With one Small kick and a rather sizable upset, Texas A&M caused quite a shakeup in the SEC West.
The Aggies' 41-38 upset last Saturday night of Alabama — the reigning Southeastern Conference and national champion was unranked and riding a 19-game winning streak at the time — on Seth Small's field goal opened the door for the Crimson Tide's division rivals. It's not just a parade of teams lining up neatly behind the Tide any more in the West standings.
While Alabama (5-1, 2-1) seems to remain the team to beat and a contender for the College Football Playoff, the team's margin for error has grown slimmer. Coach Nick Saban had already warned the Tide of the potential pitfalls.
"He said it before it even happened that we were going to get hit in the mouth if we prepared the way we were preparing," Alabama defensive lineman DJ Dale said.
Four SEC West teams are deadlocked with one league loss. Auburn, Mississippi State and No. 13 Ole Miss are all 1-1 in SEC games. And the aura of invincibility around Alabama has been knocked off, at least temporarily.
This weekend will provide another shakeup, one way or another. Mississippi State found itself in a better spot in the West after an open date, but coach Mike Leach doesn't put much stock in Alabama losing to an unranked team.
The Bulldogs (3-2) host the fifth-ranked Tide on Saturday.
"The rankings are all out of whack," Leach told reporters. "Anybody that thinks there are 30 teams better than Texas A&M is out of their minds. Someday, when I am in your position, I'll go right down the list and tell you which ones.
"You had two good teams play, and the home team won. (UCLA men's basketball coach) John Wooden used to say: 'Never be surprised when the home team wins.'"
Two of the three two-loss West teams are ranked: No. 21 Texas A&M (4-2) and No. 17 Arkansas (4-2), which hosts Auburn (3-1) on Saturday. The SEC's only two unbeaten teams — No. 1 Georgia (6-0, 4-0) and No. 11 Kentucky (6-0, 4-0) — reside in the East and will meet Saturday.
The West, though, has the potential for more chaos with other teams gaining hope from the upset in College Station.
Ole Miss steps out of the division to face resurgent Tennessee (4-2, 2-1) this weekend after staying in that one-loss group with a 52-51 win over Arkansas. First things first.
"We'll focus on that when the time comes, but right now we're just focusing on going 1-0 this week, and that's it," Rebels wide receiver Braylon Sanders said.
Auburn offensive lineman Keiondre Jones offered a similar response for his team.
"It's eye opening to see that everything is wide open," Jones said. "But yeah, 1-0 for us this week, 1-0 the week after that, the week after that. Every day — that's what we need to focus on right now.
"We're looking at the bigger picture, but you have to go 1-0 every day to get to the big picture."
Here's what the road looks like for the SEC West hopefuls.
Alabama: The Tide obviously aren't the seemingly unbeatable team of last year's national title run, and a few injuries haven't helped. However, Saban's teams have been adept at bouncing back in the past and improving from defeat, and there's no questioning the talent. Alabama has four straight home games after Mississippi State, hosting Tennessee, LSU and Arkansas along with a nonconference game against New Mexico State. Then comes a visit to in-state rival Auburn.
Auburn: The Tigers' only two losses have come to Georgia (last Saturday, when the Bulldogs were ranked second) and Penn State (which dropped to seventh this week after its first loss of the season), but they also had to mount a late comeback to beat Georgia State in coach Bryan Harsin's first season. The Tigers visit Arkansas this weekend and also host Ole Miss on Oct. 30 after an open date and end the regular season against the Tide.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have already had four games decided by four or fewer points, including both losses, and their 26-22 win at Texas A&M could wind up looming large for both teams. The Bulldogs still have four games against ranked teams, starting with Alabama. Then comes Kentucky, road trips to Arkansas and Auburn and the Egg Bowl rivalry game against Ole Miss.
Ole Miss: The offense is potent as ever, but it's hard to overlook how the defense struggled against Arkansas, especially giving up 37 second-half points in the one-point win against the Razorbacks last Saturday. "We had felt so much progress in the offseason, spring and then fall through a number of games, and then that second half kind of had the same feeling as a year ago," said Rebels second-year coach Lane Kiffin, whose team lost to Alabama to open its SEC slate. Other notable games remaining against West foes include hosting Texas A&M on Nov. 13 and road trips to Auburn and Mississippi State.