Monday, November 13, 2006

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, NO Mississippi

Or how Florida did it the hard way this year.

The SEC has always been a conference that devours its own, especially recently. During the 90’s, there was typically 3 or 4 top SEC teams, and a bunch of teams that overall had .500 or below records. Not this year, however. The following is the SEC, by overall record -

1. Arkansas 9-1
1. Florida 9-1
3. Auburn 9-2
4. LSU 8-2
5. Tennessee 7-3
6. Georgia 7-4
7. Kentucky 6-4
8. Alabama 6-5
9. South Carolina 5-5
10. Vanderbilt 4-7
11. Mississippi State 3-7
11. Mississippi 3-7

That’s right folks – only 3 SEC teams have losing records this year. 8 of the 12 teams are already bowl eligible. Thus, it goes without saying that the SEC's out of conference records have been pretty good.

Now, entering this year, I didn’t think Florida had much of a chance of an SEC title. Why? Let’s call it the Mississippi factor. It was obvious that the Mississippi’s were going to be the worst teams in the conference (and they did not disappoint). Due to the random fate of the rotating SEC schedule, Florida entered this season with the very bad luck of playing no Mississippi’s, while Georgia got to play them both, as did every team in the West division.

Look at the conference record list again, and think of the 8 teams Florida played. There they are, in direct order, numbers 3 through 10. We didn’t get to play the 2 bottom dwellers, yet we went 7-1 in conference play. All of the West teams naturally got to play them both, Georgia, as stated, got to play them both, and every other East team, except for Florida and Tennessee, got to play at least 1.

It made a tremendous difference in the records of the teams that got to play the Mississippi’s, as Ole Miss and Mississippi State have gone 2-10 thus far in conference play. That is 10 wins that other SEC teams have, including 1 so far for Arkansas, that neither Florida nor Tennessee had a chance at.

Florida now gets to play in the SEC Championship game either Arkansas (very likely) or LSU. Both should have 2 of their wins against the Mississippi’s.

In other words, assuming an Arkansas match-up, Florida could not have played a harder SEC schedule than they did this year. Of the 9 SEC games Florida will play, 8 of them will have been against teams with .500 or better records.

So, as you mull over some of the close games we won in the SEC this year, as well as the close game we lost, think about what schedule we just played. And while FSU may not be the ‘Noles of old, our SEC schedule was the toughest it has ever been. Going 7-1 in the SEC this year was an enormous accomplishment, and having done so is a great credit to the team and the coaches.


FishFan-GatorMan said...

Tremendous post. Should be required reading for the pollsters that have ND nipping at our heels. It's a wonder that the Irish didn't schedule Coast Guard since they already play Army, Navy and Air Force.

theimmortal1 said...

Good post, although I disagree. A closer look shows that all 6 teams in the SEC E are in the top 10. And they all play each other. So we are equal there. And we haven't played arguably the best team in the Conference yet. I would argue USCe conference schedule is harder than ours this year. And also when you try to do an analysis based upon the top 10 teams in a 12 team conference it will be slightly flawed.

In every year the SEC Champ will have to have gone through numerous great SEC teams. This year is no different whether Arkansas wins it (LSU, Tennessee, USCe, Florida, Auburn, LSU) or Florida wins it (Georgia, Tennesseee, USCe Auburn, LSU, Arkansas)..Which I'm being pretty generous including Georgia.

FishFan-GatorMan said...

A closer look shows that all 6 teams in the SEC E are in the top 10. And they all play each other. So we are equal there.

I don't see how we are "equal there" if we are 9-1 (with no losses to the East) and the next Eastern team is 7-3 (overall) with 3 conferences losses and one loss to an east team (us).

I would argue USCe conference schedule is harder than ours this year.

South Carolina does have a tough schedule because they played us (we can't play against ourselves) and Arkansas, which we will more than likely play in the championship game. But they also played MSU, which as the post indicates is tied for worst in the conference. Now if USC had the same record as the Gators, they'd have a beef, but they don't, so they don't.

I think you missed the point of the post. Which is that our schedule could not have been any tougher. That if we win the SEC it will not be because we got lucky in our scheduling. Games against Ole Miss and MSU instead of Auburn and Bama would have been a much easier path.

FishFan-GatorMan said...

Give me an 9-game conference schedule the Gators could have played that would have been tougher than the one we have played (and will play assuming Arky doesn't stumble) without repeating opponents.

Mergz said...

Exactly Fish - the Gators could not have played a harder 9 game SEC schedule, since we cannot play ourselves, and since we played no one named Mississippi.

South Carolina's schedule was hard, true, but that really is not the point.

Arkansas, on the other hand, had a considerably easier SEC schedule because they get to play the Mississippi's. But that doesn't mean they won't beat us...

theimmortal1 said...

It is life in the SEC. A SEC champ has to win their division, and do great in the other division plus win a championship game. Our SEC schedule is no different than any other possible SEC champion. They all gotta play the top teams in their division, and a couple top teams in the other division. Plus the SEC Championship game. Thats how it always is, and thats how it always will be. You can argue till the cows come home that Ole Miss/Miss St are better than Vandy/Kentucky. But that doesn't matter. All four teams are horrible and any top team should crush all 4. We got lucky to not draw the top team in the West.

As I said its a great post and it shows that our SOS is very strong. But it is par for the course for the average SEC champion. This is waht you have to go through.

FishFan-GatorMan said...

It's not just life in the SEC. Check out the post I just made about the W-L records of our opponents vs. those of the other top BCS teams including Arkansas (our likely opponent in the SECCG).