Ranking SEC East's best remaining chances to finally beat the West
Fourteen times this regular season, the SEC East faces the SEC West. So far, it’s 7-0, West, highlighted by Alabama’s historic domination of Tennessee in Week 7. But it’s just halftime, and surely the East, if it won’t come roaring back, will at least pick up a game or two … right?
Last year, the West went 13-2, with the East’s wins coming by Florida over Ole Miss and Georgia beating Auburn. The past four years before that? The West was 11-4 vs. the East in 2014, 9-6 in 2013, 8-7 in 2012, and 13-6 in 2011. All totals included a victory in the SEC championship game.
So which East team has the best chance of stealing a win or two in 2016? South Carolina and Tennessee already went 0-2 in the regular season. Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri are 0-1; each has a game remaining. Florida and Vanderbilt have yet to face a West squad.
We break down the seven remaining East vs. West matchups.
Likely East Win
Florida at Arkansas, Week 10
Why: As things stand now, this is the only East/West matchup in which ESPN’s Football Power Index favors the East, albeit barely. The Gators defense has been smothering, aside from a bizarre stumble against Tennessee, and while Arkansas is a solid team, its defense might allow Luke Del Rio and the multi-headed Florida ground game to grind out just enough yardage to grind out a victory.
It’s not a sure thing, but it’s the East’s best shot.
Possible East Win
Missouri vs. Arkansas, Week 13
Why: It is a long way from here to there, but at the present time, ESPN has this game as a near toss-up. Mizzou has been up and down, but when Drew Lock has time, he can make some plays in the passing game. Missouri’s bowl hopes might well be on the line, and they host the Razorbacks, who figure to be feeling the after-effects of the long SEC season by Week 13. I’d take the Razorbacks, but a five-win Missouri team might be hungry enough to snag this one.
Kentucky vs. Mississippi State, Week 8
Why: Speaking of mediocre East teams needing a cross-division win to punch a bowl ticket, here are Mark Stoops’ Wildcats. Kentucky has a potent ground attack, and has managed to grind out home victories against South Carolina and Vandy.
State has struggled, and isn’t putting up points like they have in the past. Their own postseason aspirations are similarly on the line. MSU is a bit more talented, but Kentucky certainly has a puncher’s chance.
Georgia vs. Auburn: Week 11
Why: It could be just me, but I think Auburn is a bit overrated, and that Georgia offense has to get going sooner or later. Right? It’s a home game for the Bulldogs, and it’s not hard to imagine this one going the East’s way.
Wait Til Next Year (Or Later)
Florida at LSU: Week 12
Why: In Gainesville, this game probable sneaks into the possible category. But in Baton Rouge? Not so much. Whether it’s Leonard Fournette or Derrius Guice carrying the ball, the Tigers have the kind of running attack of which other programs can only dream. Ed Orgeron has given LSU a big shot of momentum, and whether that has dissipated by the end of the season, the Tigers are still head and shoulders above the Gators.
Vanderbit at Auburn: Week 10
Why: Auburn is too good on the ground to fall into the trap that UGA did last Saturday against the Commodores. There’s no reason to think that Vandy will start scoring tons of points in this game, and accordingly, it looks like a certain Tigers home win.
Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss: Week 12
The Ole Miss defense is more vulnerable than the Auburn defense, but then Chad Kelly and the Rebels are even more likely to score enough points to outlast the Commodores. Derek Mason’s team is playing solid football, but it would take more than solid to pick up a win in Oxford.