In looking through the official Southeastern Conference record book, I’ve found some interesting trends in the SEC football standings over the last 10 years, and even more so, in the last four years.
There’s excitement and hope amongst fans that the Tennessee Volunteers football team will make a big jump in the SEC in 2012 from last year’s disappointing (and historic, worst in school history) 1-7 SEC record. I think that’s a possibility. But, does history say teams in the SEC can improve that much from one season to the next? How often does that happen? I’ve laid out all the numbers in hopes of finding out if Tennessee, or anyone else, has a realistic chance to move way up or way down in the conference standings.
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Below is the number of times each SEC team has moved big (3 or more games) in the standings from one year to another in the last 10 years (since 2002.) Texas A& M and Missouri were left out since they were in the Big 12.
Alabama = 5 times
Auburn = 4 times
Ole Miss = 4 times
Arkansas = 3 times
Tennessee = 2 times
LSU = 1 time
Florida = 1 time
Georgia = 1 time
Mississippi State = 1 time
Vanderbilt = 1 time
Kentucky/South Carolina = None
Analysis: According to recent history, the school that’s most likely to have a significant change in its SEC record from one year to another is Alabama. At 7-1, if Alabama has that happen again, it’s looking at 4-4 or worse.
Below are all the teams that had drastic improvement or decline (3 or more games) from one year to the next in the last 10 years ( since 2002.) Texas A& M and Missouri were left out since they were in the Big 12.
Ole Miss (+4 games) 7-1 from 3-5
Alabama (-4 games) 2-6 from 6-2
Ole Miss (-4 games) 3-5 from 7-1
Auburn (+3 games) 8-0 from 5-3; then won in SEC Championship Game
Tennessee (-4 games) 3-5 from 7-1
Alabama (+3 games) 6-2 from 3-5
Arkansas (+5 games) 7-1 from 2-6; then lost in SEC Championship Game
Alabama (-4 games) 2-6 from 6-2
Arkansas (-3 games) 4-4 from 7-1
Mississippi State (+3 games) 4-4 from 1-7
Ole Miss (+5 games) 5-3 from 0-8
Alabama (+4 games) 8-0 from 4-4; then lost in SEC Championship Game
LSU (-3 games) 3-5 from 6-2
Auburn (-3 games) 2-6 from 5-3
Tennessee (-3 games) 3-5 from 6-2
Vanderbilt (-4 games) 0-8 from 4-4
Auburn (+5 games) 8-0 from 3-5; then won SEC Championship Game & BCS title game
Florida (-4 games) 4-4 from 8-0
Arkansas (+3 games) 6-3 from 3-5
Alabama (-3 games) 5-3 from 8-0
Ole Miss (-3 games) 1-7 from 4-4
Auburn (-4 games) 4-4 from 8-0
Georgia (+4 games) 7-1 from 3-5; lost in SEC Championship Game
-In the last 4 years, 13 teams have seen improvement or decline in record from the previous year by 3 games or more. That’s an average of more than 3 teams per year.
-Since 2006, a team has improved its SEC record by 4 games or more 5 times.
-Since 2003, a team has improved its SEC record by 4 games or more 6 times.
-All but once, since 2003, the teams with significant improvement in its SEC record finished 7-1 or 8-0 (exception: Ole Miss improved to 5-3 in 2008)
-Only two times, since 2003, has the improved team not played for the SEC Championship
-4 times in the last 4 years, a team improved by 4 games in the SEC standings from the previous year
2008: Ole Miss (+5 games) 5-3 from 0-8
2008: Alabama (+4 games) 8-0 from 4-4; then lost in SEC Championship Game
2010: Auburn (+5 games) 8-0 from 3-5; then won SEC Championship Game & BCS title game
2011: Georgia (+4 games) 7-1 from 3-5; lost in SEC Championship Game
-3 times in the last 4 years, a team has dropped by 4 games or more in the SEC standings from the previous year
2009: Vanderbilt (-4 games) 0-8 from 4-4
2010: Florida (-4 games) 4-4 from 8-0
2011: Auburn (-4 games) 4-4 from 8-0
SEC Standings in 2011 – Conference Games Only
South Carolina 6-2
Mississippi State 2-6
Ole Miss 0-8
Analysis: With all of the information I’ve laid out, we should expect three SEC teams to move up or down in record by 3 games or more from last season. Look for one SEC team to have a 4-games or more improvement in the standings and one SEC team to drop 4-games or more. Who are those candidates?
-Best candidates as the 3 combined teams to improve or decline by 3 games or more from last year: Tennessee from 1-7 to 4-4 or better; Florida from 3-5 to 6-2 or better; Vanderbilt from 2-6 to 5-3 or better; Mississippi State from 2-6 to 5-3; Ole Miss from 0-8 to 3-5 or better; Arkansas from 6-2 to 3-5 or worse; Auburn 4-4 to 1-7 or worse
-Most likely to improve drastically (4 games or more): Tennessee Volunteers. A 4 game improvement would take the Vols from 1-7 to 5-3. I don’t see the potential for a big jump in the SEC standings for any other team that was .500 or below last season. The records of other teams that improved by 4 games would be: Florida 7-1; Vanderbilt 6-2; Kentucky 6-2; Auburn 8-0; Mississippi State 6-2; Ole Miss 4-4. I don’t see any of those scenarios. With Tennessee’s improved roster, experience, chemistry and schedule, Tennessee is the most logical pick-to-click to shoot-up the conference standings.
-Most likely to decline drastically (4 games or more): No one. I can’t picture Georgia 3-5; South Carolina 2-6; LSU 4-4; Alabama 3-5; Arkansas 2-6 or Auburn 0-8. Can you? However, the unforeseen will happen. Injuries, suspensions, whatever it may be, one team is very likely to fall apart this year compared to last season. Which program will be hit hard this season by a disaster of a season? Recent history says it will happen to someone, whether we see it coming or not.
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