The Dye-Gest: Looking at the SEC East Race

Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye gives his thoughts about the 2011 football competition in the SEC East.

With college football practice getting started in the coming days across the Southeastern Conference there is a team in the SEC East that I think will surprise a lot of people this season.

Although they are not getting a lot of preseason respect, I think the Georgia Bulldogs are a team to look out for in their division. My number one reason for that prediction is I think their quarterback, Aaron Murray, is really good and this year he will be more productive because he is more mature with a season's worth of experience taking the reps as the starter.

Another plus for Georgia this year is that the team won't have the distraction of whether or not A.J. Greene is going to be the star on offense. This fall they will go into the season knowing who they have got at receiver. As good as Greene is, sometimes an offense can get itself into trouble trying to force the football to a superstar instead of spreading the ball around like Auburn did a great job of last year.

Georgia has taken so much abuse in the newspapers and elsewhere from fans I will be totally surprised if the players don't come out fighting, scratching and clawing to find ways to win football games. I think Coach (Mark) Richt has had a tough couple of years and he is tired of it, too. Put all of that together and I think Georgia will be the surprise football team in the East.

Aaron Murray runs the football for Georgia.

South Carolina is going to be good. I think the only thing that could blow up there is the possibility of something happening to their quarterback, Stephen Garcia. That relationship he's got with Coach Spurrier is volatile, and you don't know from one week to the next if he's going to be there or not.

Coach Spurrier has coached a lot of football games and a lot of players. He has won a lot of championships and I think he does a great job. He will handle it, but still, to me. Garcia's the key. South Carolina has got the play-makers offensively and on defense to be successful.

At Florida they are going through a cultural change down there to some degree. They have an entirely different personality coaching the team with Will Muschamp taking over for Urban Meyer.

Stephen Garcia is a key player for the Gamecocks.

Coach Muschamp is going to bring a lot of energy and a lot of excitement. People can say what they want to say, but he was raised in the Southeastern Conference and I think that makes a difference. That doesn't mean that an outsider can't come in here and win and compete because Dan Mullen has proven you can do that at Mississippi State and Urban Meyer did it at Florida, but Will understands the SEC.

It's going to be interesting to me to see how it works out at Florida hiring former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis as the offensive coordinator. I'm not a hundred percent sure that is going to be a good match. If it is a good match and if it does work, the Gators will be in good shape. If they aren't all on the same page locked into the same philosophy then somewhere along the way there will be a weakness there and they will lose a game they are supposed to win regardless of how much talent and how much ability they have got.

At Tennessee I think that program was in such a state of disarray when Derek Dooley got the job that it is going to take a while to rebuild. My guess is that the Vols will be about like they were last year. I do think their quarterback came in and did a good job late last year. I understand they've got some questions about him after the spring game, but from what I saw I thought he did a great job. Tennessee will eventually be back.

At Kentucky I don't know how they are going to replace Mike Hartline and all of the other good offensive players they lost. Hartline was a really productive quarterback. I don't know if Morgan Newton will be able to give Kentucky the same type of production.

When you look at Kentucky, and maybe even more so with Vanderbilt, those teams are a little short on talent when you compare them to the top teams in the SEC. There are enough good football recruits out there in the two star and three star categories to go to places like Kentucky and develop into strong college players if they sign the type of prospects who have a lot of room to grow and do a great job coaching them.

I believe we are in for another exciting year of SEC football based on all of the talent returning and the history of the league. Probably whoever wins the Georgia-South Carolina game is going to have the upper hand in the East this year because Florida, like Auburn, lost a lot of players from its 2010 team. I know the Gators have done a great job of recruiting and they have still got a lot of players so they won't be short of talent, but like Auburn they won't have as much experience as they would like.

Georgia has got a big game coming up against Boise State to open the season. I think that game will go a long way in identifying if Georgia is the team I think it will be even though you don't really know if Boise State is going to be a great team. You can be sure Boise State will be coming to Atlanta ready to play and that is a team with most of their starters back from last season.

There is no doubt that Boise State is going to come in ready to play, but you don't really know how strong that team is going to be. We do know they have got a quarterback, Kellen Moore, who is pretty sporty so I am looking forward to watching that game.

We are about a month away from the start of the season and I am excited about it like everybody else.

From the Mailbag:

Coach Dye:

Could not agree more with those two games (most disappointing losses column). I was 14 and 18, respectively, when Auburn lost those games. I know you don't remember this in 84, but a couple months later I ran into you and your staff. The SEC Basketball Tournament was played in Birmingham and you came down the steps in the lobby at the Hyatt House with Jack Crowe and others. I was still feeling that Bama loss and wanted to say something, but didn't know what to say.

I just walked up to you and said, ‘Coach, we'll get 'em next year.' You put your arm around my shoulder and walked to the BJCC with me. I had rather won the game, but that makes it feel a little better.

I hate to bring up another tough one, but that Florida game where Kerwin Bell came off the bench was pretty tough as well.

Also, I was getting popcorn at the concession stand when we ran the 2nd half kickoff for a TD against FSU. That was the first time I saw grown people crying after a football game.

War Eagle,
Jonathan Lacy

Jonathan, I didn't see anybody crying after we won that game in Tallahassee. If there was anybody crying, it would have to be Florida State folks unless they were tears of joy.

Coach Dye,

Thanks for your column on that '88 LSU game. I remember exactly where I was that night and it did hurt but that team was special and you've had so many special victories that a few "hurts" are ok every now and then.

Thanks for the column--I read it every time you write.

Marc Lintz
CLASS of 1990

When you go through life there are ups and downs. That game was something we will just have to live with.

Coach Dye:

As a long term fan, I watched my first AU game in 1956 including the last GA game in Columbus. I heartily agree that the '84 FSU game was the wildest I've ever seen. There are two factors you didn't mention which I think contributed to make it such an exciting game.

There was no TV coverage. That meant there were no extended times-out, which meant the game was more of an unbroken, uninterrupted continuous experience, not one with the spits and starts TV commercials cause.

It was pretty cool that night and the game was so good that everybody (not just students) on both sides of the stadium stood up to yell early in the first quarter and nobody sat down until the game was over except the quarter breaks. Since there were no commercials, the game probably only lasted two hours or so.

I was sitting close to the sidelines and I don't think anybody could have covered Jessie Hester that night.

What a game. Thanks Pat.

Roger Guilford

The thing about Hester, and we had looked at him on film all week long before playing FSU, is that nobody else had been able to cover him either. We certainly didn't cover him and nobody else did the rest of the year after we played them. He was just a great player and Hassan Jones was too bad either.

Coach Dye:

This is not really about your columns, however, I do love reading them, but more for an opinion. I'm currently somewhere off the coast of Africa on a US Navy "Small Boy" or Destroyer. I will miss most of football season so I've decided to do a lot of reading on Football and Football Coaches. I've completed a few in our first couple months and need to get some input on a few more. I really like bios of coaches. Do you have a book of/from yourself? What others would you recommend?

Also, Thanks for all that you have done for Auburn University. I'm a 23-year-old native of Springville, AL, a lifelong Auburn Fanatic and I love this school with all my heart. I hope to someday attend and graduate there as you and many others have done. Again, thank you.

HM3 Travis Tucker
USS Roosevelt (DDG-80)
Medical Department

First of all let me say I appreciate you serving our country and helping keep us safe. I do have a couple of books out. In the Arena we wrote in 1991 and 1992 before I resigned and then after that we put together a book of letters and correspondence that I got while I was coaching at Auburn that I?thought were heartfelt and a lot of fun stuff. The name of that book is I Believe in Auburn And Love. We also have a cute little children's book out called War Eagle.

(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to

Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye also writes the Dye-Log and Pat's Picks columns for

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