Monday, May 03, 2010

SEC Recap: 2005-2009

In our half-decade retrospective, we've looked at all 6 BCS conferences save one. It's time to see how things have gone down in the deep south over the past 5 seasons. Or as it may one day come to be known, the Urban Era.

First off, here are combined SEC standings from 2005-2009.The Gators have dominated the SEC since Urban Meyer started coaching them, racking up 3 SEC East titles in his 5 seasons as coach. Alabama has made quite a run in the past 2 seasons, winning 16 straight league games to move into 2nd place after a ho-hum 12-12 mark from 2005-2007. Florida and Alabama are the only 2 teams to have gone undefeated in league play since 2005. Alabama did it in 2008 and both teams accomplished the feat in 2009. Meanwhile, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are the only 2 teams to go winless in league play in that same span. Ole Miss did not win a single SEC game in 2007 before rebounding to win 5 in 2008. Vandy went winless this past season.

Now here is the standard deviation of each team's conference record (in wins). Teams are ranked from the most inconsistent to the least.The most inconsistent teams in the SEC have all played out west. All 6 teams from the West have had both a losing conference record since 2005 and at least a .500 mark in league play as well. If we remove Mississippi State from the equation (the most consistent team in the West), the other 5 SEC West teams have all had at least one losing and one winning conference record. Contrast this to the SEC East, where only South Carolina and Tennessee have had both a losing and winning conference record since 2005.

Now here is each team's point differential in conference play since 2005.Florida's dominance reveals itself even more when we examine point differential. The Gators' differential of +544 (13.6 per game) is nearly equal to that of the 2nd and 3rd place teams combined (+568). The point differentials line up exactly with the conference standings until we get to the bottom. Vanderbilt has an almost identical point differential with Kentucky, yet trails them by 4 games in the standings. The Commodores also have a much greater point differential than Mississippi State, yet trail them by a game in the standings.

With this being the end of the decade, here's the tally of conference and division titles.Florida and LSU won 6 conference titles between them this decade and also 4 BCS national titles. Not a bad decade. What's even more amazing is that 2 different coaches for each team won a conference title, and in LSU's case a national title as well. As for division titles, every team that won a division title in the 2000s won at least 2. However, Tennessee and Arkansas were unable to make their SEC Championship Game appearances count, going a combined 0-5 in the big game in the Georgia Dome.

And finally, what was the biggest takeaway from the 00 decade in the SEC?
I'm inclined to say its how competitive Vanderbilt has become. In 8 seasons under Bobby Johnson, the Commodores are still an SEC bottom-feeder, having gone just 12-52 against the league since Johnson took over prior to the 2002 season. However, in the 8 seasons before Johnson's arrival, the Commodores won only 7 conference games. Johnson has nearly doubled that output in his tenure. He has also made the Commodores much more competitive as the table below illustrates.In 5 of Johnson's 8 season, the Commodores have posted a better conference point differential than they did in any season in the previous 8. Johnson made the Commodores relevant for 5 consecutive seasons beginning in 2004, and culminating with their first bowl bid in a quarter century in 2008. The team slipped a little in 2009, but their point differential would have been an average season for the team in the late 90's and early 00's. Vandy is no longer an assured win on any team's schedule.

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