Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, November 11, 2011 at 9:48 AM
During the next few weeks, we'll do our best to outline the championship dynamics in all the major board conferences. All of the attention last week on the LSU-Alabama game in the SEC West naturally leads us to the SEC East this week, where a CBS Saturday doubleheader will go a long way toward determining who will face LSU in the conference title tilt. Tomorrow, we'll focus on the full Pac 12, where the much anticipated Oregon/Stanford game in prime time is considered the be the game of the year.
We can already tell you now that we'll cover the Big 12 next Friday...with current frontrunner Oklahoma State set for a Friday Night telecast on ESPN. Next Saturday will be devoted to the convoluted Big Ten, a race that has been significantly overshadowed by tragic headlines this week. We've already presented breakdowns of the ACC and Big East in recent days. We'll update any and all championship race developments in the final week of November.
Today it's the SEC East. Let's start with the standings.
SEC EAST STANDINGS
South Carolina 5-2
South Carolina has defeated Georgia
Georgia has no margin for error at the moment. They hold a one-game lead in the loss column that won't disappear if they keep winning. Should Georgia lose one of its final two SEC games while South Carolina finishes up league play with a win over Florida Saturday...then the Gamecocks would take the division because of a heads-up win over the Bulldogs.
Florida is already eliminated because they trail Georgia by 2.5 games with only one league game left...and because Georgia beat them heads up anyway. The three cellar dwellers all have some heart...and all are capable of scoring upsets in the SEC. But, they are distant after-thoughts in the East Division this year.
The good news for Georgia is that they're double digit favorites Saturday vs. Auburn (note that CBS is showing a Saturday doubleheader that features Florida-South Carolina in the early TV window, followed by Auburn-Georgia in the midday TV window)...and that they'll be even BIGGER favorites at home next week vs. Kentucky. This is Georgia's division to win at the moment even with their loss to South Carolina. The Bulldogs lucked into an easier schedule rotation against the West this year (missing LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas!). If they can't finish off this gift that's been handed to them, head coach Mark Richt...who's been on the hot season all season...deserves to be fired!
Let's preview the TV doubleheader by looking that the stat rankings for all four teams involved. Note that the strength of schedule data comes from Jeff Sagarin's computer ratings at USA Today. SEC teams all play tough schedules because the conference is so tough. You'll see that right away in the numbers.
Florida: 94th on offense, 14th on defense, vs. the 15th ranked schedule
South Carolina: 81st on offense, 9th on defense, vs. the 19th ranked schedule
Auburn: 89th on offense, 73rd on defense, vs. the 11th ranked schedule
Georgia: 36th on offense, 7th on defense, vs. the 24th ranked schedule
The SEC East teams all grade out VERY well on defense considering strength of schedule. That's three top 15 defenses against three top 25 schedules. Of course, the SEC isn't exactly known for offense this year...which does help pad the defensive stats. It's not like you're going to see many wild and crazy shootouts up and down the card. Auburn has been a big disappointment on defense this season. They started the season poorly...and have only righted the ship partway.
Offensively, Georgia jumps out as the heroes. They've got nice balance and talent all over the field. Florida is supposed to have talent...but they can't keep people healthy...and it's starting to become clear that Tim Tebow was an even bigger force in college football than was realized at the time. The Gators have utterly collapsed on that side of the ball since he left...even though they're recruiting from one of the great high shool hotbeds in the country. South Carolina's offense has been pretty consistently disappointing during the Steve Spurrier era except when he has one impact star who can carry a big load.
In terms of the game matchups:
South Carolina has a slight edge over Florida, which may in fact disappear once you adjust for schedule strength. Vegas oddsmakers have made the Gamecocks a favorite of -3.5, which represents a slight edge plus home field advantage.
Georgia is clearly superior on both sides of the ball to Auburn in the data. But, should they be laying -13 to a team from the SEC West? Auburn's strength of schedule difference may be even bigger than Sagarin's numbers suggest...which means this at least has the chance to be a thriller.
And, in a year where Oklahoma can lose a home game to Texas Tech...ANYONE in a position of power is capable of taking their eyes off the ball. Georgia better not assume Auburn and Kentucky are going to lay down this week and next.
In terms of the SEC Championship:
It's hard to see either Georgia or South Carolina matching up well with LSU or Alabama in the title tilt. Last year's South Carolina team was more dangerous on offense, and they were obliterated by Auburn. LSU and Alabama have more offensive weaponry than it looked like last week because they each happened to run into true defensive juggernauts. Those teams have the two best defenses in the nation, and number three may be a speck in the rearview mirror. Maybe Georgia will be so dominant in their last two SEC games and the rivalry finale with Georgia Tech that they'll change our minds.
Saturday's two key games in the SEC East race may be part of our TOTAL NOVEMBER TAKEDOWN that keeps rolling strong Saturday. Be sure you get our REVENGE MONSTER Saturday morning here at the website...as well as our very popular TV Triple Crown. That Oregon-Stanford game we referenced earlier is likely to be part of the mix as well. And, JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK has several very interesting games to choose from Saturday.
SEC: the games we've mentioned plus Alabama at Mississippi State in prime time.
Pac 12: the game we mentioned plus Washington at USC and UCLA at Utah (which has suddenly become huge to UCLA).
Big 10: Nebraska at Penn State (a game the whole world will now be paying close attention to), Michigan State at Iowa, and Michigan at Illinois.
Big 12: Texas at Missouri, Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, and Texas A&M at Kansas State.
ACC: Miami at Florida State, and Wake Forest at Clemson.
Mountain West: TCU at Boise State.
Big East: West Virginia at Cincinnati.
That's enough for two or three TV TRIPLE CROWNS! We've had a few Saturdays this year where it was hard to find more than a handful of TV games that were truly compelling. This could turn out to be the best day of the full 2011 season!
We'll get the ball rolling Friday Night with our Lucky 11 Special in the Big East involving South Florida and Syracuse. Gamblers MUST have action on a date like 11/11/11! You can purchase that this afternoon with your credit card here at the website. Then, be sure you take care of business EARLY on Saturday because the noon ET, 9 a.m. PT schedule is absolutely loaded this week. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
If you've been struggling on your own...TODAY IS YOUR LUCKY DAY, THIS is your LUCKY WEEKEND, and it's time for you to get revenge on Vegas with JIM HURLEY'S REVENGE WEEKEND!