As Keeneland’s Fall meet draws to a close this week in Lexington, there is another type of race to watch over the next five weeks that is certainly starting to draw interest from sports fans in the Bluegrass and across the South.
With a conference record of 3-2, Kentucky is in second place in the SEC East Division. If Kentucky can beat Missouri on Saturday, and Georgia somehow upsets Florida, the Cats will be in sole possession of first place in the SEC East.
The Wildcats have two seemingly winnable conference games left before they wrap it up on the road at #18 Tennessee, which is becoming a more intriguing match-up to Kentucky fans by the day.
Because I am a horse racing fan, I decided to play oddsmaker on what is certain to be an exciting finish in the SEC East...
#18 Tennessee (5-2 Overall, 2-2 SEC)
Butch Jones and company handed the first-place Florida Gators their lone conference loss of the season, which is why I’ve made them my morning-line favorite. Tennessee will likely be favored to win its four remaining SEC games:
- 10/29 at South Carolina
- 11/12 vs. Kentucky
- 11/19 vs. Missouri
- 11/26 at Vanderbilt
A 6-2 record with the advantage in a tiebreaker over Florida should be enough to get the Vols to Atlanta, for a potential rematch with #1-ranked Alabama.
Odds to win the East: 5-2
#14 Florida (5-1 Overall, 3-1 SEC)
Although Florida is ahead of Tennessee by a full game in the standings, the Gators’ remaining conference schedule is the reason for making them the second choice:
- 10/29 vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville)
- 11/5 at Arkansas
- 11/12 vs. South Carolina
- 11/19 at #19 LSU
The only “gimme” win of the four is South Carolina at home. "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" is never a guaranteed win for either team, and going on the road at two tough SEC West opponents won’t be easy. I think the Gators will drop at least one of their last four SEC contests.
Odds to win the East: 7-2
Kentucky (4-3 Overall, 3-2 SEC)
Kentucky’s victory over Mississippi State marks the first time the Wildcats have won three SEC games in a season since 2009. I’d say one more victory is likely, two is possible, and three would be quite a stretch, but not impossible:
- 10/29 at Missouri
- 11/5 vs. Georgia
- 11/12 at #18 Tennessee
The Cats opened up a 4.5-point underdog at Missouri, which I found a bit surprising. Vegas typically gives three points to the home team, which would mean the professionals still feel Missouri is a point and a half better than Kentucky on a neutral field. If I didn’t have a moral objection to betting on my own team, I would take the Cats on Saturday.
Odds to win the East: 12-1
Georgia (4-3 Overall, 2-3 SEC)
Georgia’s home loss to Vanderbilt on October 15 severely damaged its chances of making it to Atlanta. Just to tie Kentucky in the East, the Dogs not only will have to take down the Cats in Lexington, but also find another victory vs. two ranked conference foes:
- 10/29 vs. #14 Florida (in Jacksonville)
- 11/5 at Kentucky
- 11/12 vs. #15 Auburn
Tennessee should have no trouble getting to 3-2 in the SEC with a win at South Carolina Saturday, but if Georgia upsets Florida and Kentucky can come away with a win at Missouri, the Cats will be in first place with a 4-2 conference record when they play host to Georgia on November 5.
Odds to win the East: 20-1
Vanderbilt (4-4 Overall, 1-3 SEC)
Vanderbilt began the season by blowing a 10-0 first half lead vs. South Carolina at home that has basically eliminated the Commodores from contention in the East. Although Derek Mason’s team has looked much better in the second half of the season, it’s still an uphill battle facing some stiff competition the rest of the way:
- 11/5 at #15 Auburn
- 11/12 at Missouri
- 11/19 vs. Ole Miss
- 11/26 vs. #18 Tennessee
Vanderbilt needs to pick up a win at Missouri and at home vs. Ole Miss if the ‘Dores are to become bowl eligible for the first time in the post-James Franklin era.
Odds to win the East: 40-1
Missouri (2-5 Overall, 0-3 SEC)
Missouri suffered a heartbreaking, one-point loss to Georgia in its conference opener and has since handily lost two road games at #19 LSU and at #14 Florida. Although the Tigers were upset by Middle Tennessee at home last Saturday, there are still winnable conference games on their schedule:
- 10/29 vs. Kentucky
- 11/5 at South Carolina
- 11/12 vs. Vanderbilt
- 11/19 at #18 Tennessee
- 11/25 vs. Arkansas
There’s still a scenario where Missouri can make a bowl game and finish strong in the East, but it’ll have to come up with four wins in the next five games, which will be no easy feat.
Odds to win the East: 50-1
South Carolina (3-4 Overall, 1-4 SEC)
It’s been a rough start for Coach Will Muschamp in his first season on the job in Columbia. After edging Vanderbilt in its season opener, the Gamecocks have dropped four straight SEC games to Mississippi State, Kentucky, #9 Texas A&M, and Georgia. With three conference games remaining, it’s tough to see South Carolina finishing better than 2-6:
- 10/29 vs. #18 Tennessee
- 11/5 vs. Missouri
- 11/12 at #14 Florida
Odds to win the East: 100-1