A very early look at the SEC East

You saw the ground rules in yesterday’s early look at the SEC West, so without any further ado, here’s the same for the East, again in order of 2007 division finish.

  • Tennessee (10-4, 6-2). I look at this team and see one area where it should be better than it was in 2007 – the secondary.  Tennessee is also Steele’s fourth most experienced team in the conference. Coming off of ten wins, ordinarily you might think that would be enough to have UT stand a good chance of repeating the success of last season. But there are a lot of trends and changes that don’t bode particularly well for the Vols.  There’s a new starting quarterback taking direction from a new offensive coordinator.  Tennessee got no favors on its schedule from the SEC this season, as Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina all have off weeks before playing UT.  This team was the biggest overachiever in the conference in ’07, playing in the SECCG despite being outscored and outgained (ninth!) in conference play.  One reason for its success: a 3-0 record in close games.  That won’t happen again.  Plus, UT starts off this year with a road game against a team that will have had Norm Chow gameplanning against its defense all summer (Mike Bobo, take notes).  Finally, if you believe Fulmer is a better head coach when he’s staring into the abyss, you can’t be too thrilled that he just signed what amounts to a lifetime contract.  Prognosis:  decline.
  • Georgia (11-2, 6-2). We all know the pluses and minuses here.  Seventeen returning offensive and defensive starters.  An entrenched coaching staff.  The ruggedness of the schedule – not so much the ballyhooed trip to Arizona State as the Bataan Death March that comes mid-season when the team doesn’t see Athens for more than a month.  Right now, that all has the feel of washing out evenly.  Prognosis:  unchanged.
  • Florida (9-4, 5-3). Believe it or not, according to Steele, Florida enters the 2008 season as the least experienced team in the SEC.  That’s because the Zooker’s last class, who would be this year’s seniors and redshirt juniors, essentially vaporized.  So while this team returns a large number of starters on the offense and defensive sides of the ball, it in essence has a depth problem in that many, many of the backups being counted on are young and green.  But that’s really not much different than last year, and the schedule, which drops Auburn in favor of Arkansas, is friendlier.  That sounds like a net gain to me.  Prognosis:  improved.
  • Kentucky (8-5, 3-5). This one writes itself, doesn’t it?  With only four returning starters, UK’s passing game has been gutted by graduation, led by the departure of Andre Woodson.  And even with those players, UK finished last year in negative territory in net yards per conference game.  That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the defense.  The good stuff is meh.  Steele does list the Wildcats as having the third most experienced roster in the SEC.  The OOC schedule is pretty weak, but so was last year’s.  LSU drops off the schedule, replaced by Alabama.  All told, it’s not a recipe for success. Prognosis:  decline.
  • South Carolina (6-6, 3-5). Georgia’s opposite in 2007, this is the hardest team to handicap in the conference this year.  The offense, which is supposed to be the OBC’s strength, was mediocre, so much of it returning means what, exactly?  Quarterback, Spurrier’s hallmark position, looks especially shaky.  The defense, with ten returning starters, appears formidable on paper.  But there’s a new defensive coordinator and several starters being moved around, so who knows how that winds up shaking out?  And while many claim that overall team depth is on the rise under Spurrier, how do you square that with the way the defense went in the tank last season after one key injury?  On the other hand, the schedule is somewhat kinder according to Steele and Spurrier’s ego has to count for something.  Maybe. Prognosis:  slight improvement.
  • Vanderbilt (5-7, 2-6). The simple truth is that Vandy should have played in a bowl game last year, but Bobby Johnson’s tendency to sit on a lead against a good opponent came back to bite him in the rear in the Georgia and Tennessee games.  This team lost a lot on the personnel front, particularly on offense (only three starters return) where it wasn’t that strong to begin with.  They’ll be somewhat respectable on defense, but it’s hard to see where the scoring will be coming from, especially considering that Steele ranks the Commodores’ schedule as the fourth toughest in the nation this year.  Talk about adding insult to injury.  Prognosis:  going down.
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19 Comments

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19 responses to “A very early look at the SEC East

  1. Daryl Strawberry

    Senator – there is a perfect quote of the day in this article: http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080709/COL0504/807090334/1177/SPORTS

  2. dean

    I would like to be able to disagree with your prognosis of the dawgs but there are still a few question marks on the offense that prevent me from doing so. The defense should be solid again even though there are one or two “ifs” on that side.

  3. Dave

    You predict UT to play in the SECCG, but give them no love in your description of their season and that their prognosis is “decline”. I don’t get it.

  4. Dave – the SECCG reference wasn’t a prediction. It was what the Vols accomplished in ’07.

    For the record, I don’t see them back in Atlanta this year.

  5. Greg

    I’m afraid this is going to be a year where we have two or three teams unbeaten at the end of this year and none of them will be from the SEC.

    If Ohio State and USC didn’t play each other, those two teams would both be at the top of the list as likely unbeatens. The winner of that game, Oklahoma, WVU and BYU all seem like teams that could run the table pretty easily considering their talent and their schedule.

    Meanwhile, I don’t see how anyone could say it’s “likely” that we’ll finish with a better record than last year with the gauntlet we face. At So Car, at ASU, Bama, Tennessee, at LSU, UF in Jax, at Auburn…at UK and GT won’t be any picnics either. We’ll have to get some lucky breaks and hope for no significant injuries to our key players. Wouldn’t hurt if we could get a poor performance by one of the better teams we play….like UF did a couple of years ago when LSU turned it over 5 or 6 times. Saw a stat the other day that opposing FG kickers were 20 for 22 vs UGA last year….wow, hopefully that will change this year.

  6. Honestly, if we repeated the 11-2 and the BCS at-large, I’d be happy. The pundits might call it a disappointment, but it wouldn’t be for me.

    Got a bet with a Bama pal that the following happens:

    – Georgia beats Florida, but loses two conference games
    – Florida’s only conference loss is to Georgia, goes to the SECCG
    – Auburn wins the West
    – Auburn, as they are want to do, beats Florida, winning the SEC

    Think about it for a while, and it doesn’t seem all that unlikely.

  7. DS – you’re right about the quote. Good story.

  8. D.N., the Georgia/Florida outcomes I could see, but I’m just not that sold on Auburn right now. I don’t see how you come roaring out of the box with two new co-ordinators. Their QB situation isn’t as rosy as their fans like to pretend, either.

    Maybe I’ll change my mind about that as the season gets closer.

  9. but I’m just not that sold on Auburn right now.

    Yeah, that’s always right before Auburn has a good season. You know how they do.

  10. Daryl Strawberry

    Didnt mean to post that twice….

    I got to agree with the Senator. The QB situation at Auburn is horrid. I also think that it will take 5-6 weeks for that offense to produce consistently. During the time it takes, that defense is going to be on the field A LOT. The war eagles offense is going to be their defense’s worst enemy for the first part of the season.

    4-5 losses.

    I keep having this reoccuring nightmare that we somehow manage to get into the MNC game, and we end up LOSING to Ohio St. I wake up in a cold sweat, with the feeling that someone cut my nuts off in the middle of the night. It is horrible.

  11. Ohio State isn’t going to the MNC game. I do not see them staying within three touchdowns of Southern Cal, and that will be that.

    Unless, of course, it’s one of those USC We’re bored! games. Then all bets are off.

  12. Sam

    Oddly enough, I think an 11-2 UGA season is a very real possibility even though I feel this is the best UGA team top-to-bottom that I have ever seen. The competition we face is just, collectively, that tough. That said, I feel UGA beats UF and will be in the SECCG in Atlanta facing either LSU or Auburn (edge to LSU). I would be totally satisfied with any result where UGA wins a 13th SEC title, but would certainly love a BCS bowl win to top off what would have been a great season (always tough to live nine months with a bowl loss.)

    My UGA prediction, and it is way too early to be comfortable with this, is 12-2 most likely case, 13-1 about 25%, 14-0 less than 10%, and 10 wins would be worst case. Toughest three games should be LSU, AU, and Fla., in that order, with Bama, ASU, and SC next toughest. Man, this is going to be some 4 months of excitement!

  13. Daryl Strawberry

    Oh, i dont think OSU makes it. No way do they beat USC and i think they might lose to freaking Troy.

  14. Daryl Strawberry

    I was thinking more along the lines of:

    “All I saw were the red in his eyes and those big ol’ thighs. Next thing I knew I was flat on my back and had footprints on my chest.” – Bill Bates

  15. Guys, I know we like to bash tOSU to hell and back down here in the SEC, and not without good reason, but they’re going to be very, very good this year.

    SC, meanwhile, has a brand-new QB behind an almost completely brand-new line, and if their receivers are good enough to make up for the new QB’s greenness, they sure didn’t show it last year.

    The Trojans will win the Pac-10 again this year, but only because (once again) nobody else will want it bad enough. They’ll get donkeybonked by the Buckeyes, though. Mark it down.

  16. Sam

    Doug, I am not sure what a “donkeybonk” is, but I will be tuned in for that game and guess I will find out. If it means this will be a very physical, tightly contested matchup, then I am on board with you. Anyone dismissing OSU as incompetent is not too sharp. They have an excellent defense, maybe Top 5, and that will keep them in virtually all games they play….including USC.

    I still think USC wins a close, lower scoring than expected, game primarily because of the predictability of the OSU offense. OSU has pretty good talent, but their offensive scheme is tired while USC has great athletes, and a smarter/better coach. This will probably be the only loss OSU has this year so they will likely be back in the Rose Bowl unless the Zooker can prevail again. OSU will eventually win a big game OOC, but it isn’t likely to be in Los Angeles on September 20. “Get your popcorn ready, it’s gonna be a show!”

  17. Darryl Strawberry

    I will take USC -8.5 with both of you.

    It is going to be a double digit shalacking. Boeckman throws 3 picks. The Southern Cal defense is unbelievably talented and they will run circles around those slow Big 10 lineman. Cushing, Maualuga and Mays will shut down Wells.

    A couple of big plays from Joe McKnight and this one will be over by the end of the 3rd quarter.

  18. With 8 of the 12 games at home, I think people are forgetting about LSU again. USC wins the PAC-10 because they have been the best team in the nation since 2002 and the numbers back this up. Their schedule this year is perhaps the most daunting in the nation. The nobody wants it bad enough is a weak argument.