SEC 2010 // Florida Still Owns the East

I went over this last year, but as this is Florida preview week, I think it could stand a repeated and updated appearance.

Florida still owns the SEC East to an uncanny degree. Since the beginning of divisional play, here is how UF has fared against the other teams in its half of the league:

Opponent UF Record
Georgia 15-3
Kentucky 18-0
South Carolina 17-1
Tennessee 13-5
Vanderbilt 18-0
Overall 81-9 (.900)

 

That's nine division losses in 18 seasons (compared to nine division championships), and only once (2004) did two SEC East losses come in the same season. Of course, that double in 2004 means Florida has gone undefeated against the East more times (10) than not (eight). And as long as we're on the subject, three of the nine losses came under Ron Zook. Steve Spurrier was an amazing 46-4 against the division from 1992-2001, and Urban Meyer has matched that pace by going 23-2 so far.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that the Gators haven't been nearly as dominant against the SEC West. To wit (no SEC title games included):

Opponent UF Record
Alabama 2-2
Arkansas 6-0
Auburn 8-5
LSU 13-5
Ole Miss
3-3
Mississippi St.
4-3
Overall 36-18 (.667)

 

Florida has handled Arkansas easily enough (with an exception here or there), and Spurrier took full advantage of LSU's lost decade of the '90s with an 11-1 record against those Tigers. From there it gets murkier. UF has lost three of the last four to Auburn, and the Mississippi schools trip up the Gators as well as anyone else does. In fact, they along with Alabama are the only SEC teams to have played Florida roughly evenly in the divisional era, despite not having nearly the same success (one title game appearance between them).

Florida has only had four undefeated seasons against the West, compared to ten against the East. The West has double the victories the East has against the Gators despite only playing roughly 57% of the games the East has. When making your prediction about Florida's schedule, you basically can start with the three West teams and decide which one or two will beat Florida in the upcoming year.

Florida's West slate in 2010 has them going to Alabama and hosting LSU and Mississippi State. The first of those would seem to be the most likely loss, though it's unwise to count LSU out against Florida in recent years (4-4 record since 2002). Plus, Bama gets Florida a week after it goes to Fayetteville while UF hosts Kentucky. Don't bet on Mississippi State to get the job done, and not just because Florida's offense will be going away a bit from the system Dan Mullen helped to install. MSU is 0-3 at Florida Field in the divisional play era with the closest loss being by 12 points. Starkville is where those Bulldogs get the Gators, not Gainesville.

In any event it's remarkable how much Florida has mastered its division, even going 12-3 (.800) under its weakest coach in the span. With Tennessee rebuilding; Georgia changing defensive scheme and starting a freshman quarterback; South Carolina going to Gainesville; and Vandy and Kentucky still being Vandy and Kentucky, I don't think I would bet on this fact changing much this fall.

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