The SEC's expansion to 14 teams was mostly a football-based move with football-based consequences. It's why we get up in arms about whether or not Auburn is on Florida's schedule now or in 2020 or what have you.
But it matters for other sports, too, and it's part of the reason Florida and Mississippi State haven't met this baseball season.
The Gators and Bulldogs have been surprises in different ways. Florida is much better, and further along, than many experts predicted. After its expected early struggles, Florida ran off its 12-game winning streak and summitted the SEC.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, were worthy of being No. 1 in some outlets' eyes this preseason, then promptly scuffled for quite some time, losing games to teams — Western Carolina, Memphis, Holy Cross, UC Santa Barbara, Georgia, Texas A&M, Jacksonville State — with significantly less talent.
Despite having more experience, Mississippi State took much longer to gel than Florida did, but has been stellar of late, winning eight of its last 11 games and winning its final three series. The competition's been less remarkable, with the Bulldogs topping Auburn and Tennessee in the first two of those three series before winning two of three against Alabama in its regular season finale, but the Bulldogs seem to have righted their ship.
Florida, meanwhile, righted its ship on Thursday with a win over South Carolina that kept the Gators in Hoover after a loss in their SEC Tournament opener against Kentucky. And Florida should have a slight advantage tonight, with both teams likely looking to their bullpens for help three games into the SEC Tournament.
First pitch should be right around 7:30 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on CSS and ESPN3 — and on the Gator Radio Network, if you prefer listening to Jeff Cardozo and Mick Hubert.