Is the SEC East-West gap widening?
There was a chestnut bandied about in January. I’m sure you recall it.
“The SEC West was overrated.”
Yeah. Remember that? The West Division had just finished off a 2-5 bowl/college football playoff season. America outside the southeast was declaring the league, specifically the division, had received its just desserts. The downfall was imminent.
Flash-forward nine months and the only folks saying that anymore are the ones who will always claim it regardless. When this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll was released all seven teams from the West were ranked.
Read that again.
All. Seven. Teams. Were. Top. 25.
Three more came from the SEC East. The league with the next most teams ranked was the Pac-12. It had five teams.
It is clear at this point. The SEC West was, and is, the best division in college football. By far.
The West is so good it makes the East look like a bunch of chumps. And outside perhaps that division’s bottom-feeder, Vanderbilt, chumps is a ridiculous statement. But that’s the perception both inside and outside the league.
It would be easy to suggest the gap is widened now between the divisions. All seven West teams in the top 25 suggests, if one wants it to, the division has never been better. Consider, though, at least one of those teams is likely to fall out after Saturday when LSU (No. 14) plays Mississippi State (No. 25). If the loser is Mississippi State, the Bulldogs will almost assuredly fall outside the arbitrary ranking line.
Look closer, though. The gap isn’t growing. It’s actually shrinking. Just maybe not because of the obvious reasons.
Frankly, the talent discrepancy between East and West could not have gotten larger. In the last six years the West has gone 69-33 against the East. Count that up. It’s a .676 winning percentage. And while it would be easy to note how much better the East did in the West in the bowl season last year and closeness of the SEC title game, don’t.
Bowl season is irrelevant. The amount of “care” that goes into each game is wildly different depending on the program and both team and individual attitudes in the moment. The title game is a one-off contest. Lump it in with the other crossover games during the season. Take the larger sample size.
So, yes, the SEC West is the best division in football. It is, for now, quite better than the SEC East, too. But let’s be careful about what we call the East. The “SEC Least” joke is both tired and incorrect. It’s coming. And quickly.