Thursday, August 20, 2009

It will be Florida and the five stooges in the SEC East this year

The Florida Gators will dominate the SEC Eastern Division this year. They are clearly the best team in the division and will beat Alabama in December in the SEC championship game.

In looking at the East, the Gators will likely be better this year while the other five teams will be the same or regress compared to 2008.

Here is how it should shake out:

1. Florida -- Quarterback Tim Tebow is the best SEC quarterback since Peyton Manning, and he should have won the Heisman Trophy last year. All starters return on an athletic and aggressive defense. Last year, the Gators beat their SEC East rivals by an average of 39.8 points per game. The most challenging game they will likely face is when they play at LSU in early October. There are not many sure things in sports, but Florida looks like one.

2. Georgia -- The Bulldogs should finish in second place, but they will take a step back this year because of the loss of quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno. True, Georgia has an experienced and solid offensive line, but they have lost too many playmakers. Wide receiver A.J. Green is excellent, but can new quarterback Joe Cox get him the ball enough? We will find out in a hurry because Georgia has road games at Oklahoma State and Arkansas in September. The home games that month are not easy ones either: vs. South Carolina and Arizona State.

3. Tennessee -- The time for talking is over for new Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin. The Volunteers will have a new look this year, but will it translate into more wins? Quarterback Jonathan Crompton has been solid in fall practice. If he can just be consistent this year, it will benefit the team greatly. If freshman running back Bryce Brown's eligibility can be cleared up, he should give them a much needed boost when it comes to providing big plays. Their first big test is on Sept. 12 against a much improved UCLA team.

4. South Carolina -- Has college football passed by Gamecocks' head coach Steve Spurrier? Entering his fifth season at Carolina, he has not been able to recapture the magic he had at Florida. He has not developed a first-rate quarterback while there. Current quarterback Stephen Garcia likely has the best raw talent of any signal caller Spurrier has had at Carolina. However, he has not blossomed. If he does not, it looks like another seven-win season for the Gamecocks.

5. Vanderbilt -- Coach Bobby Johnson has done a remarkable job building the Vanderbilt program. Most would agree that the Commodores have more quality depth than at any other time in the program's history. In the SEC, this is a must. If Vanderbilt wants to visit another bowl game, it must find a way to steal a conference game on the road. The Commodores have done this in recent years, and South Carolina may be the best opportunity this year. Vandy won there in 2007.

6. Kentucky -- Offense could be Kentucky's undoing this year. Quarterback Mike Hartline has to be better this year, and the Wildcats need more production from their running backs and wide receivers. The defense looks solid and will be led by cornerback Trevard Lindley, linebacker Micah Johnson, and defensive end Jeremy Jarmon.

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