- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 6, 2010

LEXINGTON, KY. (AP) - There’s a new hierarchy in the Southeastern Conference. And the royalty no longer lies in the SEC East.

While they’re panicking in Georgia, protesting in Tennessee and preparing for basketball in Kentucky, the teams in the West just keep on winning.

However, the power shift to that “other” division has gone largely unnoticed. The bulk of the national SEC attention the last 18 years has focused on the East.

Auburn senior guard Mike Berry, who grew up in central Tennessee watching the Volunteers slug it out with Florida and Georgia every fall for a ticket to the SEC title game, said the the tide has turned.

“I’ve always felt like we’ve had some of the better teams since I’ve been here,” Berry said. “I just think that it’s a great thing that the West is getting more attention. Not to knock the East because they’re in the SEC for a reason. It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to go in and prove yourselves each week, and I think most of the West teams have done that.”

Have they ever.

Led by No. 1 Alabama and No. 8 Auburn, the six West schools are 24-5 overall and 7-1 against the East, with the lone loss an upset win by Vanderbilt on the road at Ole Miss. The East, which has just two ranked teams in No. 14 Florida and No. 19 South Carolina, is a pedestrian 14-14 overall.

“No question the West appears better than the East right now,” said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.

There’s an irony in Spurrier’s ceding power to the West. His arrival at Florida in 1990 signaled a sea change in the conference. His pass-happy attack led the Gators back to prominence and brought some glitz to the SEC, which had been long symbolized by the gritty, determined play of Bear Bryant’s teams at Alabama.

Spurrier’s gamesmanship, not to mention his results, raised the conference’s profile nationally.

Throw in superstar quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning _ and most eyes looked East.

Yet the West holds a slim advantage all-time against the East, 168-156-3 since expansion and has won as many national titles (four). It’s also proven to be the division of opportunity. While the East has sent just three teams to the SEC title game, the only program from the West not to make at least one trip to Atlanta is Mississippi.

“I’m a little partial, but to me the West is probably the best,” said Mississippi coach Houston Nutt, who spent a decade at Arkansas before joining the Rebels. “From top to bottom, I think it’s the toughest. But again, I’m partial.”

This year, he also appears to be right.

While the coaches say simply these things are cyclical, Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan has a theory on why the West is dominating this year: Offense.

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