Saturday, July 16, 2011

Conference Blast: The SEC East

I hope all of this wrong. If last season was an exercise in optimism, then this is my sortie into pure pessimism.

SC, your season lies in this man's sobriety. Good luck!
1. South Carolina - The Gamecocks return seven starters on offense, including Garcia, Lattimore, and Jeffrey and are an easy pick to win the division. They get six back on defense, including the top-four tacklers, and draw a favorable schedule. I do think SC loses early at Georgia, a trendy upset pick for East champ, but rebounds through the first half of the season. Things heat up after the bye, with road trips to Tenn. and Arkansas and the league closer with Florida. And, with Garcia's trustworthiness questionable at best, that could mean a loss or two. But, even if they drop another SEC game down the pipe, the 'Cocks will easily land in ATL in December.

2. Florida - Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee will all be chasing second place in the East, and I'm afraid none of them will have a spectacular year. Muschamp and Weis will have their hands full getting their systems in place, but they certainly have the talent to get it done quickly. Brantley will finally be playing in an offense he can succeed in and will still have Demos and Rainey to back him up. They will lose b2b games at Bama and against LSU, but draw a bye before their favorite punching bag, Georgia, and even with a late loss to SoCar, a 5-3 conference mark will clearly seperate the Gators from the middle of the East. 

t3. Tennessee - Tennessee and Georgia will both end up with .500 conference records, but I'm giving UT the head-to-head edge over the Dawgs. Coaching-wise, the Vols are more stable than Florida, but don't have the athletic depth - but they do have some impact players on offense who will only be better in 2012: Tyler Bray, Tauren Poole, and Justin Hunter. Defense will be the Vols weakness, costing them big at Florida and in b2b2b games against Bama, LSU, and SoCar. I do think the Vols can take a depleted Georgia down, but may not be so lucky against a healthy Dawg team. Speaking of...

t3. Georgia - If Georgia could somehow keep all their starters healthy, they could play in ATL this December. But the harsh fact of the matter is depth is not the Bulldogs' friend in 2011. The O-line should be solid, but one injury and UGA will be starting a step ladder. And that sucks because the line's going to need to stay healthy for Murray who will have to carry most of the load as the running game is now squarely in the hands of a freshman. Defensively, I'd like to think the Dawgs will be improved, but I thought it before and been burned. There should be some benefit from new blood and JuCo talent, but I've reached a point where I don't put much faith in this staff. I see Georgia starting  a very impressive 2-0 - Boise, SoCar - but dropping games down the line to depth issues and health concerns.

gratuitous Georgia pic
5. Kentucky - This defense should be good...but that's about it. The 'Cats have lost some key offensive talent; talent that helped them become more competitive in the last few years. This is going to cost them in 2011. They play b2b road games at LSU and SoCar and close the season with UGA and Tenn. Throw in a loss to a solid Mississippi State team and UK will have at least 5 SEC losses.

6. Vanderbilt - Good news: Warren Norman. Bad News: Uh, it's Vandy.

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