How bad has the SEC East become? According to S&P efficiency ratings by SB Nation's Bill Connelly, the Mountain West's Mountain Division is stronger than the SEC East in 2016.
That's not a misprint. A division with Wyoming, Boise State, New Mexico, Colorado State, Air Force and Utah State is considered better than a division with Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Missouri and Vanderbilt.
If that doesn't set the SEC East's hair on fire, I don't know what will. Every time we think the SEC East can't get any worse, the bar drops lower.
If Florida loses to South Carolina or LSU, there will be a three-loss SEC division champion for the first time since 2010, when South Carolina got drilled 56-17 by Auburn in the most lopsided SEC Championship Game. Tennessee, which would have a 1-4 SEC record if not for a Hail Mary to beat Georgia, may back into Atlanta after all.
The SEC West is 9-1 vs. the East in 2016, raising the West's record against the East to 91-36 (.717) since 2009. That's when Urban Meyer's SEC reign ended and Nick Saban's started.
The huge gap is even worse in shorter intervals. The West is 33-7 (.825) against the East over the past three years and 22-3 (.880) in the past two seasons.
The SEC East will likely lose the conference championship game for the eighth straight year, breaking college football's record for the longest division drought in title games. The Big 12 North lost seven straight from 2004-10 when Oklahoma and Texas dominated the Big 12 South.
At what point does the SEC risk diluting its product with such unbalanced divisions? Will balance only return when Saban retires, whenever that may be?
It's no coincidence the SEC East's demise started when Saban's dominance began. The woefulness of the East is due to the lack of proven coaches as the entire conference rebuilds with its least experienced group in 52 years.
The SEC East resembles the old Big Ten until Meyer, Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio lifted the league up in recent years. There are no proven coaches to chase in the SEC East. There's no Saban to keep up with, just a lot of ex-Saban assistants -- getting paid handsomely -- whose knowledge of The Process may or may not rub off on the East.
Check out Connelly's division rankings. The numbers are the adjusted scoring margin, which evaluates how teams in those divisions would have performed in a given week if playing an average team. In other words, the SEC West is on average 15.1 points better than the average division.
|Division||Avg. Adjusted Scoring Margin*|
|1. SEC West||+15.1|
|2. ACC Atlantic||+9.5|
|3. Big Ten East||+9.2|
|4. ACC Coastal||+5.7|
|5. Pac-12 North||+5.6|
|6. Pac-12 South||+5.5|
|7. Big Ten West||+3.1|
|8. MWC Mountain||+2.5|
|9. SEC East||+1.7|
|T10. AAC West||+0.4|
|T10. MAC West||+0.4|
|12. AAC East||-0.1|
|13. C-USA East||-6.7|
|14. C-USA West||-7.1|
|15. MWC West||-8.7|
|16. MAC East||-11.9|
|* Ratings via SB Nation's Bill Connelly|
Translation: The SEC East is nearly closer to the worst division in football (MAC East) than it is to the best (SEC West). Ouch.
To be fair, the SEC East beat the ACC Coastal's top two teams: Georgia over North Carolina and Tennessee over Virginia Tech. But beating the ACC Coastal has never exactly been a crowning achievement for the SEC.
Among the notable SEC East moments this year:
- The SEC East and MAC East are the only divisions without a top-45 scoring offense. Only the MAC East has more teams than the SEC East ranked 100th or lower in scoring. SEC East offenses: Tennessee (48th), Missouri (50th), Kentucky (70th), Florida (76th), Georgia (100th), Vanderbilt (119th), South Carolina (125th).
- Kentucky lost to Southern Miss, which is 5-4 and the third-place team in Conference USA West.
- Georgia was a 55-point favorite and barely beat Nicholls 26-24. Nicholls is 5-2 and in third place in the Southland Conference.
- Tennessee needed Jalen Hurd to pounce on a fumble in the end zone to beat Appalachian State in overtime. Hurd, who was once considered one of the SEC's best running backs, left midseason to transfer. Appalachian State leads the Sun Belt.
- Vanderbilt lost by 31 points to Georgia Tech (5-4) and needed overtime to beat Western Kentucky (7-3), which sits in first in Conference USA East.
- Florida was held to 12 rushing yards against Arkansas' 109th-ranked rushing defense -- 210 yards below the Razorbacks' season average. The Gators are the only SEC team not to run for at least 150 against Arkansas.
- Florida led just 10-7 entering the fourth quarter in a 17-point win over Massachusetts, which has a 1-7 record. South Carolina beat UMass by a score of only 34-28. Jeff Sagarin ranks 25 FCS teams ahead of UMass.
- Then-SEC East leader Tennessee, ravaged by injuries, lost 49-10 at home to SEC West leader Alabama.
Anyone up for an Alabama-Tennessee rematch in Atlanta? Six times the SEC Championship Game has paired teams that played during the regular season. If it's Alabama vs. Tennessee again, this year's championship would mark the most lopsided first meeting.
That sounds about right for the SEC East, where the results just mean less than the Mountain West Mountain Division.