My favorite SEC East stat from last season: The only conference victories for the division’s bottom four teams — Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Missouri — came against each other.
My favorite SEC East stat from this season: The division is 1-9 against teams from the SEC West; the one victory — Kentucky over Mississippi State — came on a 51-yard field goal as time expired.
Oh, and there’s also this: It’s mathematically possible for South Carolina to represent the East in the Georgia Dome on Dec. 3, even though the Gamecocks can finish no better than 4-4 in conference play.
Every year we think the East can get no worse. Every year — more like every doggone week — we’re proved wrong. Last month Tennessee, the preseason pick to win the East, played host to Alabama, which had been picked to win the West. Alabama won by 39 points.
But wait! Last Saturday the division reached a new new low: Florida, which still leads the East, lost to Arkansas, which had won one SEC game, by 21 points and didn’t manage an offensive touchdown.
The West has won the SEC championship seven years running. If we throw out Georgia’s epic 32-28 loss to Alabama in 2012, the average margin of victory in the other six games has been 25 points. (If we include UGA-Bama, the average MOV shrinks all the way to 22 points.)
You know how folks sometime say, “The worst team in X division could beat the best team in Y division?” That’s almost always hyperbole. This might be the one time it isn’t. The last-place team in the SEC West is Ole Miss. It has played one game against a team from the East. (It has Vandy left.) The Rebels beat Georgia 45-14 — and the Bulldogs scored the game’s final 14 points.
Auburn plays at Sanford Stadium on Saturday. The Tigers are 10-point favorites. The erudite Athenian and Georgia historian Jeff Dantzler believes this to be the first time the Bulldogs have been a double-figure underdog at home since Oct. 12, 1996. That game matched Jim Donnan’s first team against Peyton Manning’s Tennessee. The spread, as Patrick Garbin of UGASports.com has noted, was 14 points. The Vols won by 12.
(If you’re wondering, Florida was a 19-point favorite in the Half-A-Hundred game of 1995. The score was 52-17. The Braves won the World Series that night. The score was 1-0.)
Should Georgia upset Auburn, it’s possible the Bulldogs could finish in a six-way tie for first place in the East at 4-4. (Though they’d lose the tiebreaker. Kudos to Clayton Freeman of Gridiron Now for figuring it all out.) And if you’re a Dawg-lover, that’s the galling part: Your team is playing in a truly terrible division and, for the fourth consecutive year, won’t win it.