What dropping a series at Georgia has done is put the Bulldogs (33-19, 17-10 SEC) behind three other SEC Championship contenders. And, take away control of Mississippi State’s conference title fate with one week remaining on this 2017 schedule.
It is a busy Bulldog week at that, fortunately all on Dudy Noble Field. There is a non-conference visit from Troy on Tuesday giving Coach Andy Cannizaro’s club their chance to regain some winning ways and tune-up for a pending showdown.
Because on Thursday evening rivals State and Louisiana State collide. They make up half the surviving contenders for the 2017 crown, in fact as the Tigers are tied with Kentucky for second place for now. The Wildcats do hold the head-to-head tiebreak there having won the series in Lexington.
Conveniently, Kentucky just happens to be visiting league-leading Florida. So while the other five series do have their own story-lines, these two matchups command top attention since one of this quartet will come away with the title.
Or, two. Or even three? Yes, if Mississippi State can make some more magic happen.
The only way the Bulldogs can repeat as SEC Champions is, first sweep the Tigers. Then they still need Kentucky to take two at Gainesville. But not three.
The resulting three 20-win teams would be equal champions with no tie-breaking involved as the SEC would just make another trophy or two. The only tiebreaking then would be for SEC Tournament seeding.
Of course rain in Gainesville would wreck that plan. Since order-of-finish is by percentages, not wins, a shall we say 19-9 Florida or Kentucky beats a 20-10 State (.679 to .667). If just two games are played and one team wins both, they are the champion period and State can’t catch up.
The Bulldogs can only win by sweeping and then with the correct circumstances elsewhere. As it is always asked this time of year, the answer is No. No series can begin a game on Sunday. Not even if a title is at stake for the participants or others watching weather helplessly.
There have been only two rainouts so far and Tennessee was involved in both, missing games with Arkansas and Vanderbilt. The Razorbacks may come to rue the lost opportunity in Knoxville…or just as likely be glad for the mathematical edge it might yet provide in earning a first-day bye at the SEC Tournament.
If not another championship, the Bulldogs can still play for one of the top-two seeds given automatically to Division first-place finishers. Those 1-2 seeds are automatic after tiebreak, regardless if the runner-up in the other Division has a better SEC finish.
The top four teams all miss Tuesday’s single-elimination round in Hoover.
Mississippi State naturally wants to avoid the all-or-nothing day for lots of reasons. Not least, because the Bulldogs not only have lost control of SEC fate. The NCAA had not updated its official RPI listing, but the respected independent analysts Boyd’s World and Warren Nolan both penalized State heavily for losing to Georgia.
So much so that any long shots at a NCAA Tournament national seeding are replaced by reality that just being a number-one seed and hosting a Regional at all is an uphill battle now. But, for a ball club that has overcome so much to get so surprisingly far in what was to be a total rebuilding 2017 season, it is just the next challenge.
1.Florida 19-8 .704
2.Kentucky, LSU 18-9 .667 (UK holds tiebreak)
4.Mississippi State 17-10 .630
5.Arkansas 16-10 .615
6.Texas A&M 15-12 .556
7.Auburn 14-13 .539
8.Vanderbilt 13-13 .500
9.Ole Miss 13-14 .481
10.South Carolina 12-15 .444
11.Missouri 11-16 .407
12.Georgia 9-18 .333
13.Tennesse 7-18 .280
14.Alabama 5-22 .185
THIS WEEK’S MATCHUPS
(all Thursday starts; no games Sunday)
Kentucky @ Florida
LSU @ Mississippi State
Arkansas @ Texas A&M
Ole Miss @ Auburn
Georgia @ South Carolina
Alabama @ Vanderbilt
Missouri @ Tennessee
SEC TRIPLE CROWN RACE
Brent Rooker Miss State 76-of-190 .400
Evan White Kentucky 61-of-156 .391
Jonah Todd Auburn 77-of-201 .383
Tristen Pompey Kentucky 78-of-206 .379
Brent Rooker Miss State 20
Greg Deichmann LSU 16
Chandler Taylor Alabama 16
RUNS BATTED IN
Brent Rooker Miss State 68
Braden Shewmake Texas A&M 61
Greg Deichmann LSU 58