The SEC East. What used to be filled with consistent powers such as Steve Spurrier’s (and Urban Meyer’s) Florida, Phil Fulmer’s Tennessee, Mark Richt’s Georgia, Gary Pinkel’s Missouri, and, well, Spurrier’s South Carolina has been the laughingstock of the SEC for at least a couple years now.
Yes, college football is cyclical. Divisions have down years that, usually, run their courses. But the SEC East was bad last year, and so far this year, has nearly included losses to Appalachian State and Nicholls, plus an actual loss to Southern Miss and a blowout loss to West Virginia.
(The West has started slowly as well, albeit with wins over TCU, UCLA, and USC. And Bama’s in it.)
However, as with all dumpster fires, chaos means watchability. With so many mediocre teams, the lowly East could have a much more entertaining race than the West, which could just be dominated by one team. Let’s lay out all the scenarios in which each East team could come out on top.
AP No. 15 Tennessee
Florida has had Tennessee’s number, but getting the Gators at home helps.
UT could beat Georgia, then lose at Texas A&M and to Alabama before a bye. Get a road win against South Carolina before beating Kentucky, Mizzou, and Vandy, and they’re in the mix.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd combined for 205 yards on the ground last week against Virginia Tech. This year, Tennessee has to be careful not to become one-dimensional — Dobbs has rarely been asked to air it out. UT’s defense should carry it through a lot of close games.
No. 16 Georgia
They get Tennessee at home; had the Dawgs’ defense not given up a 24-3 lead in the second half last year, Georgia likely would have won that one. Florida, as always, is a toss up, but Georgia’s run game with a healthy Nick Chubb could be much more effective than last year’s matchup.
They go on the road to Mizzou this week, Ole Miss away next, and Tennessee at home, then South Carolina at Williams-Brice before getting Vanderbilt at home. Even a 3-2 record in that stretch could leave UGA in great shape.
Jacob Eason was named Georgia’s starter last week, but was benched after a fourth-quarter pick that allowed Nicholls to cut Georgia’s lead to just nine. If Georgia can get its QB situation finalized, it’ll be fine.
No. 23 Florida
Next week, Florida gets Tennessee in Knoxville. Tennessee inexplicably lost the last two in this series, games the Vols undoubtedly should have won. I can see Florida pulling out another miracle victory. The Gators also get LSU and Mizzou at home.
They lost some key players on defense, but Will Muschamp recruited well enough that the defense is still very good. On offense, the key will be implementing a power rushing attack with Luke Del Rio making the throws he has to. The offense looked better against Kentucky than it did in the opener.
The Tigers drew the short straw, schedule-wise, likely only being favored against Kentucky at home and Vanderbilt at home.
Mizzou won the SEC East in 2013 and 2014. They made it in 2014 even after falling to Indiana at home and losing to Georgia, 34-0. Never count the Tigers out. And defense should remain a strength.
Spurrier didn’t recruit for about three seasons, so waylp, it’ll be tough. They beat Vanderbilt but lost to Mississippi State already. They could probably beat Kentucky and maybe Missouri, which would leave Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. Those first two are at home, so maybe a couple upsets are possible? (Muschamp can dream, guys.)
Why South Carolina?
They might have a good defense now, thanks to this guy.
The Commodores’ three toughest opponents might be Florida, Ole Miss, and Tennessee, and all are at home. Steal an upset of the Gators and beat Kentucky in Lexington, and then we’ll revisit this.
Might also have a good defense.