Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA — The Southeastern Conference’s West Division, half a conference, has received more attention than most full conferences — and for good reason. The division includes three of the top four teams in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and two more teams in the top 15.
Yet, the West can only send one of these teams to the SEC Championship on Dec. 6. Also sending a team: the SEC East, which consists of seven teams with essentially no shot at participating in the inaugural College Football Playoff, even if they were to take the SEC title.
In the driver’s seat of the SEC’s second-fiddle division? The unranked Missouri Tigers, which, despite being the reigning East champs, are a surprising contender given unseemly home losses to Indiana and Georgia.
Nonetheless, the Tigers are one of three teams that can still win the East. In fact, they have the best chance at doing so.
Here are all the possible outcomes for the division.
- Missouri wins.
The Tigers currently control their own fate, and the winning formula is fairly simple for Missouri: Win and you’re in. If the Tigers win their remaining games against Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas — which have a combined 3-12 record in conference play — Missouri will make the trip to Atlanta for the third time in its first three years in the SEC.
But even if the Tigers fail to win out, which is certainly a possibility considering two of their remaining games come against teams from the West, their division title hopes aren’t necessarily done for.
Georgia holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with Missouri because of its 34-0 drubbing of the Tigers on Oct. 11, so if the Bulldogs and Tigers tie for the division lead, Georgia will win. But if Georgia matches Missouri loss-for-loss, the Tigers will still win the division. Though Georgia will be heavily favored Saturday at Kentucky, which is riding a three-game losing streak, the Bulldogs will have their paws full Nov. 15 against No. 3 Auburn.
- Georgia wins.
Therefore, the Bulldogs, who won the East in 2012, can return to the SEC Championship if Missouri loses more games than the Bulldogs in the remaining four November weekends.
Unlikely losses to Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech would not affect Georgia’s standing, as non-conference record is not a factor in determining the champion.
- Florida wins.
No, your eyes don’t deceive you. Florida still has a chance to win it. The 4-3 Gators, who will likely pick up another loss Nov. 29 at No. 2 Florida State, can still reach the SEC Championship with four losses. If Florida wins its remaining two conference games, Georgia loses one — and only one — and Missouri loses two, the Gators could be Atlanta-bound.
If such a scenario played out, all three teams would finish 5-3 in SEC play, and each would be 1-1 in head-to-head games against the other two — the first tiebreaker for a three-way tie.
The next tiebreaker is divisional record. If this scenario were to occur, Georgia’s divisional record would be 4-2 or 3-3 (depending on who defeated the Bulldogs), Florida’s would be 5-1 and Missouri’s would be 5-1 or 4-2 (once again, depending on which two teams beat the Tigers).
If one of Missouri’s hypothetical two losses were to SEC East foe Tennesse, Florida would win the East. If Missouri’s two losses came to SEC West teams, Florida and Missouri would still be tied, and we would revert to the first two-team tie-breaker, which is head-to-head record — meaning Missouri would take first place, thanks to its 42-13 blowout of Florida.
If Missouri and Georgia each lose two conference games and Florida wins out, the tie would be between just Missouri and Florida, meaning the Tigers would win on the head-to-head tiebreaker.
In short, a Missouri win at Tennessee eliminates Florida, but the Gators still have a chance. Florida can also advance in the unlikely event Missouri loses three more games and Georgia loses at least one, as the Gators hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against Georgia with its 38-20 upset last week.
Missouri dedicated its game Saturday, a 20-10 defeat of Kentucky, to John Kadlec, who died Oct. 29. Kadlec, known as “Mr. Mizzou,” served as a player, coach and administrator at Missouri for more than 60 years.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he attended Kadlec’s visitation the night before the game and met with Kadlec’s family.
The Tigers wore commemorative stickers on the backs of their helmets, and a “Mr. Mizzou” memorial was painted on the Missouri sideline. The Kadlec family received the game ball after Missouri’s win.
“Just a great person,” Pinkel said of Kadlec after the game. “A guy that touched thousands of people, players and all the people he’d been around. … (I) just thank God to be able to have a 14-year relationship with him. He was in my life, and I feel very blessed and thankful for that.”