Win projections: How the four-team SEC East race will likely play out

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina's win over Missouri meant the battle to reach the SEC Championship isn't over just yet. So what happens now?

Last Wednesday, we took a look at F/+ win probabilities to check on the odds of different BCS contenders winning out. The top seven most likely teams on that list all won on Saturday, but teams No. 8 (Missouri), No. 11 (Texas Tech) and No. 12 (UCLA) all bit the dust.

That was a pretty fun experiment, and we'll likely look at the BCS race again next week in anticipation of Oregon-Stanford. This week, however, let's use win probabilities to look at a division race that got a lot more interesting Saturday night. With a chance to all but lock down the SEC East, Missouri couldn't hold onto a lead and fell to South Carolina in overtime. That made things pretty messy. Let's see what the new F/+ ratings can tell us about the East division race now that the water is a lot muddier.

The contenders

  1. Missouri 3-1
  2. South Carolina 4-2
  3. Florida 3-2 (holds current tiebreaker over Georgia due to division record)
  4. Georgia 3-2

Thanks to early wins over both Georgia and Florida, Missouri is still in the driver's seat here, both in terms of overall losses and potential tie-breakers. But instead of remaining two losses ahead of the field and all but eliminating South Carolina, the Tigers' Saturday night failures made this a pretty tight race. South Carolina has just two conference games remaining, Georgia and Florida each have three, and Missouri has four. No pressure, Tigers.

At 1-3, Tennessee technically still has a chance to jump into the race by winning out and hoping. But in the 1,000 simulations below, that didn't happen once. So we'll leave the Vols out of this for now. Win on Saturday, and you'll force my hand, Tennessee, especially if Mississippi State somehow also beats South Carolina. Odds of both Tennessee and Mississippi State winning, by the way? 0.6 percent.

The remaining schedules

  • Missouri: Tennessee (95% chance of Missouri winning), at Kentucky (94%), at Ole Miss (58%), Texas A&M (68%)
  • South Carolina: Mississippi State (88%), Florida (74%)
  • Georgia: vs. Florida (68%), at Auburn (42%), Kentucky (99%)
  • Florida: vs. Georgia (32%), Vanderbilt (80%), at South Carolina (26%)

No, these odds don't take into account the games of Quarterback Musical Chairs being played at Missouri, Tennessee, and (in some part) South Carolina at the moment. These are based on full-season performances.

Missouri has about an 89 percent chance of surviving the next two weeks (Tennessee, at Kentucky) unscathed. That would go a long way toward shoring up their chances; if the Tigers fall into a post-Carolina funk and get upset -- always a possibility -- then the Gamecocks become your new favorite. But they still have work to do as well.

The simulation

Using the odds assigned above, I ran 1,000 simulations of the remaining games. Here are the title odds based on those simulations.

  1. Missouri 66.4%
  2. South Carolina 27.8%
  3. Georgia 5.4%
  4. Florida 0.4%

Again, because of potential success in three- or four-way tie-breakers, Missouri still holds the best odds of heading to Atlanta. If the Tigers win the next two games, their 4-1 division record will settle that tie in any scenario, since South Carolina and Georgia can finish 3-2 at best, and while Florida can finish 4-1, the Tigers would win that tie-breaker via head-to-head.

As we'll see below, however, a good portion of Missouri's odds come from the hopes that Georgia can finish tied with the Tigers and Gamecocks if Missouri slips up.

Odds of finishing with x conference wins
(based on 1,000 simulations)
Team 7 wins 6 wins 5 wins 4 wins 3 wins
Missouri 38% 45% 17% 1% 0%
South Carolina
62% 35% 3% 0%
Georgia 30% 53% 17% 0%
Florida 8% 34% 47% 11%

Florida has a better chance of finishing 3-5 than 6-2. That means its odds of a division title aren't going to be that strong. But Georgia's nearly 1-in-3 chance of winning out (tamped down mostly by that trip to Auburn) could still muddy things up quite a bit.

This week

Mississippi State at South Carolina (12:21 p.m. ET)
Florida vs. Georgia (3:30 p.m. ET)
Tennessee at Missouri (7:00 p.m. ET)

If Mississippi State beats South Carolina...

Mississippi State is given a 12 percent chance of beating South Carolina. It's almost certainly not going to happen, but if it does, Missouri's title odds rise to about 88 percent, Georgia's rise to about seven percent, and South Carolina's plummet to five percent. For Carolina to lose this game and still win the division, Missouri would need to lose twice more, and Georgia would likely need to lose to Florida as well. This is both a likely win and a must-win for Steve Spurrier's squad.

If Tennessee beats Missouri...

This didn't happen enough times in the sample to worry about percentages, but if the Vols take out the Tigers, this race becomes, at worst, about a 50-50 proposition for South Carolina. Missouri's best bets are to either win out, have South Carolina lose, or have Georgia also win out for a three-way tie at 6-2 (or, technically, 5-3). If Missouri loses its one-game lead, the Tigers have to count on three-way tie-breakers or a South Carolina loss to Florida.

If Georgia beats Florida...

Georgia has a lot of Missouri fans in its corner right now. If the Tigers can't win out (and with those Ole Miss and A&M games lingering at the end of the season, winning out will certainly be rough) and end up finishing tied with South Carolina, they need Georgia tied with them. If the Dawgs beat Florida, Missouri's odds rise to about 70 percent, and Georgia's odds rise to about eight percent. But if the Gators win? Things change.

If Florida beats Georgia...

South Carolina's very much back in the game if Spurrier's old team wins. Missouri would still have an edge (57 percent), but the Gamecocks' odds would rise to 41 percent with a Gator win. A loss here would all but eliminate Georgia and would all but force Missouri to win out.

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The Alphabetical, Week 9, by Spencer Hall

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