The big, bad SEC suddenly looks human again.
No. 5 Tennessee, the team that made the whole playoff scene more interesting with their potential to unseat the Power 5 conference champion on Qualifier Day without even winning their division, is over. Caput. An afterthought in the playoff race after an embarrassing 63-38 loss to unranked South Carolina with four losses.
With the addition of Tennessee to Alabama – Alabama! – In a club with two losses and outside the SEC championship, the likelihood of several teams making it to the top four in the conference has decreased dramatically. The most realistic scenario is one team: No. 1 Georgia. If No. 6 LSU fails in their conference title game, the SEC will likely have two teams as LSU will become the first 2-loss team to finish in the top four after victories over Alabama and Georgia, and one loss, the Bulldogs still have a shot at second in the SEC after breaking off the field as the committee’s No. 1 team in November.
Tennessee’s loss was a huge advantage for USC, Clemson and the game-losing state of Ohio-Michigan – all contenders who no longer have to worry about competing with the Vols for a top four spot on Selection Day. With the SEC champion, Big Ten champion, and undefeated TCU unofficial lock to finish in the top four, last place remains open.
In addition to shrinking the SEC field, here are four key lessons learned from the tumultuous 12th week that will impact how the committee votes on Selection Day: