Yesterday I reviewed my preview of the SEC West and updated my predictions on how each team would finish the season. Today I’ll take a look at the SEC East.
Let’s be honest, the West is all about Alabama and LSU. The East is much messier and, therefore, much more fun to discuss.
Florida [Current 4-1 (2-1), Predicted 7-5 (4-4)] – This is a transition year for the Gators, but last week they had a major opportunity to become a player right now. Unfortunately for them, they were crushed 38-10 by Bama and, in the process, lost their starting quarterback. The loss to the Tide was expected, but the injury to John Brantley may re-shape the SEC East race. With Brantley, the rest of their schedule, except for LSU, looked very doable. Conference-wise, that could have put the Gators at 6-2, with losses only to West teams. That could’ve been enough to get them too Atlanta and that wouldn’t have been shappy for first-year coach Will Muschamp. Now, though, the East is in disarray and the injury to Brantley only muddies up the water for the rest of the Gators’ season. For now, I’ll keep the Gators at 7-5. That would include losses to LSU, Georgia, Florida State and either Auburn or South Carolina.
Georgia [Current 3-2 (2-1), Predicted 10-2 (7-1)] – Two weeks into the season the media and many Dawg fans were screaming the sky is falling and prediction Mark Richt’s imminent demise. That crowd failed to look at the remainder of the Georgia schedule. If they had, they would have realized the remaining 10 games are very winnable. Sure, there are some tough games for the Dawgs, like this weekend’s tilt against Tennessee, but UGA could very well be favorites in each game. Richt seems to have very little margin for error. He doesn’t need to find out how thin that margin is by losing to UT. I’m sticking with my preseason call for the Dawgs to go 10-2.
Kentucky [Current 2-3 (0-2), Predicted 5-7 (1-7)] – To put it bluntly, Kentucky has stunk it up this year. I didn’t predict good things for the Wildcats this year, but I also didn’t predict they would look so inept on offense. The Cats have played so bad, some are even calling for the removal of head coach Joker Phillips. Well, things on that front could get worse before they get better. The Cats can beat Jacksonville State, but that could be their last win of the season. That means they are looking at 0-8 in conference play. Ole Miss and Vandy look like the most winnable games, but they would probably be underdogs in both. I’ll go with 3-8 for the Wildcats, two games off my preseason prediction.
South Carolina [Current 4-1 (2-1), Predicted 11-1 (7-1)] – I blew this one. Yeah, I know the Gamecocks could theoretically win their remaining games and finish on par with my prediction, but that won’t happen. Carolina is a star-studded team. Gilmore, Ingram, Clowney, Lattimore, Jeffrey and, I though, Garcia. But Stephen Garcia hasn’t gotten it done this season, at least so far, and has earned himself a spot on the bench to watch for a while. Head coach Steve Spurrier should also receive some time in the penalty box for his play calling against Auburn as well. Spurrier allowed one of the worst defenses in college football to strangle one of the game’s best runners – Marcus Lattimore. I don’t agree with the workload Spurrier usually puts on Lattimore, but he should have received at least 10 more carries against Auburn. Oh well, I’ll go with an adjusted prediction for Carolina of 9-3. That would include additional losses against Arkansas and Clemson, though with the way this team is playing, they could lose as many as five.
Tennessee [Current 3-1 (0-1), Predicted 7-5 (3-5)] – We’ll know much more about the Vols after this weekend’s game with Georgia. The young Vols still have a long way to go this season and could finish anywhere between 6-6 and 9-3. I think they’ll lose to the Dawgs and Bama, but I think they’ll beat either LSU (yes, that LSU) or South Carolina. Let’s keep the Vols prediction at 7-5.
Vanderbilt [Current 3-1 (1-1), Predicted 4-8 (0-8)] – The Commodores’ upset of Ole Miss raised some eyebrows, even if the win came over the deflated Black Bears. The consensus is that James Franklin has this team headed in the right direction and I do think the Dores can finish two games better than my prediction. They will likely lose to Bama, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee, but can salvage a bowl season with wins over Army, Kentucky and Wake Forest. A 6-6 record and a bowl season would be huge for Franklin.