Alabama (10-1, 6-1 in SEC)
Next game: vs. Auburn, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS
Riding high: The Crimson Tide was barely tested until they played Texas A&M and appeared destined to make their second consecutive appearance in the BCS championship game.
Feeling blue: Texas A&M took a shocking 20-0 lead with 41 seconds left in the first quarter and went on to defeat Alabama 29-24. A fourth-quarter fumble sealed the Tide's fate.
Big surprise: Alabama lost a huge chunk of its defense in the 2012 NFL Draft, but the Tide's defenders have been stout. They're tied with Notre Dame for No. 1 in scoring defense and No. 2 in total defense.
Name to remember: Amari Cooper leads Alabama with 40 catches for 658 yards and six receiving TDs as a freshman.
Arkansas (4-7, 2-5)
Next game: vs. LSU, 2:30 p.m. Friday, CBS
Riding high: Cobi Hamilton has been one of the few bright spots for the Razorbacks. He had 10 catches and set a SEC record with 303 receiving yards on Sept. 22, but Rutgers beat Arkansas.
Feeling blue: Arkansas rolled out to a 28-7 lead, and QB Tyler Wilson was knocked out of what turned out to be a 34-31 overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 8.
Big surprise: Think back to the spring. That's when former coach Bobby Petrino acknowledged his affair with Jessica Dorrell. He was fired, and John L. Smith was selected as interim.
Name(s) to remember: TCU's Gary Patterson and Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville are helping power the coaching rumor mill.
Auburn (3-8, 0-7)
Next game: at Alabama, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS
Riding high: Auburn held a 10-9 lead over LSU into the second half of their game Sept. 22, but the Tigers kicked a third-quarter field goal and sent Auburn to a five-game losing streak.
Feeling blue: Barring a miracle in the Iron Bowl, the Tigers appear destined to go winless in the SEC for the first time since 1980. That happened to be Doug Barfield's last season as coach.
Big surprise: The inability of Auburn's QBs to generate offense has forced coach Gene Chizik to start Clint Moseley, Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace. They have combined for 13 interceptions.
Name to remember: LB Cassanova McKinzy is a freshman who had 12 tackles in his first collegiate start against Vanderbilt.
Florida (10-1, 7-1)
Next game: at Florida State, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC
Riding high: The Gators did everything right when they blew out South Carolina 44-11 on Oct. 20. Jeff Driskel threw four TD passes as they stopped a two-game losing streak to the Gamecocks.
Feeling blue: That feeling didn't last long. Florida had six turnovers in a 17-9 loss to Georgia the next week, their only loss.
Big surprise: Florida bounced back from last year's 7-6 record with remarkable speed. If not for that terrible performance against Georgia, the Gators would be in the SEC Championship game and in line for the national title, which remains a possibility.
Name to remember: Sophomore P Kyle Christy ranks fourth in the nation and leads the SEC with a 46.3 average.
Kentucky (2-9, 0-7)
Next game: at Tennessee, 12:21 p.m. Saturday, WPCH
Riding high: This week might be the apex of its season. The Wildcats are coming off a win over Samford and feel like they can send fired coach Joker Phillips out a winner.
Feeling blue: Eight consecutive losses ruined the season and Phillips' tenure. He was fired after a 40-0 loss to Vanderbilt on Nov. 3, but stayed on to coach the final three games.
Big surprise: LB Avery Williamson had 49 tackles in 2011 without starting, but he leads the SEC with 128 tackles, which ranks third nationally.
Name to remember: RB Josh Clemons (Whitewater) led Kentucky in rushing as a freshman, but injured his knee in 2011. He redshirted this season and will have three years of eligibility left.
LSU (9-2, 5-2)
Next game: at Arkansas, 2:30 p.m. Friday, CBS
Riding high: LSU looked as if it was about to beat No. 1 Alabama for the second consecutive year, leading the Crimson Tide into the final minute. Even though the Tigers lost, QB Zach Mettenberger played his best game.
Feeling blue: The offense generated only 200 yards, including 42 yards rushing and no TDs in a 14-6 loss at Florida.
Big surprise: CB Tyrann Mathieu was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year, but was kicked off the team in August for repeated violations of LSU's substance-abuse policy.
Name to remember: Freshman RB Jeremy Hill didn't play in three of LSU's first four games, but he has carried the Tigers lately. He leads the team with 554 yards.
Mississippi State (8-3, 4-3)
Next game: at Ole Miss, 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU
Riding high: The Bulldogs won seven consecutive to start the season and rose to No. 11 in the AP poll behind QB Tyler Russell and inspired defense.
Feeling blue: Then came three consecutive losses to Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU in which they gave up an average of 37.7 points per game, dropping them out of the poll.
Big surprise: Russell has set school records for completions (201), yards (2,523) and TD passes (21).
Name to remember: Redshirt freshman LB Benardrick McKinney has 87 tackles, tied for second among freshmen in the FBS.
Missouri (5-6, 2-5)
Next game: at Texas A&M, 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2
Riding high: There was a massive buildup to Missouri's first season in the SEC, with the school, the city of Columbia, Mo., and the state of Missouri ushering in this new era.
Feeling blue: With about 1 minute left in the third quarter of Missouri's first SEC game, Georgia took the lead for good, wiping out the Tigers' chances at making a smashing debut.
Big surprise: The long line of injuries that wiped out depth along the offensive line and damaged QB James Franklin's junior season, leading fans to question his toughness.
Name to remember: Sophomore Marcus Murphy missed last season with a shoulder injury, but has returned three punts and one kickoff for TDs this season.
Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5)
Next game: vs. Mississippi State, 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU
Riding high: Bryson Rose's last-second field goal gave the Rebels a 30-27 victory over Arkansas and their fifth win, a remarkable achievement in coach Hugh Freeze's first season.
Feeling blue: The win over Arkansas came Oct. 27, and Ole Miss is stuck on five wins. The Rebels have lost three consecutive to Georgia, Vanderbilt and LSU, losing last-minutes leads in the past two games.
Big surprise: Freeze has had an amazing impact, injecting enthusiasm into a program that won two games in 2011.
Name to remember: At 5 foot 11, 205 pounds, freshman LB Denzel Nkemdiche (Grayson) is undersized, but he's shown that likes to hit. He leads the Rebels with 75 tackles.
South Carolina (9-2, 6-2)
Next game: at Clemson, 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
Riding high: Leaving the field after their 35-7 defeat of Georgia, the Gamecocks looked as if they were on their way to the SEC East title and the league's title game.
Feeling blue: Those same players were huddled on the field praying for RB Marcus Lattimore after watching him go down for the second consecutive season.
Big surprise: QB Connor Shaw's durability has been a huge part of the Gamecocks' success. He's missed a game and has been beat up, but has stayed in the lineup.
Name to remember: Highly recruited out of Stephenson, freshman Mike Davis is the RB of the future, especially if Lattimore's career is over. He's averaging 5.8 yards per carry.
Tennessee (4-7, 0-7)
Next game: vs. Kentucky, 12:21 p.m. Saturday, WPCH
Riding high: Preseason talk about QB Tyler Bray and his weapons had Tennessee receiving votes for the Top 25. The Volunteers then won three of their first four games.
Feeling blue: This disastrous season has resulted in coach Derek Dooley's firing. The Volunteers are 1-14 in their past 15 SEC games, leading to Dooley's dismissal after a 41-18 loss to Vanderbilt.
Big surprise: Dooley hired Sal Sunseri from Alabama to revamp the defense, but this is a flip gone bad. The Volunteers are 110th in total defense and 111th in the nation in scoring defense.
Name to remember: LB A.J. Johnson (Gainesville) continues to shine, despite little help on defense. The sophomore ranks second in the SEC with 124 tackles.
Texas A&M (9-2, 5-2)
Next game: vs. Missouri, 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2
Riding high: The Aggies pulled off the biggest upset of the season with a 29-24 victory at Tuscaloosa. They jumped to a 20-0 lead and hung on to create BCS waves.
Feeling blue: Texas A&M was supposed to open the season against Louisiana Tech, but that game was postponed because of Hurricane Isaac. That meant the Aggies opened against Florida, which gave them a dose of the SEC in a 20-17 victory.
Big surprise: Johnny Manziel didn't win the QB job until August, but has become a national sensation. He's the only freshman in history to pass for 3,000 and rush for 1,000 in a season.
Name to remember: Manziel might win the Heisman Trophy this season and would have another season of eligibility since he redshirted last year. He ranks second in the nation in total offense (378.3 yards).
Vanderbilt (7-4, 5-3)
Next game: at Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU
Riding high: Take your pick. A five-game winning streak. Becoming bowl eligible. Winning seven games. Beating Tennessee.
Feeling blue: The Commodores lost three of their first four games, including a 48-3 defeat at Georgia, which is considered their worst performance.
Big surprise: Narrow victories over Missouri, Auburn and Ole Miss were games the Commodores most likely would have lost in the past. They scored a TD with 52 seconds left to beat the Rebels.
Name to remember: Coach James Franklin has revamped and reinvigorated the Vanderbilt program in less than two years. At 40 years old, he's a rising star.
About the Author
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com