How the West Was Won

Beer, shakers and food, along with hats and anything else Ole Miss students could find were tossed in the air as the seconds fell off the clock. Security on the field couldn’t hold the fans back and often assisted them onto the field as Ole Miss upset Alabama 23-17, secured by a late interception.

Alabama’s dreams of earning a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff were dealt a crushing blow.

The goal posts were the next to fall.

Two months later, Alabama stands on top of the SEC West, a win away from surely taking the No. 1 seed in the playoff.

The road to Atlanta wasn’t certain. It was out of Alabama’s hands. For a month, it waited for Ole Miss to lose twice. Then it was Alabama’s to decide.

But it wasn’t easy.

(Note: Rankings used before Oct. 28 are from the AP Poll before the first College Football Playoff Ranking came out)

1. What: vs. Florida

When: Sept. 20, 2014

Result: W – 42-21

SEC Record: 1-0

Notes: Florida scored 21 points off turnovers, but Alabama cruised to a 42-21 win to open SEC play. Alabama still had work to do. The Crimson Tide had three fumbles and lost all three. Amari Cooper had his first career 200-plus yard game. He had three touchdowns.

Undefeated teams in the West: Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M

To win the West: Alabama needs to keep winning. An undefeated conference campaign sends the Crimson Tide to Atlanta.

2. What: at No. 11 Ole Miss

When: Oct. 4, 2014

Result: L – 17-23

SEC Record: 1-1

Notes: Alabama suffered its first loss to Ole Miss in 10 years. With the uncertainty of the College Football Playoff and the number of teams unbeaten in the SEC, the season seemed all but over.

Undefeated teams in the West: Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss

To win the West: Alabama can’t lose another game. Ole Miss needs to lose twice. If Alabama doesn’t lose another game and Ole Miss only loses one game, the Rebels will have the head-to-head win and will go to Atlanta over the Crimson Tide.

3. What: at Arkansas

When: Oct. 11, 2014

Result: W - 14-13

SEC Record: 2-1

Notes: It wasn’t the prettiest win, but Alabama got it done, due in large part to a blocked extra point. The Crimson Tide came back to win by one. The game marked the first time this season Alabama recovered its own fumble. The win, like the loss to Ole Miss, was capped by an interception – this time Alabama’s secondary came up with the ball.

Undefeated teams in the West: Mississippi State, Ole Miss

To win the West: Alabama can’t lose another game. Ole Miss needs to lose twice.

4. What: vs. No. 21 Texas A&M

When: Oct. 18, 2014

Result: W – 59-0

SEC Record: 3-1

Notes: Any doubts about the offense and ability to score were thrown out the window as Alabama played its most complete game all season. Texas A&M’s high-powered offense was stopped by Alabama and didn’t get a first down until late in the first half.

Undefeated teams in the West: Mississippi State, Ole Miss

To win the West: Alabama can’t lose another game. Ole Miss needs to lose twice.

5. What: at Tennessee

When: Oct. 25, 2014

Result: W – 34-20

SEC Record: 4-1

Notes: In offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s return to Tennessee, Alabama made it count. Blake Sims connected with Amari Cooper for an 80-yard touchdown on the Crimson Tide’s first play from scrimmage. Cooper caught a 41-yard touchdown pass later in the first quarter and set the school record for yards receiving in a game with 224.

Undefeated teams in the West: Mississippi State

To win the West: Alabama can’t lose another game. Ole Miss needs to lose again.

6. What: at No. 16 LSU

When: Nov. 8, 2014

Result: W – 20-13 (OT)

SEC Record: 5-1

Notes: Down three with 50 seconds left, Alabama made an impossible drive capped with a field goal to send it to overtime. DeAndrew White caught the game-winning touchdown, and Alabama’s defense shut down the Tigers in overtime.

Undefeated teams in the West: Mississippi State

To win the West: Alabama has to beat Mississippi State and Auburn. Ole Miss with two losses no longer has a head-to-head edge over the Crimson Tide if Alabama finishes with one loss.

7. What: vs. No. 1 Mississippi State

When: Nov. 15, 2014

Result: W – 25-20

SEC Record: 6-1

Notes: Alabama’s defense dominated. It held the Bulldogs to three at the half. After the offense came through with a final drive to put the game out of reach, the Crimson Tide allowed one more score in garbage time in the 25-20 win. It was the first time Alabama beat the No. 1-ranked team at home.

Undefeated teams in the West: none

To win the West: Alabama has to beat Auburn. If Mississippi State beats Ole Miss and Auburn beats Alabama, the Bulldogs will go to Atlanta.

8. What: vs. No. 15 Auburn

When: Nov. 29, 2014

Result: W – 55-44

SEC Record: 7-1

Notes: It was historic. Never before had 99 points been scored in an Iron Bowl. Never before had a receiver put up 224 yards. Blake Sims and Amari Cooper led a comeback in the second half to take the game. Cooper had 224 yards receiving and three touchdowns on 13 catches. After throwing three interceptions, Sims went 10-for-12 for 183 yards.

Undefeated teams in the West: none

To win the West: Nothing. Ole Miss beat Mississippi State. Alabama won the West before the Iron Bowl kicked off. 

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