Standings are goofy in the Southeastern Conference because the league stretches its family battles across the entire season. Remember when Texas A&M beat South Carolina on Aug. 28?
It’s why some SEC teams have played seven of their eight league games, and half of the Eastern Division will be finished with league play after this weekend. Others have played six or five.
The imbalance makes it untimely to measure teams’ records over an extended period, but let’s do it anyway by winning percentages from the last three seasons, because it yields a fascinating result.
The best league record in the 14-team SEC, to no surprise, belongs to Alabama. The Crimson Tide has lost one conference game in each of the last three years and is 19-3.
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Next is Georgia, which is 17-6. The Bulldogs, who play host to Auburn on Saturday, are looking to remain in the thick of the East Division race. Third is LSU at 14-8.
Mizzou’s 4-1 record heading into Saturday’s game at Texas A&M makes the Tigers 13-8 (.619 winning percentage) since joining the action in 2012.
Florida and South Carolina have more one victory and one more defeat for 14-9 records (.609).
The Aggies, 13-9, and Mississippi State, 12-9, have winning records since 2012. Auburn, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Arkansas do not.
There must be some odd circumstances here, right? The East is weaker than the West this season, and the Tigers play the first of their two cross-division games this weekend. But for the first two years, the West held only a two-game edge on the East.
Mizzou has caught some programs, like Tennessee, on a down cycle, but there’s also this: The Tigers have defeated every SEC team they’ve played at least once, except for Alabama.
The Tigers’ winning rate — again, the season isn’t completed — is slightly higher than their record over their final three Big 12 years. Mizzou went 15-10 in league games (.600). In that span, only Oklahoma State and Oklahoma won more conference games, and Nebraska also had a higher winning percentage but was in the Big 12 for only two of Missouri’s final three years.
And those were the years after Mizzou won consecutive North Division championships and played in the Big 12 title game.
In the SEC, Missouri hasn’t missed a step.
Saturday’s SEC games
▪ South Carolina at Florida, 11 a.m., on SEC Network: Plenty on the line for both teams in the Spurrier Bowl. South Carolina needs to win two of its final three games to become bowl eligible. The Gators must win to have a chance to win the SEC East. A loss eliminates them. Freshman quarterback Treon Harris has brought a spark to the Gators, who have averaged 437 yards in victories over Georgia and Vanderbilt.
▪ Mississippi State at Alabama, 2:30 p.m., on CBS (Ch. 5): The type of quarterback that gives Nick Saban defenses trouble, Mississippi State has. Dak Prescott is mobile and dangerous. He’s not in the mold of Mississippi’s Bo Wallace, but Wallace’s running was big in the Rebels’ victory earlier this season. Auburn’s Nick Marshall, Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel have defeated the Tide with their mobility since 2012. Prescott is that kind of quarterback.
▪ Kentucky at Tennessee, 3 p.m., on SEC Network: The Wildcats are one victory away from a bowl, but it will have to happen on the road. The season ends at Louisville. Tennessee has three chances for two victories and a bowl game and feels good about itself after the overtime victory at South Carolina two weeks ago. Two young talented quarterbacks match up, with Kentucky’s Patrick Towles taking on the Vols’ Joshua Dobbs.
▪ Auburn at Georgia, 6:15 p.m., on ESPN: Always an emotional matchup, and the stakes are high for both. They must keep winning to have shots at the division, although Georgia has fewer obstacles. The Bulldogs also have a revenge motive after losing this game last year on the deep pass and “Immaculate Deflection.” Todd Gurley is back for Georgia after serving his four-game suspension, but nobody in the country is hotter than Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne, who has rushed for 527 yards in his last three games.
▪ Missouri at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m., on SEC Network: The wheels are back on for the Aggies, who ended their three-game skid emphatically by winning at Auburn. Quarterback Kyle Allen was great last week in his second start, passing for 277 yards and four touchdowns. Kenny Hill who started the year but was suspended, is back. But Allen gets the call. This marks the fifth straight year the Aggies and Tigers have played, and four of those games will have been played in College Station (Mizzou looks to go 4-1). The teams rotate off each other’s schedule starting next year as Arkansas becomes the Tigers’ permanent opponent from the West Division.
▪ LSU at Arkansas, 7 p.m., on ESPN2: How will the Tigers respond to the crushing overtime loss to Alabama last week? Arkansas is beyond ready to win an SEC game for the first time since 2012. The Razorbacks are good enough, and LSU might be shaky. If Arkansas can stop the run, as it has for most of the season, this could be the weekend it happens.
Saturday’s Big 12 games
▪ TCU at Kansas, 2 p.m., on Fox Sports 1: The Horned Frogs have to keep up appearances of a team that’s fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings. Without a ranked team remaining on the schedule, they must be impressive every chance they get. But the Jayhawks looked sharp through most of last week’s 34-14 victory over Iowa State, and they’ve been able to manage TCU’s offense over the past two years. This Frogs team is built differently, however, with Trevone Boykin operating one of the nation’s most efficient attacks.
▪ Oklahoma at Texas Tech, 2:30 p.m., on ESPN: This is a game between teams that are tied for sixth and eighth in the Big 12. Who saw that coming in the preseason? The Sooners are coming off the worst home loss in coach Bob Stoops’ 16 seasons, 48-14 to Baylor. Oklahoma is hoping quarterback Trevor Knight and wide receiver Sterling Shepard (groin) are back after missing time with injuries. Tech is looking for quarterbacks Davis Webb (ankle) and Patrick Mahomes (head injury) to be available.
▪ Texas at Oklahoma State, 6:30 p.m., on Fox (Ch. 4): The winner becomes bowl eligible, and the Longhorns are feeling much better about themselves than the Pokes these days. Texas is coming off the West Virginia victory, its first over a ranked team at home since 2008, and the Longhorns defense is playing at a high level. Oklahoma State is reeling. After starting 5-1 and jumping into the polls, the Cowboys have lost three straight, scoring only two offensive touchdowns in that stretch.