Of the 14 SEC stocks, two seem like great investments. The other 12 all face considerable questions after Week 4. Let's go to the big board:
ALABAMA -- WHOOMP! POW! BAM! WHAP! BOOM!
It's simply not worth discussing Alabama stock most weeks. After Weeks 2 and 3, Alabama didn't merit special attention. After a 59-0 tsunami against Vanderbilt, the Tide's status as the best team in the SEC and a near-lock for the College Football Playoff are almost impossible to doubt.
AUBURN -- Crushing Missouri does not make Auburn special. Bigger games await -- more on AU's next game in the Mississippi State section.
LSU -- Barely scraping by Syracuse at home will do exactly nothing to reduce fears that Ed Orgeron is not up to the task in Baton Rouge. No one should be too surprised if Troy gives LSU a game in Week 5.
OLE MISS -- The Rebels were idle in Week 4... which means they didn't lose. They will in Week 5. They will face Alabama without Hugh Freeze, Chad Kelly, and Evan Engram.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Comfortable at home, unsettled on the road -- this applies to plenty of NFL teams (Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings) as well as college teams, but it's to be expected for a group which finished the previous season under .500 and, while talented, doesn't know how good it can be.
Playing Georgia on the road in Week 4 could have reinforced everything good about Mississippi State from its 30-point thumping of LSU in Week 3. Instead, the occasion overwhelmed Dan Mullen's team, which lost all of the confidence it displayed a week earlier in a home game.
Now that MSU has been baptized in the waters of an SEC road game, Mullen's men get a second chance to win a game of consequence away from Starkville. Their contest at Auburn is a substantial moment of revelation in the early portion of the SEC season. It will give us a more defined idea of what the Bulldogs -- and Tigers -- are. If Mississippi State rebounds and wins, the Georgia game will be seen as a teachable moment (and also show that Georgia is very good). MSU will be in very good position to finish 6-2 in the SEC, since it has a win over LSU in its pocket and would be likely to lose to Alabama -- and no other team -- the rest of the way. That would enable Team Mullen to gain the third-best record in the SEC (behind Bama and Georgia) and therefore be in the hunt for a New Year's Six bid.
Auburn is playing for a similar goal (NY6, being third in the SEC behind Alabama and UGA). Gus Malzahn also needs this game to quiet his critics and keep his seat cold (or at least lukewarm). If he and his players can't successfully defend Jordan-Hare Stadium, the teeth of the SEC West schedule lies ahead. The future could become very bloody for Gus, and his situation on the Plains could become a lot more untenable.
TEXAS A&M and ARKANSAS -- Let's take these two teams as a package deal, since they played each other in Week 4. Kevin Sumlin avoided a loss which would have put him on a scalding hot seat and the near precipice of a pink slip. That's good, but his situation is still critical. The road to nine wins is still a difficult one. The Aggies' margin for error remains small. The only benefit of this win in JerryWorld is that a bad situation didn't become worse.
Arkansas, on the other hand, is in very deep trouble. The SEC schedule will only become less forgiving. Reaching a .500 record will now be difficult for the Hogs -- at least to the extent that it can't be seen as a certainty.
All in all, this game cranked up the "hot seat-O-meter" -- Sumlin's 2017 seat is still flaming, and now Bret Bielema's status after the end of the 2018 season (Arkansas appears stuck with him through next season due to financial limitations) appears to be white-hot. The smart money says that neither man will coach in the SEC at the start of 2019.
MISSOURI -- Rock. Bottom. There's nothing else to say.
VANDERBILT -- Alabama was never the game to circle for the Commodores. The Florida-Georgia double stack, coming up next, will determine how successful the Dores' 2017 season will be.
SOUTH CAROLINA -- The offense needs to find alternatives to the injured Deebo Samuel. It didn't against Louisiana Tech ( a team Mississippi State eviscerated), and if it doesn't in the coming weeks, this season will spiral out of control for Will Muschamp.
TENNESSEE -- This upcoming Georgia game feels like a last stand for Butch Jones, but it's not necessarily a must-win. The bigger point of emphasis for the Vols is not to win, but to look competent, like a well-coached team. If Tennessee plays well and loses, fans will be able to accept that. UT backers will be able to carry hope into October. That matters, because anyone and everyone around the program knows that this team isn't nearly as skilled as the 2016 group. If people in and around Knoxville know that this team is coached well, Jones can stay for 2018 and get one more chance to make the puzzle fit.
If that competence doesn't emerge against Georgia, Jones has no chance of getting out of Smokey's doghouse. If the Vols get torched by 35 points, the idea that Jones could get fired before the end of the regular season (even before November) would hardly rate as a shock.
FLORIDA and KENTUCKY -- Let's take these teams as a bundle as well. They are both equally good... which is a negative commentary on the Gators and the Wildcats. Florida looked awful in the process of falling behind 27-14, and Kentucky looked awful in doing what it has done for 31 years: Find a way to lose to Florida.
Give Florida points for pluck and determination and all those things, but Kentucky failed to line up properly on multiple occasions, leaving Florida receivers uncovered. Leading by 13 after Florida inserted Luke Del Rio into the game at quarterback, the Wildcats' secondary allowed a long ball on a trick play, failing to play center field on defense. The basic nature of Kentucky's mistakes is impossible to ignore, and with South Carolina struggling against Louisiana Tech, Kentucky's win over the Gamecocks is much easier to see as a negative commentary on the loser more than a positive reflection on the winner.
Florida improved its place in the SEC East standings, but not its stock as a team. Kentucky dramatically lowered its stock value at a time when only two SEC teams can be viewed as blue-chip stocks.
Alabama is one. The other?
GEORGIA -- The Dawgs keep answering questions the right way. One can note the mediocrity of the league as a cautionary point about Kirby Smart's team, but if Georgia takes care of business every week, isn't that the mark of a very good team? Thumping Mississippi State -- not merely beating Dan Mullen's team -- sends a loud and clear message that the SEC is not Alabama and 13 dwarfs. It's Alabama at 1, Georgia at No. 2, and the 12 dwarfs. Georgia stock is highly valuable right now. Winning at Tennessee would affirm that this team is ready for a New Year's Six bowl bid.