Fairness seen in SEC cross-divisional matchups

Fairness seen in SEC cross-divisional matchups

June 3rd, 2012 by David Paschall in Sports - College

LSU football coach Les Miles said this past week at the Southeastern Conference's spring meetings that the league's permanent cross-divisional football matchups are "disproportionate."

Yet they have proven to be incredibly fair.

Miles believes Mississippi State has an advantage by playing Kentucky each season while Auburn has to face consistently stout Georgia. Kentucky has been unquestionably inferior to Georgia historically and in recent seasons, winning just twice out of the past 12 series meetings, but that's the same infrequency since 2000 that Mississippi State has shown against Auburn.

Using a 12-year sampling of the cross-divisional matchups -- going back further skews the Florida-LSU series since Steve Spurrier dominated Curley Hallman and Gerry DiNardo -- only Arkansas has a solid upper hand. The Razorbacks are 8-4 against South Carolina since 2000 and provided a 41-20 waxing in Columbia two years ago, when the Gamecocks won their only East Division title.

"I don't know how much of a rivalry we have with them," Spurrier admitted in Destin, Fla.

Four of the six cross-divisional matchups in the past 12 years have a 7-5 tally, with Alabama leading Tennessee, Georgia leading Auburn, Ole Miss leading Vanderbilt and Mississippi State leading Kentucky by that margin. The Florida-LSU series is 6-6 since 2000.

So while it may be disproportionate in having to play either Kentucky or Georgia, the cross-divisional numbers reflect that no program seems worse for the wear.

Chomping at 'Cats

Florida hardly qualifies as a historical SEC basketball power, having won just 48 percent of its league games and needing 56 tries before winning the conference for the first time in 1989. The Gators didn't qualify for their first NCAA tournament until 1987, but those days seem long ago after Florida was tabbed this past week as Kentucky's twice-a-season hoop rival.

Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Alabama, LSU and even Arkansas have been Kentucky's chief league nemesis at one time or another, and each would have rejoiced at being paired with the Wildcats. Playing Kentucky has been healthy not only for their RPIs but also for home ticket sales.

The ascension by the Gators with Billy Donovan as coach, including national championships in 2006 and '07 and a runner-up finish in 2000, has made Kentucky-Florida the matchup of choice and the one most coveted by television.

So what is next?

SEC football coaches, athletic directors and presidents made it clear that they want the four highest-ranked teams in the national playoff scheduled to begin in 2014.

The Big 12 held its meetings this past week in Kansas City and came to the same conclusion, but the Big Ten, Big East, Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast conferences want more of an emphasis placed on conference champions. There are three scheduled BCS meetings this month, the first being on the 13th, in which contrasting views will be debated and a proposal formulated.