SEC Inter-Division Play: Toughest and Lightest Schedules

We all like to guess how tough schedules will be before the season, but you never know until after the season is done. Fortunately, we've got 18 seasons' worth of inter-division play to pick out the truly tough and weak schedules from. Who has had the cakewalks and gauntlets? Let's find out.

TEN LIGHTEST SCHEDULES

Remember from before how Ole Miss and Mississippi State were ranked second and third in doing well against the opposite division versus the SEC overall? Here's a pretty telling reason as to why:

SEASON TEAM X-DIV RECORDS RECORD VS. SEASON REC.
1998 Mississippi State .294 2-1 8-5
1999 Mississippi State .324 3-0 10-2
2004 Mississippi State .324 2-1 3-8
1998 Ole Miss .353 2-1 7-5
2001 Ole Miss .353 2-1 7-4
2003 Tennessee .368 2-1 10-3
1999 Ole Miss .382 1-2 8-4
2000 Ole Miss .382 2-1 7-5
2005 Ole Miss .394 1-2 3-8
2003 Kentucky .395 1-2 4-8

 

Mississippi State struck the jackpot in the late '90s. Its permanent rivals were Kentucky and South Carolina, and while Kentucky was merely middling (7-5 in 1998, 6-6 in 1999), the Gamecocks hit their nadir (1-10 in 1998, 0-11 in 1999). Those same two years they got to do a home-and-home with Vanderbilt for the third game, which was 2-9 in '98 and 5-6 in 1999. The one loss across the two years was to the best team of them, '98 Kentucky.

Ole Miss has Vanderbilt as its permanent rival, so that helped out quite a bit with all these low cross-division records. Georgia was its other until the end of doubled rivals in 2001, which caught some down years for those Bulldogs. Luck played into the rest though. The Rebels happened to get those terrible South Carolina teams in 1998-99, a pair of 2-9 Kentucky teams in 2000-01, and 5-6 Tennessee and the last really bad Kentucky team (3-8) in 2005.

In 2003 Tennessee and Kentucky both got 2-10 Mississippi State and 4-9 Alabama, so that's mostly why those two grace this list.

TEN-ISH TOUGHEST SCHEDULES

There was a big logjam at .750, so you get 13 teams instead of 10.

SEASON TEAM X-DIV RECORDS RECORD VS. SEASON REC.
1998
Auburn .865 0-3 3-8
2003
Florida
.800 2-1 8-5
2003
South Carolina
.800 0-3 7-5
1996 Arkansas .778 0-3 4-7
2009 South Carolina .775 1-2 7-6
2009
Tennessee
.775 0-3 7-6
1992
Vanderbilt
.761 1-2 5-6
1999 Vanderbilt .757 1-2 5-6
2001
Arkansas
.757 1-2 7-5
2004
Georgia
.750 2-1 10-2
2006
Auburn
.750 2-1 11-2
2006
LSU
.750 2-1 11-2
2008
LSU
.750 1-2 8-5

 

Terry Bowden did plenty to dig his own grave at Auburn in 1998, but the SEC East slate the Tigers got didn't help. Auburn's permanent rivals were Georgia (9-3) and Florida (10-2) at the time, and then they got 13-0 Tennessee on top of that. In 2003, Florida and South Carolina got identical rough slates of national champ LSU (13-1), Eli Manning's best Ole Miss team (10-3), and a pretty good Arkansas unit (9-3).

Arkansas itself makes a couple appearances, which helps to a small degree to explain the Razorbacks' troubles with the SEC East. Two teams from last season, South Carolina and Tennessee, ended up on the list thanks to both getting Alabama (14-0), Ole Miss (9-4), and an 8-5 team (Auburn for Tennessee; Arkansas for South Carolina).

Look at a couple of teams near the bottom. Auburn and LSU from 2006 both ended up on the list with aggregate .750 inter-division opponent records, yet both ended up at 11-2. Just below this list is 2006 Florida (.718 cross-division record), who went 13-1 and won the national title. It just goes to show that a tough inter-division schedule doesn't have to be a hindrance to having a great season.

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