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Ranking the SEC East since 2012

Or, “What to say when SEC fans claim Missouri only wins in down years”

Missouri’s 2013 SEC East championship came during the second-strongest year in the division since 2012.

Since Wednesday, this quote from Missouri quarterback Drew Lock has been on my mind.

While he didn’t specifically talk about Missouri’s past SEC East championships — he wasn’t on the team for those, after all — Lock’s quote reminded me of the common refrain when Missouri went back-to-back in 2013 and 2014.

“Well, they won in down years in the SEC East.”

We’re now at the five-year anniversary of Missouri’s first SEC East championship, and with all that considered, I wanted to look back to see how the division has stacked up since Missouri joined the league in 2012.

The overall conclusion? Missouri’s two SEC East championships came during years that can’t be considered down years, if you look at the context of the division over the last six seasons.

Please note that in factoring average records among SEC East teams, the champion’s record was not included. That’s because it was a composite of every team the champion had to beat in order to win the division; the champion could not play itself.

SEC East since 2012

Year Champion Average wins, teams 2-7 Average losses, teams 2-7 Teams ranked in final AP poll
Year Champion Average wins, teams 2-7 Average losses, teams 2-7 Teams ranked in final AP poll
2012 Georgia 7.17 5.33 4 (5, 8, 9, 23)
2013 Missouri 6.5 6 3 (4, 5, 24)
2014 Missouri 6.5 6 2 (9, 14)
2015 Florida 6 6.33 2 (22, 25)
2016 Florida 6.67 6.17 2 (14, 22)
2017 Georgia 6 6.33 1 (2)
SEC East since 2012

This still requires a certain amount of subjectivity, but there are some clear takeaways when you lay out the past six years of the SEC East.

1. The best year in the SEC East, since Missouri joined, was 2012.

This isn’t debatable. Teams 2-7 in the division averaged over 7 wins; four teams overall finished in the Top 25, with three in the top 10. Georgia came up five yards short of playing for a national title.

2. The second best year? Depends on how you look at it.

If we’re focused on average wins, then 2016 was the second best year, overall, in the SEC East since 2012. But if you focus on final rankings, then that would be 2013, where Missouri and South Carolina finished inside the top 5 and Vanderbilt snuck in at No. 24. Honestly, I don’t think there’s much doubt that when you put some national context into the SEC East race in both years, 2013 clearly gets the edge — after all, Missouri was playing for a national title berth in the SEC Championship that year. In 2016, Florida had no such postseason aspirations.

3. 2015-2016 was a dark time for the SEC East.

Woof. Florida’s back-to-back SEC East titles came at the lowest moment of the division in recent history. Florida’s 2015 title was the weakest the division has been since 2012. I don’t think there’s any debate about it. Teams 2-7 finished, on average, under .500 during the season. No SEC East team was ranked higher than 22 in the final poll. And Florida’s margin of victory that season? 4.9 points. And while the 2016 SEC East averaged the second-most wins since 2012, it still wasn’t a nationally-relevant year for the division.

4. Final takeaway? Just because the traditional powers are down doesn’t mean it’s a down year for the division.

Missouri’s two division championships fit right into the middle of the last six seasons of SEC East football. 2013 was arguably the division’s second-strongest top-to-bottom year since 2012; 2014 fits somewhere around 4th and 5th-toughest year.

2017 Georgia becomes slightly confusing, because the Bulldogs were by far the class of the division, and the only other remotely nationally-relevant team was South Carolina, which finished 9-4 but outside the final rankings. However, because the Bulldogs were an overtime away from winning a national title, subjectively it’s tough to rank the East at the bottom that year, even with a less-than-.500 league average.

Based on this data, and with some subjectivity thrown in, the biggest down years in the SEC East since 2012 were 2015 and 2016, as the division was plagued by a lack of national relevance and mediocre-to-poor teams making up No. 2-7 in the division.

Missouri’s two SEC East championships — especially 2013 — deserve more accolades in hindsight.