Since the Vols and the Gators currently are tied for third with 8-4 league records, Florida can bump UT to fourth by winning in Gainesville. If Tennessee wins, however, it would accomplish two things:
1-Bump the Gators to fourth place.
2-Put some heat on second-place Vanderbilt, which is 9-3 but has visits to Arkansas and Florida left on the schedule. Both Arkansas and Florida are 5-1 at home this season, so the Commodores will be challenged to win at either place.
Tennessee has won on three of four visits to Gainesville under Bruce Pearl. If the Vols can prevail again Tuesday night, they have a good chance to finish second in the East, since they play two of their remaining three games at home - vs. Kentucky (Feb. 27), vs. Arkansas (March 3) and at Mississippi State (March 6).
Because SEC home teams tend to win and road teams tend to lose, I came up with something I call the Home-Road Factor. Devised 25 years ago during my days at The Knoxville Journal, the Home-Road Factor awards a team two points for each road win and deducts two points for each home loss. For instance, a team that is 5-1 at home and 2-4 on the road would have a Home-Road rating of plus-2. Four points would be added for two road wins but two would be deducted for the home loss.
This gives a clearer picture of the SEC's divisional races than traditional standings, which reward teams who have fattened their record by playing a bunch of home games and punishes teams who have played more games on the road.
Moreover, the Home-Road ratings project how a team will finish in relation to the .500 mark. A Plus-2 rating means a team will finish two games over .500 (9-7) merely by winning its remaining home games and losing its remaining road games. A Plus-4 rating means the team will finish four games above .500 (10-6) by winning its remaining home games and losing its remaining road games.
Both Tennessee and Florida stand Plus-4 at present with two road games and two home games remaining. That makes Tuesday night's game at Gainesville a big one for each team.
Oddly enough, one SEC team has reversed the home-road trend this season. The Ole Miss Rebels are actually more successful on the road (3-3) than at home (2-4).
That said, here are the current Home-Road Factor rankings:
Kentucky (11-1) ... 6-0 home, 5-1 road ... PLUS-10
Vanderbilt (9-3) ... 5-1 home, 4-2 road ... PLUS-6
Tennessee (8-4) ... 5-1 home, 3-3 road ... PLUS-4
Florida (8-4) ... 5-1 home, 3-3 road ... PLUS-4
S.Carolina (5-7) ... 4-2 home, 1-5 road ... MINUS-2
Georgia (4-8) ... 4-2 home, 0-6 road ... MINUS-4
Miss. State (7-5) ... 5-1 home, 2-4 road ... PLUS-2
Arkansas (7-5) ... 5-1 home, 2-4 road ... PLUS-2
Ole Miss (5-7) ... 2-4 home, 3-3 road ... MINUS-2
Alabama (4-8) ... 3-3 home, 1-5 road ... MINUS-4
Auburn (4-8) ... 3-3 home, 1-5 road ... MINUS-4
LSU (0-12) ... 0-6 home, 0-6 road ... MINUS-12