The Florida Gators and LSU Tigers entered their matchup last weekend as the only two remaining undefeated teams in the Southeastern Conference and the two teams that truly controlled their own fate in their respective divisions.
They also both left Tiger Stadium that way.
Sure, Florida’s seven point defeat at the hands of the Tigers leaves their road to Atlanta slightly more convoluted than the Tigers’ path, but LSU still has to navigate through trips to Tuscaloosa and Oxford, as well as home contests against Texas A&M and an Arkansas team that will be playing with nothing to lose.
Florida, on the other hand, has a pretty clean road to Atlanta. The Gators will enjoy a bye week before their last true conference test on Halloween when they face off against the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville.
With many scenarios that could play out the easiest way for the Gators to get back to Atlanta for the first time since 2009 is simple…
Just win, baby…
The words of the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis should ring through the Florida locker room. Winning takes care of everything and winning would send Florida back to the SEC Championship.
If Florida wins their remaining three SEC games (Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina) they will win the SEC East outright with a 7-1 record.
The Gators face Georgia in two weeks. The Bulldogs have two conference losses — a 38-10 drubbing at the hands of Alabama and a 38-31 loss to Tennessee — and just narrowly avoided their second loss in a 9-6 win over Missouri a week ago.
At 6-2 in the SEC, Georgia’s route to Atlanta begins by beating Florida. A loss to the Gators would give the Bulldogs three conference losses, two game behind Florida, and would mean the Gators would have to lose to Vanderbilt and South Carolina — which would involve a complete meltdown by the Gators, and something that appears unlikely.
It’s obvious, which is why we started with it. Win and you’re in.
If a loss to Georgia…
The unfathomable for most Gators fans, a loss to the Dawgs.
Many fans would trade a season full of losses for wins over Georgia and Florida State. Nobody predicted Florida’s 6-1 start this season, but fans all over the country have had their expectations change thanks to the fast start that Florida has enjoyed.
However, thanks to a fake field goal from Les Miles, Florida’s 4-1 conference record doesn’t have them sitting as pretty as it would be if they would have escaped Death Valley with a victory.
If the Gators lose to Georgia they would be tied atop the SEC East rankings with Georgia. If just two remain tied atop the standing when the season ends the first tiebreaker would spell doom for Florida: Head-to-head competition.
If Florida were to lose to Georgia and both teams finished the season with two conference losses, Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs would represent the East.
But what about Tennessee and Kentucky? (Yes, that Kentucky)
After Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee also stand at two conference losses this season.
Tennessee’s conference schedule is as follows: at Alabama, at Kentucky, South Carolina, at Missouri and Vanderbilt.
Kentucky finishes off conference play with: at Mississippi State, Tennessee, at Georgia and at Vanderbilt.
By process of the schedule, Kentucky and Tennessee cannot both finish with two conference losses this season because they have played each other. It’s also highly likely that both will lose on the road against SEC West opponents this coming weekend.
That puts even more emphasis on beating Georgia in two weeks for the Gators.
Just beat Georgia…
The Florida Gators have to beat Georgia if they want to go to Atlanta. No, Florida will not be mathematically eliminated if they come up short in Jacksonville, but they would forfeit the keys to the SEC East bus that continues moving towards the Championship game.
If Florida loses in two weeks they would need Georgia to drop another SEC game along the way to avoid a two-team tie that would send the Dawgs on into the coveted first Saturday in December that every SEC team strives to play on.
Georgia’s schedule after Florida sees them host Kentucky and then travel to Auburn. The way that Kentucky has been playing could lead to an upset between the hedges, but do you really want to sweat out a Georgia-Kentucky game in hopes that the Wildcats beat Georgia for the first time since 2009?
I didn’t think so.
The three-way tie system would favor the Gators, but that would require Tennessee to run the table unscathed, meaning they would need to win in Tuscaloosa this weekend, a venue they haven’t won a game at since 2003.
If the Vols somehow shocked everyone and finished the SEC schedule at 6-2, along with both Florida and Georgia the SEC’s three-way tie system would come into effect.
1) Combined head-to-head record among the tied teams.
In this scenario, all three teams would be 1-1 against each other. On to the next one.
2) Record of the tied teams within the division.
Everyone is 6-2. Next.
3) Records against the team within the division with the best overall (divisional and non-divisional) Conference record and proceeding through the division. Multiple ties within the division will be broken from first to last.
By my understanding, this tiebreaker would not apply, as everyone would have one loss to one team from the East and one from the West. Florida’s western foes (LSU, Ole Miss) are shared by neither Tennessee nor Georgia and, in this scenario, Tennessee beat Alabama, which means the Tide would have two SEC losses and LSU would likely be the best team in the conference.
4) Complete record vs. non-division teams
Everyone is 1-1.
5) Combined record vs. all common non-divisional teams.
Georgia and Tennessee have a common opponent in Alabama, but the Gators do not share that opponent. I believe this would throw out this scenario, bringing us deeper down this rabbit hole.
6) Record vs. common non-divisional team with the best overall Conference (divisional and non-divisional) record and proceeding through other common non-divisional teams based on their order of finish within their division.
Again, Florida does not share a common non-divisional team, and there is no way that three teams from the east could all have the same western foe with teams from the East and West only playing two non-conference opponents, so the fact that tiebreakers 3-6 involve this is puzzling, to say the least.
7) Best cumulative Conference winning percentage of non-divisional opponents (Note: If two teams’ non-divisional opponents have the same cumulative record, then the two-team tiebreaker procedures apply. If four teams are tied, and three teams’ non-divisional opponents have the same cumulative record, the three-team tiebreaker procedures will be used beginning with No. 1)
And here it is, Florida would now be rooting for LSU to finish the season undefeated. That means the Tigers would beat Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
In our three-way tie scenario, Alabama has picked up a second conference loss to Tennessee before hosting LSU. That means LSU could drop two of those four games, as long as they handed Alabama their third conference loss on November 7. If a three-way tie happens, Florida would need LSU to finish ahead of Alabama to win the seventh — out of eight — divisional tie breakers.
That’s a lot to process and it can all be avoided by doing one thing.
Just beat Georgia