Things have changed since the last time we discussed baseball standings about a month ago. (Sorry about that; the legislative session caught up to me and kept me from getting anything done here for a while.) At that time, South Carolina was pushing Florida for the least in the SEC East and Alabama was on top of the SEC West. Like I said, things have changed:
|y-Florida Gators||19-8||34-18||--||y-Ole Miss Rebels||17-10||16-11||--|
|y-Vanderbilt Commodores||16-11||38-14||3.0||y-Mississippi St. Bulldogs||16-11||33-19||1.0|
|y-South Carolina Gamecocks||16-11||39-13||3.0||y-LSU Tigers||14-11-1||28-5-1||2.0|
|Kentucky Wildcats||12-15||30-20||7.0||y-Alabama Crimson Tide||14-12||32-19||2.5|
|Tennessee Volunteers||11-16||29-20||8.0||Arkansas Razorbacks||13-14||32-21||4.0|
|Georgia Bulldogs||10-16-1||25-25||8.5||Texas A&M Aggies||13-14||31-21||4.0|
|x-Missouri Tigers||6-21||20-30||13.0||Auburn Tigers||10-17||27-25||7.0|
|x-Eliminated from SEC tournament contention; y-Clinched spot in SEC tournament|
The biggest changes over the past few weeks have been Alabama's slide and Vanderbilt rebounding. The Tide has gone 4-7 and is now on the fringe of being eliminated from the division race. The Commodores, meanwhile, have gone 9-3 in their last four SEC series to move from the middle of the pack to the last team eliminated from contention for the SEC East -- something that should happen some time this weekend. Florida's been slightly better -- 10-2 -- and now has a three-game lead.
South Carolina is out in the East for the same reason that Vanderbilt isn't likely to win the division: They play each other this weekend. Vanderbilt would have to sweep the Gamecocks and see Tennessee sweep Florida. Neither of those things is utterly impossible, but each is on the far end of the likelihood scale. Both of them happening at the same time has to be considered the remotest of possibilities. At the same time, while South Carolina could conceivably also tie Florida at 19 wins, they don't have the series win against Florida that Vanderbilt holds, meaning that the Gators have the tiebreaker in the (equally unlikely) event that the Gamecocks sweep the Commodores and the Vols win all three in Knoxville this weekend.
In other words, Florida has clinched for all reasonable purposes, and will officially do so with its first win of the weekend or as as soon as South Carolina and Vanderbilt each lose a game in their series. It could go to Saturday -- all the series begin on Thursday on the final weekend -- but the odds strongly favor the leaders.
The SEC West, meanwhile, is a four-team race -- except that it's probably not. Alabama and LSU need Texas A&M to sweep Ole Miss, which is not something you want to bank on happening, while sweeping their own series. For LSU, which faces Auburn, that's something that very well could happen. For Alabama, hosting Mississippi State, it's a little bit higher bar to clear. In either case, it's not likely to matter -- Texas A&M hasn't swept an SEC series all season.
And while Mississippi State is just one game back with one series to go, that doesn't tell the whole story. Ole Miss holds the tiebreaker after winning the "Super Bulldog Weekend" series -- #branding -- so it's really a two-game deficit. Mississippi State needs the Rebels to lose at least two games to Texas A&M while the Bulldogs sweep, or get a sweep by the Aggies while Mississippi State wins two out of three.
Long story short: Your top seeds from the divisions are likely to be Florida and Ole Miss, barring something unforeseen.
The race for the last three spots in the SEC tournament is a little less clear. And that opens up a bit more room for some excitement this weekend.
|Race for the Top 12|
|Texas A&M Aggies||13-14||+2.5|
Arkansas and Texas A&M are in barring absolute disaster -- another win, and Georgia and Auburn can't catch up with them. And with Arkansas playing Missouri this weekend, that ticket is pretty secure. Which is a good thing for the Hogs, given that Auburn holds the tiebreaker against Arkansas. Needing just one win against Ole Miss is also good for the Aggies, because they lost series to Auburn and Georgia during the season.
Of the two bottom teams, Georgia has the best opportunity to punch its ticket. The Bulldogs play Kentucky, and simply winning as many as Auburn would send them to the tournament. Auburn is playing LSU, which is a harder draw than Kentucky, and they need to win one more game than Georgia this weekend.