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SEC: How the West was won? Just ask East

Running back Devwah Whaley and Arkansas show Florida who’s boss Saturday and why the SEC West owns the East.
Running back Devwah Whaley and Arkansas show Florida who’s boss Saturday and why the SEC West owns the East.
Published Nov. 7, 2016

The only thing standing between an undefeated record for the SEC West against its East counterparts this season is a 51-yard field goal.

Despite that unlikely make as time expired, giving Kentucky a 40-38 win over Mississippi State on Oct. 22, the gap between the divisions in college football's premier league is as large as ever.

Just how big is the gap between the East and West?

"Pretty big," Florida coach Jim McElwain said after a 31-10 loss at Arkansas on Saturday, a game that sent the West to 9-1 against East this season. "As the Florida Gators, it's our responsibility to close it."

The difference between the divisions is nothing new, with the West having gone 13-2 against the East last season, including Alabama's 29-15 win over UF in the SEC title game.

What was so striking about Saturday was the ease with which the Razorbacks — losers already to three West opponents — handled the East-leading Gators. Coming off a 56-3 loss to Auburn two weeks ago, Arkansas outgained Florida 466-241 in total yardage and held UF to a season-low 12 yards rushing.

"Our coach did preach that to us, there is a difference between the West and the East," Arkansas defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter said. "Physicality-wise, the teams that we play, they're just big, physical guys and try to dominate. We showed that playing the East."

Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema was more hesitant to write off the East, offering, "I'm going to leave that one floating out there a little bit. I think in the SEC, every game is very tough."

The East has four more chances in the regular season to close the gap, beginning Saturday when Georgia hosts Auburn. UF has another West opponent left when it travels to LSU for their rescheduled game Nov. 19. Mississippi faces Vanderbilt that same weekend, while Arkansas closes out against Missouri on Nov. 25.

OLE MISS LOSES QB: Mississippi's Chad Kelly will miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL and lateral meniscus in his right knee. The senior was hurt Saturday in a victory over Georgia Southern. Kelly has passed for an SEC-leading 2,758 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.

AP POLL: Texas A&M fell three spots to No. 10 while the top six remained intact in the Associated Press Top 25. Alabama, Michigan, Clemson, Washington, Louisville and Ohio State remained atop the rankings. No. 20 Florida State moved down a spot despite winning at N.C. State. No. 22 Florida slid 12 spots after its loss at Arkansas.

BASKETBALL: Morris Taft, a guard under coach John Wooden at UCLA from 1954-56 who helped the Bruins win their first NCAA Tournament game, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles after a lengthy illness. He was 84. Mr. Taft helped the Bruins to a 61-18 record during his three seasons. As a senior in 1955-56, he helped the Bruins win their first NCAA Tournament game, beating Seattle in a region consolation.