College Football Fans' Guide to the SEC East Race

Charles BennettContributor IOctober 28, 2013

College Football Fans' Guide to the SEC East Race

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    Missouri coach Gary Pinkel still has the Tigers well-positioned to win the SEC East.
    Missouri coach Gary Pinkel still has the Tigers well-positioned to win the SEC East.

    It would have lent a lot of clarity to the SEC East race if Missouri had beaten South Carolina Saturday night.

    The Tigers would have owned a two- to three-game lead as well as the tiebreaker edge against the only remaining contenders with four conference games to play.

    In short, only a total collapse would have deprived Missouri a berth in the SEC Championship game.

    Instead, South Carolina's come-from-behind 27-24 victory over the Tigers in two overtimes has thrown the race wide open.

    Now Missouri, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida all have a chance to win the SEC East if things fall right.

    The SEC tiebreaker procedures start out simply enough, but get more complex as they go.

    Thanks to South Carolina's victory, four teams in the SEC East still have a lot to play for.

     

What Missouri Has to Do

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    Missouri controls its own destiny despite Saturday night's loss to South Carolina.
    Missouri controls its own destiny despite Saturday night's loss to South Carolina.

    Despite the loss to South Carolina, Missouri remains the front-runner in the SEC East.

    If the Tigers win out, they will represent the East in the SEC championship game.

    However, Missouri has four games remaining, only one of which is a gimme: at home against Tennessee, at Kentucky, at Ole Miss and at home against Texas A&M. Kentucky (1-6, 0-4 SEC) would be the assumed gimme.

    The Tigers own the head-to-head advantage against both Georgia and Florida and also are likely to be in a favorable situation in case of a three-way tie.

    A three-way tie with Florida and Georgia gives it to the Tigers on head-to-head. A three-way tie between Missouri, South Carolina and either Georgia or Florida would be a wash on head-to-head and proceed to the next tiebreaker, which is record within the division.

    Missouri will be heavily favored against remaining East foes Tennessee and Kentucky and thus would likely advance based on a better divisional record.

    However, if the tie remains in place after head-to-head and record within the division, it goes to the final tiebreaker, which is BCS ranking.

    Even then, there's one final caveat. If two teams are within five spots of each other in the final BCS rankings, the tiebreaker reverts to head-to-head.

    Only South Carolina can beat the Tigers in that situation.

     

What South Carolina Has to Do

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    South Carolina safety T.J. Gurley celebrates the Gamecocks' victory over Missouri.
    South Carolina safety T.J. Gurley celebrates the Gamecocks' victory over Missouri.

    South Carolina's simplest way forward is to win its remaining SEC games at home against Mississippi State and Florida and have Missouri and Georgia both lose one more.

    Under that scenario, South Carolina would win the tiebreaker with Missouri on head-to-head.

    Things get more interesting in a three-way tie. If it's Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri, the head-to-head is a tie, and it goes next to record within the SEC East.

    At present, Missouri holds the advantage there and would likely hold it at season's end since the Tigers will be heavily favored against Tennessee and Kentucky.

    If it gets to the final tiebreaker, BCS ranking, South Carolina would probably get the nod because it would likely be ranked more than five spots ahead of Georgia and within five spots of Missouri, which gives it to the Gamecocks on the head-to-head advantage over the Tigers.

    In this scenario, South Carolina's remaining non-conference games against Coastal Carolina and Clemson become critical.

    A loss to either, coupled with Missouri and Georgia winning out, would probably eliminate the Gamecocks' BCS standings edge.

What Georgia Has to Do

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    Quarterback Aaron Murray hopes to lead the Bulldogs to a third consecutive SEC East title.
    Quarterback Aaron Murray hopes to lead the Bulldogs to a third consecutive SEC East title.

    Georgia will need some help to win a third consecutive SEC East title.

    The simplest scenario would call for the Bulldogs to win their remaining conference games against Florida, Auburn and Kentucky and have Missouri lose two more.

    Georgia would have a one-game edge on the Tigers and in case of a tie with South Carolina would win the division on head-to-head.

    In a three-way tie, the Bulldogs would need a rapid climb up the BCS ladder to edge out Missouri and the Gamecocks.

     

What Florida Has to Do

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    Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy will need continued improvement to keep the Gators in the SEC East chase.
    Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy will need continued improvement to keep the Gators in the SEC East chase.

    Florida's most favorable scenario to win the SEC East is similar to Georgia's. 

    The Gators need to win out against Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina, coupled with two more losses by Missouri since the Tigers hold the head-to-head advantage against Florida.

    There are other scenarios, but most are too complex to address.

    First things first: The Gators have to take care of business against the Bulldogs on Saturday.

     

Prediction

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    Even with the loss to South Carolina, Missouri looks like the team most likely to celebrate an SEC East title.
    Even with the loss to South Carolina, Missouri looks like the team most likely to celebrate an SEC East title.

    Missouri could have made things a lot easier by avoiding Saturday's loss to South Carolina in the second overtime. 

    However, the Tigers still control their own destiny, and those victories over Georgia and Florida resonate loudly.

    It's hard to imagine Missouri losing more than one of its remaining games, and only a tie with South Carolina would prove disastrous.

    A lot can still happen, but don't be surprised if the Tigers win their first SEC East championship in only their second year in the league.