5 unlikely SEC winning streaks ... and whether they will continue in 2018
In college football, some you win, some you lose. Or at least, that’s how the world normally works. In some cases, one team wins and wins and wins again. Sometimes, it’s just a better team beating a weaker one. Sometimes, it’s just wacky. Here are five of the more unlikely SEC winning streaks, and whether we expect them to continue in 2018.
Kentucky over South Carolina
Length: 4 games
Skinny: Sure, you thought we’d bring up Florida’s 31-game winning streak over the Wildcats. But that pretty much tends to be a matter of superior talent triumphing. What might surprise more observers is that Kentucky now has a 4-game winning streak over SEC East rival South Carolina. All four wins have been close, with UK emerging with wins by 7, 4, 7 and 10 points.
But Kentucky has had the Gamecocks’ number, even when Carolina finished ahead of UK in the East standings in two of the past four seasons. If a 4-game winning streak doesn’t seem unusual, remember that UK’s last conference 4-game winning streak that wasn’t against Vanderbilt came against Florida … when Bear Bryant was Kentucky’s coach.
Does it continue? The game is in Lexington, and while Carolina is generally regarded to have slightly more talent than Kentucky, ESPN’s Football Power Index gives UK a 34.2 percent chance of continuing its streak. Considering that UK was a Vegas underdog in three of those past four wins, there’s definitely a chance.
Alabama over Tennessee
Length: 11 games
Skinny: Admittedly, the Tide have become the toast of college football while the Vols have become, well, toast. But still, an 11-game winning streak in what used to be one of the SEC’s fiercest rivalries? Once before, Alabama boasted 11 wins in a row over UT — from 1971 to 1981. UT ended that streak with four consecutive wins. But even harder to fathom is this: Before this 11-game Alabama winning streak, UT had won 10 of the series’ previous 12 games.
Does it continue? The game is in Knoxville, and ESPN’s FPI gives UT an 11.3 percent chance of victory. Coming off being rocked by 39 and 38 points in the past two seasons, UT might settle for a game like 2015, when it fought valiantly before losing 19-14. Don’t count on that possibility. This is one streak that is rolling.
Arkansas over Ole Miss
Length: 4 games
Skinny: This is less about the length of the streak than how those wins have come. In the past three seasons, Ole Miss has been absolutely snake-bitten in this series. In 2015, the Razorbacks won after they converted a 4th-and-25 play in overtime with a fumbled lateral that was recovered and advanced for a first down. They were stopped on a 2-point conversion at the end of that series, but a penalty on Ole Miss gave them another chance and they won. In 2016, the Razorbacks won when Ole Miss had a critical 4th-down conversion late in the game, but QB Chad Kelly fumbled the ball out-of-bounds behind the first down marker. In 2017, Arkansas trailed 31-7, but rallied to win 38-37. How is Ole Miss reinventing ways to lose?
Does it continue? The Razorbacks and Rebels are expected to be around the bottom of the SEC West in 2018, and ESPN’s FPI calls the game a virtual toss-up, giving Arkansas a 52.1 percent chance of winning at home. But if they win in some unlikely way that causes Ole Miss another offseason of agitation, well, then we’re really seeing something unusual.
Road team over home team (Auburn vs. Texas A&M)
Length: 6 games
Since Texas A&M joined the SEC, it has played Auburn six times. In all six games, the road team has won. Just how odd is that? Well, in 2013, A&M’s home loss to Auburn was matched only with a home loss to Alabama. In 2014, Auburn’s home loss to A&M was its only home loss. In 2015, A&M again lost at home only to Alabama and Auburn. In 2016, Auburn lost at home only to A&M and Clemson. Until last season, the home favorite had lost the previous four games in the matchup.
Does it continue? The game is at Auburn this season, and the Tigers do figure to do a solid home favorite (ESPN’s FPI has Auburn with an 81 percent chance of victory). Can A&M find the firepower to keep the home team on the losing end of this series? If so, that’d be a highlight of Jimbo Fisher’s first season in College Station, and the continuing of one unlikely streak.
The entire SEC over Tennessee
Skinny: Yes, somehow the entire SEC has a winning streak against Tennessee right now. Vanderbilt? Beat the Vols in 2017 and 2016. Kentucky? Likewise in 2017. Arkansas? Won the last matchup in 2015. Ole Miss? Beat UT by 31 points in 2014. Literally, the entire SEC has an active winning streak against UT.
Does it continue? UT’s 0-8 conference record last season was unequaled in the program’s proud history in the SEC. Could it happen again? Deeply unlikely. ESPN’s FPI gives UT the best chance to win SEC games against Vandy (65%) and Kentucky (64%). This is one streak that looks almost certain to end.