Following Florida’s 17-9 loss to Georgia on Saturday, the Dawgs are now in the driver’s seat for the SEC East title and a trip to Atlanta. Florida literally gave away a shot at clinching the title on Saturday as they turned the ball over six times in what was an ugly game from both teams. Florida’s hopes at the East title are grim, and South Carolina is still barely alive. Here’s a look at the remaining schedules and possible scenarios that could send each team to Atlanta.
Georgia (7-1 overall, 5-1 SEC, 5-1 SEC East)
Remaining SEC Schedule: Nov 3rd vs. Ole Miss, Nov 10th at Auburn
Wins the East if…
They beat Ole Miss and Auburn
They win one of the two games against Ole Miss and Auburn, Florida loses to Missouri, and South Carolina loses to Arkansas
Florida (7-1 overall, 6-1 SEC, 4-1 SEC East)
Remaining SEC Schedule: Nov 3rd vs. Missouri
Wins the East if…
They beat Missouri and Georgia loses to Ole Miss or Auburn
They lose to Missouri, Georgia loses to Ole Miss and Auburn, and South Carolina loses to Arkansas
South Carolina (6-2 overall, 4-2 SEC, 4-1 SEC East)
Remaining SEC Schedule: Nov 10th vs. Arkansas
Wins the East if…
They beat Arkansas, Georgia loses only one of their two games to Ole Miss or Auburn, Florida loses to Missouri
Florida and Georgia both only have one loss in the SEC, but Georgia is in first because of their head-to-head victory over Florida. If both teams finish 7-1 it will be Georgia heading to Atlanta; that is why Florida needs Georgia to lose one of their remaining two games. While anything can happen, this is a grim situation for the Gators since Ole Miss has struggled and Auburn is quite frankly one of the worst teams in the country.
As I mentioned last week, South Carolina is still alive because if everyone finishes at 6-2 there will be a three way tie with everyone holding a head-to-head victory. The next tie-breaker is for division record, which would eliminate Florida (two East losses) and leave Georgia and South Carolina (only one East loss each) tied for first with the Gamecocks advancing because of their victory over Georgia. This is a very unlikely scenario, as it will only happen if Florida loses to Missouri and if Georgia loses one of their remaining two games.
As pointed out by Jason Leiser, if Florida beats Missouri but does not win the SEC East, it will only be the fourth time since the 1992 SEC expansion that a 7-1 record is not good enough to win the East; in 1993, 1995, and 1996, Florida and Tennessee both finished 7-1 with Florida advancing all three times after beating the Vols. Georgia was fortunate to not have to play Alabama, Texas A&M, or LSU from the West this year, while South Carolina and Florida both played LSU. You can expect for Steve Spurrier to make a stink about that this week since the Gamecocks would be in a much better position if they hadn’t taken a loss to LSU.
When I last talked about the remaining SEC East scenarios a week ago, Florida had not yet taken South Carolina behind the woodshed and Georgia had not yet squeaked by with a win at Kentucky. With another week gone and only a few games remaining for the East contenders, the picture is becoming a little more clear. Here’s a look at the remaining schedules for Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina and the scenarios that would have to happen to land each one in Atlanta as the SEC East Champion.
A couple of quick notes before we take a look at this: The division champion is determined first and foremost by SEC record with the first tie-breaker being head-to-head victories. After that comes record vs. division opponents. Those are the only three factors that will possibly be considered when determining this year’s champion. Some years BCS rankings can come into play for a three-way tie, but that will not be the case this year.
Florida (7-0 overall, 6-0 SEC, 4-0 SEC East)
Remaining SEC Schedule: Oct 27th vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville), Nov 3rd vs. Missouri
Wins the East if…
They beat Georgia
They lose to Georgia, beat Missouri, and Georgia loses to Ole Miss or Auburn
They lose to Georgia and Missouri, Georgia loses to Ole Miss and Auburn, and South Carolina loses to Tennessee or Arkansas
Georgia (6-1 overall, 4-1 SEC, 4-1 SEC East)
Remaining SEC Schedule: Oct 27th vs. Florida (in Jacksonville), Nov 3rd vs. Ole Miss, Nov 10th at Auburn
Wins the East if…
They beat Florida, Ole Miss, and Auburn
They beat Florida, win one of the two games against Ole Miss and Auburn, Florida loses to Missouri, and South Carolina loses to Tennessee or Arkansas
South Carolina (6-2 overall, 4-2 SEC, 4-1 SEC East)
Remaining SEC Schedule: Oct 27th vs. Tennessee, Nov 10th vs. Arkansas
Wins the East if…
They beat Tennessee and Arkansas, Georgia beats Florida, Georgia loses only one of their two games to Ole Miss or Auburn, Florida loses to Missouri
Florida and Georgia are playing in the de facto SEC East title game in Jacksonville on Saturday. Florida beating Georgia means the Gators can finish no worse than 7-1 while the Bulldogs and Gamecocks could finish no better than 6-2, clinching the East for Florida. If Georgia beats Florida, the Bulldogs just have to handle their remaining games against Ole Miss and Auburn, two of the worst teams in the SEC.
For South Carolina to win the East, they need all three teams to finish 6-2 to create a three-way tie. That can only happen if they win out, if Florida loses out to Georgia and Missouri, and if Georgia loses only one of the two games against Ole Miss and Auburn. They would all have head-to-head wins over each other (South Carolina beat Georgia, Georgia beat Florida, Florida beat South Carolina) so the next tie-breaker is division record. Florida would then be dropped out of the tie with a 4-2 division record compared to South Carolina and Georgia’s 5-1 division record and the Gamecocks would be heading to Atlanta because of their head-to-head win over the Bulldogs.
Even though Florida is in the best possible position with an undefeated record, a number 2 BCS ranking, and two monster wins in the last three weeks, it truly means nothing when they take the field on Saturday against Georgia since the victor will emerge as the SEC East leader. That may seem crazy or unfair, but that’s how life is in the SEC and it’s why Will Muschamp has been preaching “one game seasons” all year.
Today the SEC announced the full 2013 conference football schedule for all 14 teams. Simultaneously, UF released the non-conference schedule as well, giving us Florida’s 2013 football schedule in its entirety. There typically isn’t a lot of variability from year-to-year with football schedules but there are a few things to note this year, the biggest of which is the addition of Miami to the schedule and the changes that come with travelling to play them.
Florida and Miami used to be big in-state rivals as they played each other each year from 1944 until 1987. The continuous series ended when the SEC went to an eight-game conference schedule in 1987 as the Gators were forced to drop the Hurricanes from their regular yearly lineup. Florida and Miami have met in only 3 regular season games since 1987 and 2 bowl games, with the most recent matchup coming in Gainesville in 2008 when the Gators ended a 6-game losing streak to the ‘Canes that began in 1986. The 2008 game was meant to be the front end of a home-and-home series with Miami, so Florida traveling to Miami next year will fulfill the second half of that series. Florida traveling to Miami also means that they will lose out on a usual home game against a weaker non-conference opponent, leading to this being the first time Florida will play in only 6 home games since the NCAA expanded the football schedule from 11 to 12 regular season games in 2006.
Florida’s other non-conference opponents in 2013 are Toledo, Georgia Southern, and Florida State; all three of those games will be played in Gainesville, with Florida State closing out the year in the traditional last game of the season. Florida also picks up Arkansas in a home game as their rotating cross-divisional opponent for the year. Another interesting note is that Florida will have two bye weeks for the first time since 2008, which was also the last time they played Miami.
Florida’s full 2013 football schedule can be found below and at Gatorzone.
|Sat, Aug 31||Toledo||Gainesville, FL|
|Sat, Sep 7||Miami||Miami, FL|
|Sat, Sep 21||Tennessee||Gainesville, FL|
|Sat, Sep 28||Kentucky||Lexington, KY|
|Sat, Oct 5||Arkansas||Gainesville, FL|
|Sat, Oct 12||LSU||Baton Rouge, LA|
|Sat, Oct 19||Missouri||Columbia, MO|
|Sat, Nov 2||Georgia||Jacksonville, FL|
|Sat, Nov 9||Vanderbilt||Gainesville, FL|
|Sat, Nov 16||South Carolina||Columbia, SC|
|Sat, Nov 23||Georgia Southern||Gainesville, FL|
|Sat, Nov 30||Florida State||Gainesville, FL|
Preseason polls don’t mean a whole lot in men’s basketball, but they typically are a good gauge of expectations for the upcoming season. The first Coaches Poll was released today, and Florida finds itself sitting at number 10. Florida should be accustomed to this position as it is the second year in a row that they find themselves in the 10th spot. Additionally, Florida opened the 2010-2011 season ranked 11th, so this is certainly familiar territory for these Gators. Another interesting note regarding preseason polls for Florida is that they have finished one spot higher than their preseason ranking in each of the last two years; they finished ranked 9th in 2012 and 10th in 2011 as both seasons ended with a loss in the Elite Eight.
Florida also finds five of its opponents ranked in the first poll of the season: Kentucky (3), Arizona (11), Missouri (17), Wisconsin (21), and Florida State (tied-24). Some of Florida’s top non-conference opponents find themselves outside the Top 25, including Georgetown, Kansas State, and Marquette, with the latter two receiving votes in the poll. Other Florida opponents receiving votes include Middle Tennessee, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Billy Donovan has taken pride in scheduling tough non-conference opponents for the last few years after feeling like weak scheduling in 2009 helped contribute to Florida missing out on an NCAA Tournament berth. He has certainly put together another tough schedule this year, and a few of the non-conference opponents Florida will face could definitely find themselves ranked as the matchups approach.
You can view the first Coaches Poll of the season in it’s entirety at USA Today.
Florida took care of Vanderbilt on Saturday despite dealing with a number of injuries and some penalty issues, thanks in a large part to Jeff Driskel’s 3 rushing touchdowns and his record-breaking 177 yards rushing, the most for any Florida quarterback in history (yes, even more than Tim Tebow himself, who’s highest total was 166 yards). Shortly after the Gators wrapped up their game in Nashville, South Carolina fell to LSU in Baton Rouge to take their first loss of the season. That leaves Florida on top of the SEC East standings at 5-0 with three games to play as they are now the only East team without a loss. There are really only three teams in the mix at this point as Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Missouri all have only one SEC victory or less. That leaves Florida in first place, followed by South Carolina and then Georgia.
With the picture becoming a little more clear, the question is this: how can Florida assure itself of an SEC East title and a berth in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta at the end of the season? The easy and simple answer is to win out. Victories over the remaining SEC opponents of South Carolina, Georgia, and Missouri will guarantee the East title for Florida. This much is certain, just as it has been since the beginning of the season; if you win all of your SEC games, you go to Atlanta. But of course, things don’t always work out so perfectly. The next two weeks are the most important of the season for Florida thanks to the back-to-back matchups with the other two contenders in the East. Here’s a quick look at those games, as well as a look at the remaining SEC schedule for both South Carolina and Georgia.
South Carolina at Florida, October 20th
The winner of this game will be in sole possession of first place in the East. If Florida wins, they’ll remain unbeaten and will hand South Carolina their second SEC loss, all but eliminating them from the hunt for the East title. A South Carolina victory would be crushing for Florida, as that would give both teams one SEC loss but South Carolina would take first place due to their head-to-head victories over both Florida and Georgia. Florida would need South Carolina to lose to Arkansas or Tennessee to be able to retake the East lead. The Gamecocks have played very well at home, so the chances of them taking a loss to either of those teams in Columbia are highly unlikely.
Florida vs. Georgia, October 27th (in Jacksonville)
Following a win over USC: If Florida enters the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party unbeaten, then a victory over the Dawgs in Jacksonville would clinch the East for the Gators. That would put Florida at 7-0 with only a game against Missouri remaining, while Georgia and South Carolina would each have two losses. If Florida loses to Georgia, then Georgia would be in first place (assuming Georgia beat Kentucky on 10/20 because, well, Kentucky) as they would be tied with Florida at one loss each but would hold the head-to-head tie-breaker. Just like with the Gamecocks, the Bulldogs have an easy remaining SEC schedule with a home game against Ole Miss and a road match at Auburn. Florida does not want to find themselves relying on either of those teams to beat Georgia to be able to win the East.
Following a loss to USC: A victory over Georgia would basically eliminate the Bulldogs from contention, but it only does enough for Florida to keep hope alive for Arkansas or Tennessee to upset the Gamecocks. A loss to Georgia practically eliminates Florida from the race as they would need Georgia and South Carolina to lose both of their remaining SEC games which will not happen.
There are all sorts of fun tie-breakers that go into determining the division champion if more than one team finishes with the same record (including certain scenarios that involve going to the BCS rankings to break ties), but the most important tie-breaker is head-to-head victories. That is why the next two weeks are so crucial for Florida. Taking a loss to another division contender is almost like taking two losses at once by losing the head-to-head tie-breaker.
While Florida fans are still reveling in the aftermath of that huge 14-6 win over LSU, let’s keep in mind that the SEC gauntlet is far from over. In a mere 9 days, the Gators will be welcoming SEC East rival (and currently undefeated) South Carolina into the Swamp. But before South Carolina travels to Gainesville, they’ve got to worry about their game in LSU’s Death Valley this weekend.
I don’t want to look past Vanderbilt by any means, but I want to ask the question: who should Florida fans be rooting for in the LSU-USC matchup this weekend? The knee-jerk reaction of many students and fans is to root for South Carolina over LSU because “How awesome would it be to have another matchup of unbeatens in the Swamp in two weeks?” or “I really want College Gameday to come to Gainesville this year” or “I really want it to be a night game on October 20th”. There’s nothing wrong with these wishes, but the reasoning behind them is flawed and priorities are not in order. So here are 3 reasons why Florida fans should be rooting for LSU over South Carolina this weekend:
1. Believe it or not, Florida’s chances of getting a night game would actually improve with a South Carolina loss. CBS, who broadcasts the SEC Game of the Week at 3:30 every Saturday, has yet to choose a game for October 20th. They are waiting to see the results of this weekend’s games before deciding between Florida-South Carolina, LSU-Texas A&M, and Alabama-Tennessee. No doubt a South Carolina victory over LSU would make UF-USC the most appealing game, meaning Florida would be playing at 3:30 and we would be lamenting another missed opportunity for a night game. And for those who think CBS might switch their broadcast to a primetime 8:00 kickoff for such an epic matchup, forget about it. CBS has only one 8:00 broadcast this season, and they’ve reserved it for November 3rd (LSU-Alabama).
Now a South Carolina loss to LSU makes UF-USC less appealing and, conversely, LSU-TAMU more appealing. And should CBS deem LSU-TAMU to be the more appealing matchup, then UF-USC would be dropped to ESPN for a likely evening kickoff. Night game achievement unlocked. Of course, there’s no guarantee CBS follows this reasoning if LSU beats South Carolina. But there’s no doubt the probability of CBS passing over UF-USC can only rise should South Carolina lose. Bama-Tenn is a wildcard, because while that may seem like a weaker matchup, CBS may enjoy the draw of showcasing the #1 team in the country.
2. Everyone knows ESPN loves to take their College Gameday crew to a site at which they are broadcasting a game. So if South Carolina beats LSU and CBS chooses UF-USC for their game of the week, then say goodbye to College Gameday. ESPN most likely won’t be coming to Gainesville if CBS is going to be broadcasting the game. But if South Carolina loses to LSU and UF-USC drops to ESPN, then all of a sudden College Gameday will have no choice but to heavily consider traveling to Gainesville on October 20th.
3. And now for the single most important reason that Florida fans should be rooting for LSU this weekend. A South Carolina loss gives Florida a 1-game lead in the SEC East race and the inside track to represent the East in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta (assuming the Gators take care of Vanderbilt this weekend). This is the ONLY thing Florida fans should be concerned with at this point in the season. Not College Gameday. Not the time of the game. Nothing else. If an unbeaten South Carolina were to beat the Gators on October 20th, Florida’s chances of recovering to win the SEC East would be slim to none. A Gamecocks loss this weekend gives Florida a welcome margin of error.
So Gator fans, an LSU victory over South Carolina means an SEC East lead for Florida, and it could also mean a night game and a possible visit from College Gameday.
For this weekend and this weekend alone: Geaux Tigers.
A popular narrative among a few sportswriters in the last year has been one that places Urban Meyer as the scapegoat for Florida’s struggles. Will Muschamp presumably inherited a broken program that had been left in shambles by Urban who got out while he still could since he knew that he hadn’t recruited the kind of talent necessary for Florida to keep winning. Based on this line of thinking it would take Muschamp at least three years to get Florida into a spot where they could be competitive again, as that would give him three recruiting classes to get his own guys into the program as Urban’s weak classes graduated, transferred, or left early to clear the way for the Muschamp guys. Urban apparently “left the cupboard bare” for Muschamp who was doing the best he could with the few scraps he had. This was, in some eyes, the best way to explain Florida’s uncharacteristic 7-6 season in Muschamp’s first year at Florida.
How is that narrative holding up now? After Muschamp’s first signature win as Florida’s head coach this weekend against LSU, it’s safe to say that Meyer didn’t leave the cupboard as bare as some wanted us to believe. As first pointed out by Jason Lieser, out of 22 players on Florida’s starting roster on Saturday, 19 were signed by Urban Meyer, and that does not count Jeff Driskel who was recruited by Meyer but signed by Muschamp. Muschamp has Florida back to it’s winning ways and he’s doing it with players Urban Meyer brought in to the program.
Muschamp famously called the team soft last year following the struggles of a winless October and some losses that made the Gators look vastly overmatched at almost every position. When Strength and Conditioning Director Micky Marotti left to join Meyer’s new staff at Ohio State, Muschamp brought in Jeff Dillman who had worked with him on Nick Saban’s staff at LSU. Dillman came on board and has successfully whipped the team into incredible shape as evidenced most clearly by Florida’s offensive line play on Saturday as they battered LSU on 25 consecutive run plays in the second half. After the game, Gillislee said he never felt tired even towards the end of the game after carrying the ball 34 times for 146 yards against an LSU defense that hasn’t given up 100 yards to one rusher since 2010. This team is as far from soft as you can get, and yet the players spending the most time on the field are Urban Meyer signees who spent the most time on the field last year as well.
It’s time for Florida fans to let go of any grudge they have against Urban. He didn’t leave Florida with nothing to work with, even if there certainly were some growing pains in the process. When there is a head coaching change at any program at any level, there are always some struggles in the transition just like there has been at Florida. Muschamp has spent the last 20 months filling out his staff, implementing his own systems, and molding the players Meyer recruited to fit into a program that is now uniquely his own. These are his players now.