I was reading a blog by one of the few people who has bothered to comment on a wordpress blog of mine. He wrote a blog illogically denouncing the SEC and he has Georgia as the SEC’s best team. In reflecting upon how wrong this is, it occurred to me that Georgia should not even be considered the best team in the East, particularly if both Florida and Georgia finish with one loss apiece. I’ve now left two comments on his blog to discuss this.
Just to avoid any idea of bias against them, I actually like Georgia. After Kentucky and Vanderbilt, who I mostly favor as regular underdogs, Georgia has been my favorite team in the East. I can’t think of a recent instance where I didn’t cheer for them against Florida, Tennessee, or South Carolina. I guess I’m more neutral with Tennessee now, but I remember being very annoyed on the Bulldogs’ behalf that Tennessee won the SEC East in 2007, and I was definitely for Georgia before that. So I’m being consistent now that the team I like less deserves to play in the game and will not be able to.
As an aside, I also like newcomer Missouri—I remember cheering for them many times as underdogs against teams like Nebraska and Oklahoma—but I knew no matter how many losses there had been by A&M and Missouri, the first time one of the two got a breakthrough win, people were going to say, “Aha! The SEC defenses aren’t so good after all. Look at that Big XII team go!” And that’s exactly what happened when Texas A&M, despite falling flat offensively against LSU and Florida after going out to early leads, finally managed to win such a game against Alabama. So I’m not quite in solidarity with the new Tigers and the Aggies just yet.
There is a fan interest that has made me passionate about this issue, and that’s being a fan of LSU. As you may have noticed, Florida has been pretty good for about the last 25 years, and they’ve played LSU in all of those years. Every single one of them. Does LSU get any consideration if they tie for something as a result of this? Win or lose, the answer is no. So when I see that a team like Florida, who played LSU and Texas A&M, is being passed over by Georgia, who instead played Ole Miss and Auburn, I sympathize with Florida even though I like Georgia much better.
Georgia earned a win over Florida, don’t get me wrong, but don’t forget South Carolina beat Georgia handily. The only reason we’re not looking at a 3-way tie right now is that unlike Florida, South Carolina didn’t win its game against LSU.
Well, how did Georgia do against those top teams in the West, you may ask. 0-0! Florida was 2-0, having played both LSU and Texas A&M.
There are 6 divisional games now, two non-divisional games, but I don’t like that we treat those two non-divisional games as equal. I think they should be used as tie-breakers. That would give us that 3-way tie. Now if a team in the three-way tie had beaten both other teams, a 3-way tie is easily to resolve. Give the win to that team.
But instead, we have a circular outcome: South Carolina beat Georgia, who beat Florida, who beat South Carolina, who beat Georgia, etc.
If the SEC considered this a three-way tie, it would be resolved by looking at the BCS, where Georgia is ranked ahead, but it’s close. I would also note that Florida is ahead in the computers. The only reason Georgia is ahead is because it’s been longer since they’ve lost a game, but I think that’s an improper consideration. When head-to-head is used, no one cares when the game was (example, Georgia/Tennessee 2007).
I think one should look at who these inter-divisional these opponents were and how they fared in the West. LSU is currently 3-1, and Texas A&M is currently 5-1 against other teams in the SEC West. (I don’t think a team in the West should be looked down upon for losing to multiple teams in the tiebreaker; if LSU had lost to Florida and South Carolina, this shouldn’t be used to Georgia’s benefit). Georgia has played Ole Miss and Auburn, who have won a combined 2 conference games (both against the West, and one of which was when they played one another).
I do think you eliminate South Carolina at one point, but I don’t know if it’s merely for the loss to another SEC team or if any non-divisional losses should be considered: for instance, when Tennessee had an out-of-conference loss in 2007. Another way could be if you dropped the team with the worst inter-divisional schedule and started over. In this case, you’d drop Georgia and Florida would prevail over South Carolina by virtue of being 2-0 instead of 1-1. Or if South Carolina had beaten LSU, you could then go to head-to-head.
Although I can see how it’s the accepted norm in a two-way tie, I don’t like head-to-head anyway. Why should Georgia be rewarded tor losing to a worse team? It’s especially wrong in this situation. Florida has better wins and a better loss with the same record, but they’re shut out of the SEC title game. I haven’t even mentioned that the argument for Florida being the better team becomes even stronger if they can get past Florida St., a much better team than Georgia has played out of conference and, except for Florida, better than any team Georgia has beaten.
I also note that if you only look at divisional games, LSU, Texas A&M, and Alabama are also all tied. Certainly Alabama should prevail here, so whatever scenario one comes up with, that’s something to keep in mind, you wouldn’t want a 1-loss team falling behind two two-loss teams. But I do think that when it’s this close of a call between two teams like Georgia and Florida, especially if a third team has the same divisional record, there should be a way to look beyond head-to-head.