Every Friday, the Friday Five will rank something in the world of college football -- anything and everything from the logical to the illogical. This week, we rank five SEC East teams and their odds of winning the division title.
The SEC East is a mess. It's a division that's so sloppy, it needs its own show on Bravo, right after one of the Housewives.
As my fellow CBS Sports colleague Jon Solomon was so kind to point out earlier this week, it's not just a mess, it's also bad. According to some metrics, it is not only the worst division in the Power Five conferences, but it's even worse than at least one division from the Group of Five.
It's also entertaining, in a non-entertaining sort of way. You aren't tuning into an SEC East game this weekend hoping to see a quality football game between two good teams. No, you're tuning in because you have no damn idea what is going to happen.
The possibility exists in which we see the regular season come to an end with six SEC East teams sitting at 4-4 in conference play, tied for first place. Seriously, that could happen.
So for this week's Friday Five, I decided to follow in my co-worker's footsteps, and pile onto the SEC East some more. Jon Solomon went over how bad it is, and both Ben Kercheval and Jerry Palm took the time to sort through each possible scenario in the division. What I'm going to do is take those scenarios and figure out which one of these SEC train wrecks I think has the best chance of getting to the finish line without derailing.
5. Georgia: Well, this is cheating a little because there actually is no scenario in which Georgia can win the SEC East. It's possible that the Bulldogs can finish in a five-way tie for first in the division at 4-4, but there are no tiebreakers that they'd win. Still, a tie for first is good enough to get you on the list (plus, you know, it's the Friday Five not Friday Four), and I want to talk about how this cannot be what Georgia fans had in mind when they replaced Mark Richt.
Richt was fired after 15 seasons because, even though he only won fewer than eight games in any season once, he had been struggling in the SEC East the last few years, and hadn't won the SEC since 2005. So he gets booted out the door, and in comes Kirby Smart, who is quite possibly going to win fewer than eight games in his first season. I'm not saying it's Smart's fault, I'm not saying it's Richt's fault, I'm not saying it's anybody's fault. I just find it mildly amusing is all.
4. South Carolina: Yes, it is possible that in his very first season at South Carolina, Will Muschamp can do something he only did once in four seasons at Florida: win the SEC East. It's even more remarkable when you consider that the Gamecocks actually started 1-4 in SEC play this season, but have since won two in a row over Tennessee and Missouri.
So what do the Gamecocks need to happen? Well, quite a bit, which is why I only have them at four on the list.
The first step is to beat Florida on Saturday, and considering all the injuries the Gators are dealing with, it's not that insane to think it could happen. After that, the Gamecocks need Tennessee to lose at least one more game, Georgia to lose to Auburn, and Vanderbilt to lose one more game. If Vandy were to win out, Georgia losing to Auburn and Tennessee losing to Missouri would give the Gamecocks the edge in a four-way tie.
3. Kentucky: In the words of Kentucky (basketball's) number one fan: started from the bottom now we here. All right, Kentucky was never quite on the bottom in the SEC East, but nobody was expecting this team to have a legitimate shot at the division crown as recently as September. Back then we were all just wondering whether or not the school was going to pay Mark Stoops' buyout.
Now it's November and the Wildcats have won three of four, with that sole loss coming in the fourth quarter against Georgia last week. Had Kentucky managed to hold on to its lead in that game, it would have sole possession of first place right now, and it's odds would be a lot better.
But as things stand, I can't put the Wildcats higher than third because they only have one path to the title. Simply put, Kentucky needs to beat Tennessee in Knoxville, something it has not done since 1984. Hell, the Wildcats have only beaten the Vols twice overall since 1984 (a win at home in 2011). Between those two victories were 26 straight wins for the Vols, and they've won the last four since that 2011 Kentucky win.
What I'm saying here is the odds are not great.
Should Kentucky get past Tennessee this year, it would still need Florida to lose its final two SEC games, which isn't entirely out of the question. If those things were to happen, the Wildcats would finish as the outright champion at 5-3.
2. Florida: The Gators are on top right now, but I honestly don't like their odds from here on out, even if they have the most routes to the title. The fact is, this team is a mess right now. It has lost Luke Del Rio for a while, and he's only one of the seemingly dozens of players this team will be missing.
Do you remember what this team looked like earlier this season when it didn't have Del Rio at quarterback? It was not very good.
Now, obviously, if Florida wins its final two SEC games (vs. South Carolina, at LSU) it's all a moot point. The Gators are your SEC East champs and are on to Atlanta. I don't see that happening, though. I think the Gators win one of those two games at best, and if that happens they would need Kentucky to beat Tennessee, because the Gators have the tiebreaker over the Wildcats, not the Vols. As we just went over when talking about Kentucky, however, it's not often the Wildcats beat the Vols.
If the Gators lose both their remaining SEC games -- again, with the injuries, not at all impossible -- they would need Tennessee to beat Kentucky, but then need the Vols to lose to either Missouri or Vanderbilt after that. Then, as long as Georgia beats Auburn, the Gators would win either a four- or five-way tiebreaker in the division.
So, the easiest path here would be for Florida to win out, or for Kentucky to pull off an upset against Tennessee. I just don't think either of those things are going to happen, which is why I'm not putting Florida at No. 1 on this list.
1. Tennessee: Yep. I'm putting the Vols in first place here, which is not something I'd have thought possible a few weeks ago.
The Vols have more SEC games remaining than anybody else on this list, but as we discussed at the very beginning of this post, the SEC East is bad, so that's something that kind of works in Tennessee's favor. The fact that Tennessee's final three games are against a Kentucky team that it has dominated historically as well as two teams (Vanderbilt and Mizzou) that are currently 1-9 in SEC play, and the idea of the Vols winning out and finishing 5-3 in the conference isn't that far-fetched now, is it? Also, only the Vanderbilt game is on the road, and Nashville isn't exactly an intimidating road environment.
If Tennessee wins out, it would just need Florida to lose to either South Carolina or on the road at LSU. I think the odds of Florida losing at least once are very good. Should Florida split those two games, the Vols would have the tie-breaker over the Gators due to their head-to-head win.
Tennessee could still win the division even if it doesn't win out, just as long as its loss comes to Missouri. If the Vols lose to Mizzou, but still beat Kentucky and Vandy, they would be a part of a four-way tie in the East if Florida loses its final two SEC games and Georgia beats Auburn. In that scenario, Tennessee would win the four-way tiebreaker.
Personally, I believe the scenario in which Tennessee wins out and Florida loses at least once is the most likely of the two. Since I have Tennessee at No. 1 on this list, that should also tell you I'm of the opinion that, of all the scenarios that have been listed in this post, I believe Tennessee winning out and Florida losing once is the most likely of all.
So I sit here today, in this Friday Five, telling you that I believe Tennessee is going to win the SEC East.
And by win, I just mean "lose it by less than everyone else."
Not-so-honorable Mention: Vanderbilt, Missouri