The approaching weekend says all you need to know about the divisional divide in America’s Greatest Football Conference.
The SEC West is laying out a spectacular tailgate spread that features No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama, Arkansas at rising Auburn and Mississippi at Coach O’s rejuvenated LSU.
The SEC East is, basically, in duck and cover mode. Florida, Georgia and Tennessee have byes while Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are looking to pad their accounts against a middling lot known as Middle Tennessee, Massachusetts and Tennessee State.
Kentucky hosts doormat Mississippi State in what could be the East division’s best chance against the West this season.
That’s right, one of these divisions is not like the other.
The SEC East is connected to the West only in the way Tommie Aaron is connected to Hank.
They are related, raised under the same roof, but not the same. Tommie and Hank combined to become the greatest home run hitting brother duo in baseball history. The Aarons combined for 768 dingers, with Hank accounting for 755.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Divisional swings can go in cycles, we know, but the rift between the SEC West and East is getting closer to Jimmy vs. Billy Carter.
The East is dragging down the SEC’s real estate value and, while it’s not a problem now, it could sully the league’s College Football Playoff portfolio.
The West is the SEC’s mansion on the hill, all a glitter in gold. It boasts the best and brightest teams, coaches and quarterbacks. To put this in playground equipment terms: the SEC is all teeter, no totter.
The West has two teams in the AP top 10 this week and six in the top 25.
It celebrates undefeated Alabama and Texas A&M, but also schools on the rise in emergent Auburn, Louisiana State and Arkansas, not to mention Mississippi, the best 3-3 team in the country. The only anchor weight is Mississippi State, which is 2-4 overall and lost at home to South Alabama.
The East is sucking off the West, earning the same amount of broadcast revenue while putting out an inferior product.
The best the East can offer at this moment is Florida, which is 5-1 and likely remains ranked No. 15 because of Hurricane Matthew, which forced the postponement of the LSU game some think the Gators didn’t really want to play.
Florida’s best strategy seems to be “deferment.” It is not playing for a second weekend as it awaits the Oct. 29 showdown against Georgia.
The Gators, if they could,” might want to “bye week” their way to the East title. In working to postpone the LSU game, they seemed to be saying “Give us 10 more minutes--we’re not ready yet!”
Florida was limping with injuries and missing its starting quarterback, Luke Del Rio, out with a knee injury suffered Sept. 17, who returned to rusty action last week by throwing three interceptions in a win over Missouri.
“Three picks, that’s awful,” Del Rio said. “You can’t do that.”
Florida's hopes, though, may ultimately go "bye-bye" as it now has to close with murderous finishing games at Arkansas, LSU and Florida State.
The gulf between West and East is real. It is, according to the Jeff Sagarin Ratings, by far the largest divisional divide in college football.
Sagarin produces weekly conference ratings by division, not conference. He has the SEC West at No. 1 this week, about a Secretariat win ahead of the next division—the ACC Atlantic.
The margin in his metric calculation is a whopping 87.05 to 78. 93.
The Pac 12 North is third, followed by the Pac 12 South. Then it’s the Big 12 at No. 5, followed by the ACC Coastal.
Notice a division, so far, conspicuously missing?
The Big Ten East is No. 7, followed by the Big Ten West.
The SEC East finally checks in at No. 9, ahead of the American Athletic West.
The SEC East is, basically, a top-tiered “Group of 5” level division.
This is shocking, but also substantiated by reality.
The East is 0-7 so far against the SEC West. It has no quarterback ranked in the top 50 of this week’s NCAA efficiency ratings.
The best it can offer is Drew Lock, at No. 61, who commands a last-place ship at Missouri.
The West boasts an overall record of 31-13, compared to the East’s 24-21.
Tennessee, allegedly the East’s second best team, is injury-depleted and reeling after a 49-10 loss at Alabama.
“I’ve never been through a season like this,” Butch Jones said of all the injuries.
The division’s best and worst wins, unfortunately, have come against each other.
Last week, Vanderbilt shocked Georgia, 17-16, at Georgia’s incalculable expense.
“It’s embarrassing and I’m sick to my stomach,” Bulldog coach Kirby Smart said afterward.
Yet, Georgia is one win over Florida from being back in the title chase.
A multi-loss champion in the East could cost the SEC a spot in the playoff if its champion could somehow shock the West winner in the conference title game.
The West can’t worry about this and will be fine so long as Alabama or Texas A&M keep humming along.
The SEC West, as it relates to the East, may want to play off a presidential slogan going around:
When they go bye, we go high.[/membership]