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Alabama photo by Kent Gidley / Alabama running back Najee Harris celebrates last season's acrobatic 42-yard touchdown reception during the 47-23 win at South Carolina.

The Southeastern Conference displayed an abundance of college football dominance during the decade of the 2010s, winning six national championships to surpass the five the SEC claimed during the 2000s.

Last decade began with Auburn earning the BCS national title and ended with LSU capturing the College Football Playoff championship. In between were four national championships won by Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide.

What the SEC didn't showcase the past 10 seasons was divisional balance, as nine of the league's champions came out of the West. Only Georgia's defeat of Auburn in 2017 prevented the West from sweeping the decade, as Alabama won five conference crowns, Auburn two and LSU two.

When the league added Arkansas and South Carolina before the 1992 season and implemented divisional play, the East quickly became the superior side as Florida and Tennessee combined to win six consecutive conference crowns from 1993 to '98. Only in the 2000s was there divisional parity, with that decade producing five league winners from each side.

With everyone clinging to hope of a healthy 2020 SEC season that includes the appealing September cross-divisional showdown between Georgia and Alabama in Tuscaloosa, here is a league ranking of how programs have fared in cross-divisional regular-season games since their inception (records do not include games later vacated or forfeited under NCAA sanctions):

 

1. ALABAMA (56-19-1)

The Tide have won 13 straight against permanent cross-divisional rival Tennessee and have won 20 consecutive games against East foes — 25 if SEC championship contests are included. Alabama's last loss to an East opponent occurred at South Carolina in 2010. Alabama's cross-divisional record would be even more impressive had Mike DuBose and Mike Shula been better than their 6-6 marks in such games.

 

2. GEORGIA (50-25-1)

The Bulldogs have ascended to consistent top-five status in college football despite recent blowout losses at Ole Miss (2016), Auburn (2017) and LSU (2018), and they haven't defeated Alabama since 2007. Yet Georgia's lofty ranking here is largely due to having just three losses to permanent cross-divisional foe Auburn in the past 15 seasons and for having the ability to typically thrash West teams that are struggling.

 

3. AUBURN (44-31-1)

This is a respectable achievement given that Auburn had Georgia and Florida as permanent cross-divisional foes through 2002, which means the Tigers faced all of Steve Spurrier's stellar squads. Auburn knocked off No. 1 Florida teams in 1994 and in 2001, and the Tigers handed Urban Meyer's 2006 national champions their only defeat. South Carolina has yet to defeat Auburn since joining the league.

 

4. FLORIDA (44-32)

Spurrier was 23-7 in cross-divisional games during the regular season, so the Gators actually have a losing record against the West since his magnificent era that yielded six SEC titles in 12 seasons. Ron Zook followed Spurrier and was 4-5 versus West opponents in his three seasons. Florida has a 16-12 lead over permanent cross-divisional opponent LSU, but much of that success was built under Spurrier.

 

5. LSU (43-32-1)

The SEC implemented divisions when LSU was horrific, as the Tigers lost their first eight cross-divisional games under Curley Hallman and finished their disappointing 1990s with a 6-17-1 record in such games. Then Saban arrived, and there have been significantly happier days in Baton Rouge ever since. LSU has won its most recent contest against every East foe, having won eight straight against Vanderbilt and six straight against South Carolina.

 

6. MISSISSIPPI STATE (39-37)

Dan Mullen's success in Starkville is the chief reason the Bulldogs are just above .500 in SEC cross-divisional games. Mississippi State won seven years in a row against permanent cross-divisional foe Kentucky from 2009 to '15, and Mullen's 2010 Bulldogs managed to surprise Florida and Georgia in addition to topping the Wildcats.

 

7. TENNESSEE (38-37-1)

As the only East team required to face Alabama on an annual basis, the Volunteers certainly have the most challenging task. Tennessee's tremendous run during the back half of the 1990s included 14 consecutive wins over West squads, but it was just the opposite during the 2010s, when instability in Knoxville yielded 15 straight cross-divisional losses. The Vols stopped that slide with wins over Auburn (2018) and Mississippi State (2019).

 

8. OLE MISS (37-39)

The Rebels have Vanderbilt as their permanent cross-divisional opponent but haven't capitalized, posting a 7-8 record against the Commodores in the past 15 meetings. Ole Miss does have as big of a cross-divisional conquest as anybody, traveling to Florida in 2008 and pulling off a 31-30 thriller over Tim Tebow and the Gators, who would go on to win that season's national championship with double-digit victories the rest of the way.

 

9. ARKANSAS (30-46)

The Razorbacks were immediately paired with fellow newcomer South Carolina and went 13-9 in that matchup before linking annually with neighboring Missouri. Arkansas has lost five of those six games against Mizzou, and things have not been much better against everyone else. Arkansas last won a cross-divisional meeting in 2016 with a 31-10 whipping of Florida.

 

10. SOUTH CAROLINA (26-49-1)

The Gamecocks had never played Arkansas before they became annual rivals and had never played Texas A&M before the Aggies replaced the Razorbacks as their permanent cross-divisional foe. South Carolina has lost all six meetings against Texas A&M, so the Gamecocks are still seeking their first win over the Aggies and Auburn as an SEC member.

 

11. KENTUCKY (26-50)

The Wildcats don't play Alabama and Auburn frequently, which is a good thing from a historical standpoint. Kentucky has just one cross-divisional win over the Tide (1997) and one over the Tigers (2009). The overtime triumph over Alabama was Kentucky's first in that series since 1922, while the win over Auburn was a first for the program since 1966.

 

12. VANDERBILT (15-61)

The Commodores have yet to defeat Alabama and LSU since divisional play began, and they have lost both meetings to newcomer Texas A&M by at least 25 points. Vandy has lost its most recent game against every West opponent except Arkansas, with the Commodores having defeated the Razorbacks 45-31 two years ago in Fayetteville.

NOTE: Texas A&M and Missouri joined the SEC in 2012 and have fared well so far in cross-divisional games, with the Aggies going 12-4 and the Tigers 9-7.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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