An equal path to SEC title game? Next to impossible

The math just doesn’t work. A 14-team conference plays only eight league games. There’s no way the SEC football title can be decided equitably. Depending on the ups and downs from one year to the next, somebody’s going to have an easier route to the title game in Atlanta than somebody else.

By now, you know the formula: 6-1-1. Everybody plays all six of their divisional opponents, one permanent opponent from the other side and one rotating opponent from the other side. Last year, Georgia won the East without playing any of the top three teams (Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU) in the West. Alabama won the West without playing any of the top three from the East (Georgia, Florida, South Carolina). LSU finished 7-1 in the West, beating South Carolina (6-2 SEC) and losing at Florida (7-1 SEC). Texas A&M, which beat Alabama, also lost to Florida. Alabama beat Tennessee (1-7 SEC) by 31 points and Missouri (2-6 SEC) by 32.

In 2013, Alabama keeps Tennessee and trades Missouri for an even lesser threat, Kentucky (0-8 SEC in 2012). LSU gets Florida again, and trades South Carolina for Georgia.

All indications are that the SEC intends to keep the permanent rivalries intact, even if — if — a ninth SEC game is added beginning in 2016. Thus the chance for inequity remains likely.

Here’s a review of the permanent rivalries since their inception in 1992.

Tennessee-Alabama is deadlocked 10-10-1.
Florida leads LSU 14-7.
Georgia leads Auburn 11-9-1.
Ole Miss leads Vandy 13-8.
Mississippi State leads Kentucky 13-8.
Arkansas leads South Carolina 13-8.

(Note: Starting in 2014, Arkansas will be paired with border state Missouri; South Carolina will be matched with Texas A&M in a pairing that makes no geographical sense.)

However, a look at the results over the past six years reveals the current status of the power balance:
Alabama leads Tennessee 6-0.
Florida-LSU are 3-3.
Georgia leads Auburn 5-1.
Vandy leads Ole Miss 5-1.
Mississippi State leads Kentucky 5-1.
Arkansas leads South Carolina 4-2.

The playing field isn’t level at all. Throw in the vagaries of the rotating opponent and the disparity gap can grow even wider.

Going to nine games would help to a degree. Doing away with the permanent rivals and playing three rotating opponents each year would help even more.