South Carolina beat Missouri in miraculous, comeback fashion Saturday night. By now, you’ve probably heard it was a huge win for the Gamecocks’ hopes in the SEC East. But what does the 27-24, double-overtime victory mean, exactly?
I’ve gotten some variation of that question a lot over Twitter in the past 24(ish) hours. Calculating divisional tiebreakers and predicting certain scenarios can sound complicated, but it’s really not. Where people go wrong is when they don’t know the set of tiebreakers
To learn how the SEC determines divisional tiebreakers, click this link. You can view the current SEC East standings here. Below, I’ll directly answer some of the questions I’ve received on Twitter. With the season approaching November, my hope is to explain exactly what must happen — and, just as importantly, what can not happen — for the Gamecocks to reach Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
Because the only games that matter in SEC standings are against conference opponents. Georgia lost to Clemson, and Florida lost to Miami, but those defeats don’t count toward divisional standings. UGa and Florida have two SEC losses, the same number as USC.
Right now, Georgia is more in the mix than Florida — unless Florida beats Georgia next Saturday, of course. Bulldogs are getting healthier, Gators are not. So these two are equal in the standings, not in reality.
Georgia, especially, is still in it for two reasons: 1) it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over South Carolina, and 2) Missouri could still potentially lose two more games (Tigers play at Ole Miss and home against Texas A&M to finish season).
If the season somehow ends with Georgia and USC in a two-team tie atop the SEC East standings and Missouri behind them, Georgia would be in Atlanta because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. If Florida wins out and Missouri loses two games, Gators would be in Atlanta.
If Georgia also wins out, yes. In that scenario, it depends where Missouri picks up its loss. The first tiebreaker in a three-way tie is head-to-head record among the three teams. In this scenario, each team would be 1-1.
The second tiebreaker is record within division. That’s where things get interesting.
On paper, Missouri’s two best chances to pick up another loss are at Ole Miss and against Texas A&M. Both teams are in the SEC West. So, while Missouri would fall into a three-way tie, it would win the tiebreaker for record within the division with one fewer loss against SEC East opponents.
Now, what happens if Tennessee beats Missouri next week, and the Tigers go on to win the rest of their SEC games? That’s where things get tricky. The title would fall to the third tiebreaker: head-to-head record against division team with best record (not included in the tiebreaker). Since we don’t know yet which team that would be, it’s impossible to give a concrete answer.
No. I’ve heard this philosophy over and over and over again. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Look at the SEC tiebreakers procedures again. As you can see, BCS standings are the FINAL tiebreaker for two-team and three-team ties. To put it another way, there is almost no mathematical way the tiebreaker could fall that far. It’s the equivalent of saying, “If all these booby traps we’ve laid out don’t work, screw it, we give up.” BCS standings are 99.9 percent irrelevant when determining divisional tiebreakers in the SEC. You need not worry about them.
Not necessarily. Again, it depends on what Georgia does with the rest of its season. Basically, USC really, really wants Georgia to lose one more game. If not, the Gamecocks probably aren’t making it to Atlanta.
Bingo. Jackpot. Exactamente.
Here is the most likely scenario for USC to reach Atlanta: the Gamecocks beat Mississippi State and Florida, Georgia loses one game (best chances are against Auburn and Florida), and Missouri loses one more game (best chances are against Texas A&M and Ole Miss). As a Gamecocks fan, that’s what you’re rooting for in November.
Hope those answers help. As always, send me any questions or comments over Twitter @rwood_SC.