What a wild week in the SEC. Only one of the league’s 8 ranked teams finished better than .500 for the week (Ole Miss @ 3-1). While others stumbled, Florida moved to 14-4 in-conference and is now four-games up in the standings.
Two weeks ago, I said the West doesn’t have an elite team. I was right: neither Ole Miss or Arkansas have shown the consistency to pull away from the pack. Six SEC West teams are within 2 games of the lead in the division.
Here’s where I rank the top teams in the league:
1. Florida (#1 in D1 Poll, #2 in RPI, 1st in SEC) – Florida is on cruise-control but they’ve dominated the conference. I think they still have another gear – they haven’t played to their full potential yet. Scary. After a loss to Jacksonville midweek, the Gators won 2 of 3 in Lexington. It was Florida’s first .500 week of the year.
I’d been looking forward to Florida/Kentucky all week but UK’s coach Nick Mingione ruined the series when he pulled his game-one starter Zach Haake after just 2 innings. The Gators went to town on Kentucky’s bullpen and scored 6 runs in the 3rd. Kentucky never recovered. The Wildcats slept through Friday’s game as well and lost the series.
2. Ole Miss (#6 in D1, 5 in RPI, T-2nd SEC) – Really, there’s not much difference in Ole Miss and Arkansas. After dropping 2 weekends in a row, OM came home and allowed just 9 runs in a series win over UGA this weekend. Coming up, the Landsharks need to sweep LSU in Oxford (the Tigers are just 2-10 on the road) to stay on top of the West. The Rebs are a tidy 22-3 at home.
3. Arkansas (#7 in D1, 8 RPI, T-2nd SEC) – Arkansas was embarrassed in Starkville this weekend as Mississippi State swept the Hogs. The Razorbacks are struggling: the top-hitting team in the conference has scored just 20 runs in their last 6 SEC games (3.33 per). Arkansas is now 4-8 on the road – will the NCAA Selection Committee punish them for it?
They Omahogs get Texas Tech (#3 in RPI) at Baum Stadium Tuesday and Wednesday night before hosting last-place Alabama. This is a perfect week to make a statement.
4. Texas A&M (22 in D1, 15 RPI, T-6th SEC) – This one I struggled with and I might still have it wrong. No one from this pack (UGA, A&M, Vandy) has separated themselves and each potentially has a claim as the 4th best team in the league.
UGA is 7th in the RPI, 19-12 vs top 100 teams, and are #6 in the SOS. But they’re headed in the wrong direction after a fast-start in the SEC (more on that later). Vanderbilt is #23rd in the RPI which seems to disqualify them but they’re 17-11 vs top 100 teams and have the #4 SOS. What really hurts is the 7-11 record in road/neutral games and a 7-5 mark vs teams with an RPI over 100.
So that leaves me Texas A&M. The Ags are 15 in the RPI, 31 in SOS but just 15-10 vs top 100 teams. I think the Aggies have two top-line starters and also boast the league’s best ERA. The Ags are on the road again this weekend, heading to suddenly-hot Mississippi State before hosting Florida on what will be a rowdy Cinco de Mayo weekend.
News and Notes
– The West is such a mess. It’s possible that 6 teams could still win it. Here are their remaining schedules:
ARK: Bama, @LSU, TAMU, @UGA
AU: @UF, VU, @OM, LSU
LSU: @OM, ARK, Bama, @AU
MSU: TAMU, @Bama, @UK, UF
OM: LSU, @USC, AU, @Bama
Texas A&M: @MSU, UF, @ARK, USC
Looking for a favorite, I’d eliminate the teams that have to face Florida (Auburn, A&M, State) first. I don’t think LSU is going on the road and winning 3 games combined at Ole Miss and Auburn so ditch them. And I think Arkansas faces a tougher schedule so I’ll take Ole Miss to win the West in the final 2 days of the season.
– Georgia has now lost 3 weekends in a row after their hot 7-2 start. The Bulldogs are just 3-6 in their last 9 SEC games and have scored just 31 runs in that span (3.44 pg). UGA has failed to score more than 3 runs in 8 of their last 11 conference games.
– Is there balance in the league or is it just mediocre? Late last week, a prominent national writer predicted just one SEC team in Omaha (Florida, obvi). I think the league is slightly weaker than in years past but I think that’s true all over the country.
Florida and Stanford seem to be the only truly elite programs this year. But if the SEC gets 4 or more host sites, there will be multiple SEC teams at TD Ameritrade.
– Only Florida (10-5) and Ole Miss (9-6) have winning road records for the season. Five SEC teams are more than 3 games under .500 (Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina).
– Just 3 teams in the top 250 in the RPI have 2 or fewer roads wins and LSU is one of them (North Florida and Old Dominion are the others). The Tigers have scored just 25 in 9 SEC road games this season (2.77 pg). Brutal.
– Auburn won their first conference road series at Alabama this week. The War Eagles flat-out embarrassed Bama with a shutout and a combined 44-10 score. Florida won their 3rd road series of the year – no other team has more than one.
– Who hasn’t won a road weekend at all? Arkansas, LSU, South Carolina, and Texas A&M. Texas A&M is the only one in this group that has won a game each of those weekends. The other 3 schools each have just 2 road wins in the SEC.