Home-Road Factor

The good news: In spite of last night's 81-65 drubbing at Ole Miss, Tennessee remains tied with Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina for the SEC East lead at 7-4.

The bad news: The Vols still face the longest odds of the four to actually win the division.

Here's why:

Florida has just two road games left – at LSU and at Mississippi State. Kentucky has just two road games left – at South Carolina and at Florida. South Carolina has just two road games left, and both are quite winnable – at Vanderbilt and at Georgia.

Tennessee, conversely, has three road games left, and they're against the other East Division front-runners – at Kentucky, at Florida, at South Carolina.

So, don't be misled by the fact the SEC standings show UT among four teams tied at 7-4 in the East. The Vols face a tough road in their quest for the division title. This is reflected in a ratings system I call the Home-Road Factor. Twenty years ago, as a sports writer/columnist for The Knoxville Journal, I designed this system around the simple fact that SEC teams usually win at home and lose on the road.

Traditional standings tend to reward a team that has padded its record with home wins and punish a team that has played (and lost) more road games. My Home-Road ratings avoid this trap by ignoring home wins and road losses. Instead, they award two points for each road win and deduct two points for each home loss. This gives a truer picture of how a team stands in relation to its division rivals.

Best of all, the Home-Road ratings also serve to project a team's final record. A plus-4 rating means a team that wins its remaining home games and loses its remaining road games will finish four games over .500 ... or 10-6. A plus-2 rating means a team that wins its remaining home games and loses its remaining road games will finish two games over .500 ... or 9-7.

The SEC East race is a perfect illustration of this. South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky have plus-4 ratings, meaning all are on pace to finish 10-6. Tennessee, which also has a 7-4 record but has one more road game to play, checks in at plus-2, meaning the Vols are on pace to finish 9-7.

Of course, a Tennessee win Saturday at Kentucky would cause a dramatic shift in the East outlook. The home loss would drop UK to plus-2 and put the Cats on pace to finish 9-7. The road win would lift UT to plus-4 and put the Vols on pace to finish 10-6 ... and 10-6 may well be good enough to win the East this season.

That said, here's a look at the newest SEC Home-Road ratings, with each team's projected final record in parenthesis:

EASTERN DIVISION

S.Carolina 5-0 home 2-4 road 7-4 total .... PLUS-4 ... (10-6)

Florida 5-0 home 2-4 road 7-4 total .... PLUS-4 ... (10-6)

Kentucky 3-2 home 4-2 road 7-4 total .... PLUS-4 ... (10-6)

Tennessee 4-2 home 3-2 road 7-4 total .... PLUS-2 ... (9-7)

Vanderbilt 4-2 home 1-4 road 5-6 total .... MINUS-2 ... (7-9)

Georgia 1-5 home 0-5 road 1-10 total .... MINUS-10 ... (3-13)

WESTERN DIVISION

Louisiana St. 5-0 home 5-1 road 10-1 total .... PLUS-10 ... (13-3)

Miss. State 4-2 home 3-2 road 6-4 total .... PLUS-2 ... (9-7)

Ole Miss 4-1 home 1-5 road 5-6 total .... ZERO ... (8-8)

Auburn 4-2 home 2-3 road 6-5 total .... ZERO ... (8-8)

Alabama 3-2 home 0-6 road 3-8 total .... MINUS-4 ... (6-10)

Arkansas 1-5 home 0-5 road 1-10 total .... MINUS-10 ... (3-13)


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