)

Up next: at Arkansas, Saturday, Nov. 15
The skinny: LSU's front seven on defense will be challenged to slow down the Arkansas running game, which operates behind the biggest offensive line in the SEC. But with three losses, the Tigers are out of the league's title hunt.

7. Texas A&M (7-3, 3-3)

Up next: vs. Missouri, Saturday, Nov. 25
The skinny: Despite the worse record, give the Aggies the edge here over Missouri. Texas A&M's three losses have come at the hands of three of the SEC's top four teams.

8. Missouri (7-2, 4-1)

Up next: at Texas A&M, Saturday, Nov. 15
The skinny: The Tigers can go to the SEC title game for the second year in a row, but are under pressure to win out to do so.

9. Florida (5-3, 4-3)

Up next: vs. South Carolina, Saturday, Nov. 15
The skinny: The Gators have won two straight SEC games and have found an offensive identity. And at least mathematically, they're still alive in the SEC East race.

10. Kentucky (5-5, 2-5)

Up next: at Tennessee, Saturday, Nov. 15
The skinny: Quarterback Patrick Towles is one of the SEC's most promising young quarterbacks. Nevertheless, his team is on a four-game losing streak that has included two dismal offensive performances.

11. Tennessee (4-5, 1-4)

Up next: vs. Kentucky, Saturday, Nov. 15
The skinny: The Volunteers are hunting for a low-tier bowl at this point in the season, as are the Wildcats. The loser is far more likely to stay home for bowl season.

12. South Carolina (4-5, 2-5)

Up next: at Florida, Saturday, Nov. 15
The skinny: Offensively, the Gamecocks should be higher on this list, but a just-plain-awful defense has burned them time and again.

13. Arkansas (4-5, 0-5)

Up next: vs. LSU, Saturday, Nov. 15
The skinny: Just the kind of game Bret Bielema likes: A line-of-scrimmage battle that will be won or lost up front. Is this Arkansas' day to finally win an SEC game under its second-year coach?

14. Vanderbilt (3-7, 0-6)

Up next: at Mississippi State, Saturday, Nov. 22
The skinny: Vanderbilt is looking at an eight-loss season at a minimum, and hasn't shown many signs of improvement.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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