There is a handful of accepted football realities for the Southeastern Conference and its followers.
Mondays are generally a tough day for league commissioner Mike Slive, who this week had to review Brandon Spikes giving Georgia running back Washaun Ealey the business at the bottom of a pile in the Gators' lopsided win Saturday. Slive concluded that Florida's decision to suspend Spikes for the first half of Saturday's game against Vandy was enough, proving that actual jabs are not as punishable as verbal jabs in the SEC.
Bye weeks are needed for the fan bases, too. Ask any Alabama fan who has been sweating through the Crimson Tide's 8-0 start that included a couple of close calls, culminating in a close 12-10 win over Tennessee 10 days ago.
The players spend off weeks getting physically healthy; fans spend them getting mentally well. Much like their beloved Crimson, Tide supporters got to take a breath last weekend, enjoy a pressure-free Saturday and even speak to their spouses and kids. Good times.
The sweet wins almost always are overshadowed by the disappointing losses, especially as the season matures. As enjoyable as Saturday was for Tennessee fans and Auburn fans, the big Halloween wins magnify home hiccups against UCLA and Kentucky, respectively.
Seriously, most Volunteers fans would have accepted 4-4 heading into four winnable games down the stretch, but the spanking UT handed South Carolina gives that UCLA loss an almost unacceptable level of disproportion.
Absence truly makes the heart grow fonder, a fact that will become even more apparent during the final month of the regular season. In fact, 2008 bowl absences for Tennessee, Arkansas and Auburn will make them more attractive than you might think to potential bowl suitors this year.
If the Vols continue to surge toward the finish line -- a key component to landing a better bowl than a team's record may suggest -- a New Year's Day Bowl game becomes likely.
Here's one guess, team by team, where the SEC likely will fill its bevy of bowl allotments. The league has nine tie-ins and would fill a 10th if two SEC schools land spots in BCS bowls:
n Alabama (8-0): A win Saturday over LSU secures a spot in the SEC title game against Florida, with the SEC winner headed to the BCS title game and the loser going to the Sugar Bowl.
Bowl pick: Sugar Bowl
n Arkansas (4-4): If the Razorbacks win out -- a tall order with a trip to LSU to close the year, but not out of the question -- the Cotton Bowl will be the spot. Seriously.
Bowl pick: Liberty Bowl
n Auburn (6-3): With Furman visiting Saturday, a seventh win is almost a given for the Tigers. Beating Alabama at season's end seems highly unlikely, so the difference between the Chick-fil-A and the Cotton bowls is how Auburn does against Georgia on Nov. 14.
Bowl pick: Cotton Bowl
n Florida (8-0): The Gators' spot in the SEC title game is secure, and they figure to be double-digit point favorites in each game until then.
Bowl pick: BCS national title game
n Georgia (4-4): Another team that has a wide range of destinations from New Year's Day to Nashville to who knows where. Right now, that last one seems more likely than the former, though.
Bowl pick: Music City Bowl
n Kentucky (4-4): If UK can get healthy and can find a way to win at Georgia, Atlanta could be in the works.
Bowl pick: Papajohns.com
n LSU (7-1): These Tigers likely will be the first team to know their destination. Unless they find a way to beat Alabama, LSU is securely the No. 3 team in the league.
Bowl pick: Capital One Bowl
n Ole Miss (5-3): The Rebels, who have severely underachieved, are one part of the biggest swing game in the bowl shakedown. A win against Tennessee on Nov. 14 in Oxford, Miss., likely means an 8-4 finish. That win, though, looks more doubtful by the day. The Rebels' fall from grace and the dejection of the fan base make them a dangerous pick for bowl organizers.
Bowl pick: Independence
n Mississippi State (4-5): A long shot at this point, considering the Bulldogs must win two of their final three games to be eligible. After an open week, MSU has Alabama at home, goes to Arkansas and finishes with Ole Miss in Starkville.
Bowl pick: Not this year
n South Carolina (6-3): A tough closing stretch was made much tougher after a miserable trip to Knoxville last Saturday. The Gamecocks finish at Arkansas, at home against Florida and at Clemson.
Bowl pick: Chick-fil-A
n Tennessee (4-4): A month ago the Vols were 2-3, coming off a loss to Auburn and praying for any possible bowl possibilities. Now they are staring at a sweepable November and packing their bags for Florida.
Bowl pick: Outback Bowl
n Vanderbilt (2-7): The Commodores are out of bowl contention, putting at least one more thing back into the relatively accepted realities of the SEC.