It looks like we had the wrong political race coming down to two competitors and one state.
It wasn't America, for president, but it might be Alabama in football.
There is little doubt the Southeastern Conference will finish the season as the nation’s top conference again but, for a more accurate look, one must dig deeper into the soup.
The SEC, this year, can be divided into distinct compartments.
The distance between the SEC West and East divisions is the Gulf of Hormuz.
The West is the BEST division among the five power conferences—the East is the WORST.
You can make this statement analytically, using statistics and algorithms, or by watching Missouri play at South Carolina.
USA Today ratings whiz Jeff Sagarin ranks the power conferences based on divisions because he knows lumping 14-team leagues together presents a distorted picture. And today I'll take his predictor numbers over any I've seen in the last 24 hours.
Why should SEC East members Missouri and Vanderbilt get credit for being part of something special in the west…when they’re not?[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
The SEC West and East are related like Manhattan is to Hoboken. They are close in proximity but not in real estate value.
Ranking by divisions makes sense because only the 10-team Big 12 plays a true round-robin format under one roof. Some schools in the SEC don’t play each other for years.
This is how Sagarin’s conference ratings can weekly reveal true disparity. Don’t ask me how he derives his points values. In terms of brain smarts, Sagarin is the SEC West (M.I.T.) to Rankman’s SEC East (CS Fullerton).
1: SEC West (86.49)
2: Pac 12 North (79.09)
3: Pac 12 South (78.45)
4: Big Ten East (77.40)
5: ACC Atlantic (77.29)
6: Big 12 (77.19)
7: ACC Coastal (76.35)
8: Big Ten West (74.74)
9: SEC East (71.95)
Isn’t this so “nerdy” for Rankman?
The bottom line is the SEC can be thought of as two leagues and now, two teams, from one state.
That state is, ta da, Alabama.
What a shock. Alabama’s 10-0 win at LSU last Saturday night helped uncomplicate the system.
The SEC is essentially left with two schools that can make the four-team playoff: undefeated and almighty Alabama and two-loss Auburn.
A spot in the playoff will probably be decided Nov. 26 at Tuscaloosa in the Iron Bowl.
This is just like the good old recent days, when Alabama or Auburn won the BCS title in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Auburn then slipped up by only making the title game in 2013, having the nerve to lose to Florida State in the final seconds. Alabama restored order last year by winning the title.
Is it Auburn's turn again?
Alabama is in stout shape. If it stays unbeaten and loses to Auburn, the Crimson Tide might still warrant a playoff spot as a non-division winner based on what happens in the four other power leagues.
If Auburn loses to Alabama, or at Georgia this week, the Tigers are out.
Even Alabama and Auburn, though, as a SEC West couplet, are as different as (Three Dog) Night and (Green) Day.
The Crimson Tide is 9-0 and the most dominating team in America. Alabama bum rushed us out of the gate with an emphatic win over USC. Other than trailing Ole Miss early, the Crimson Tide has been uber-super.
Auburn, conversely, staggered to a 1-2 start and held on to defeat LSU only because Les Miles’ team didn’t get the game-winning touchdown score off in time to beat the clock.
Miles lost his job the next day, but it could have been Gus Malzahn. That game seemed to shock Auburn back to life and the Tigers have won five straight.
They have worked all the way back to “striking distance” in the college playoff. In fact, you could argue Auburn controls its destiny in becoming the second two-loss team to win the national title. LSU did it in 2007.
Auburn closes at Georgia this week, followed by a Nov. 19 breather against Alabama A&M before playing real Alabama A&M (Awesome and Mighty).
Meanwhile, the SEC East limps on. Florida, coming off a bad loss at Arkansas, is 7-2 but needs mountains moved to have any playoff shot.
Not that we're saying it can't happen, but the Gators face a brutal closing schedule that includes games at LSU and Florida State before a possible SEC title game against Alabama.
Florida only has a chance because it still has a chance to beat Alabama. But even that chance became slimmer Tuesday when the College Football Playoff selection committee dropped the Gators out of its top 25. Florida is No. 16 in the USA Today coaches' poll, which used to be a part of the BCS system that chose the top two schools. (Florida is No. 22 in the AP).
So that’s the SEC update from World Headquarters, Alabama, where the Muscle Shows down at Muscle Shoals.[/membership]