Top SEC East Questions

The big SEC East questions with spring football a few weeks away.

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What’s missing from Georgia? Why can’t it get over the hump?

Some Bulldog fans would say the missing link is a different head coach, but at some point, someone as good as Mark Richt is going to catch all the breaks. The defense has the potential to be a killer with Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins coming back, and the secondary is loaded. Nick Chubb will be on most preseason Heisman lists, and there’s enough talent overall on offense to expect nothing less than an SEC East title as long as the quarterback situation is figured out, but blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard it all before. Georgia is really good, it has all the talent, it has the pieces in place to get it done, but maybe it just needs the angry instinct. Maybe it just needs a different attitude. If that sounds a bit high school and hokey, okay, but the team seemed to play with a chip on its shoulder against Louisville, and the result was a bowl blowout. The Belk Bowl Bulldogs have to show up each and every week.

Does Missouri have any shot at three-peating?

The one big, giant difference is that the division should be far stronger. Georgia might be better, Tennessee will be a whole bunch better, Florida should be okay, South Carolina might be improved, and Kentucky and Vanderbilt will certainly be stronger. Even so, Mizzou is a factory now for pass rushers, there’s speed to burn on offense behind one of the league’s best O lines, and Maty Mauk – faults and all – now has a few years of experience under his belt. Mississippi State and Arkansas are hardly pushovers, but it’s better to get those two from the West than Alabama or LSU, and the Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee games are at home, so … it might be another interesting year.

How far away is Florida from being Florida?

Everyone sort of forgot about just how weird the Gators’ season was. It started out with a postponed and then cancelled game against Idaho, which might have mattered only because the team obviously needed as much target practice as possible on offense. Remember, the chance was right there to beat LSU in the 30-27 loss, and despite the 42-13 final score, the Gators actually dominated Missouri in several ways in the loss. Yeah, it doesn’t work like this, BUT, it could be argued that Florida was closer than it appeared to being a ten-win caliber team. This year, the defense should be every bit as good as it was last year, even with a great D coach like Will Muschamp gone, and if the offense can just be a wee bit more consistent, and if the passing game isn’t so pathetic, this should be a step-forward season. Anything less than nine wins will be a major disappointment for a team with this much talent.

Is Tennessee more than just a cute, dark horse pick to win the SEC East

At Florida, at Alabama, at Missouri. Those three games alone might just be enough to keep the Vols from taking the East, but talent-wise, they’re close. Yes, Tennessee will be one of the IT teams going into the year after closing out winning four of the last five games and with a tremendous recruiting class coming in, but there are still holes. This is still the team that struggled way too much offensively in key games, and the defense will be great, but maybe not SEC title-good quite yet. Even so, if Joshua Dobbs can continue to play like the smooth and steady quarterback he was throughout the second half of last year, and if the team can handle the pressure and the hype, it should be deep in the hunt for the East until the end. It’s that good, even with the three brutal SEC road games.

Can South Carolina rebuild in time for one more run for Steve Spurrier?

Helloooooo, JUCO. Spurrier isn’t kidding around in what might be his final year as a ball coach, going the junior college route this recruiting season to load up on instant players to help beef up an already good-looking team. Finding a quarterback is key, but it’s Spurrier – everything is going to be okay. The O line won’t be quite as good, and some weapons have to emerge on offense, but the defense could and should be night-and-day better if the JUCOers do their job to add depth and options to an already experienced group. More than anything else, considering Spurrier might be on the sidelines for two more years – at the most – there has to be a sense of urgency. With road games at Georgia and Missouri along with a home date with LSU in the first half of the year, there’s little time to ease into the schedule.

Why should there be any real hope for Kentucky and Vanderbilt to not finish on the bottom of the East?

Kentucky spent the last six games of last season chasing one more win from being bowl eligible, and didn’t get it. The team has to be hungry considering the near-miss, and it comes back more talented and experienced. The O is loaded with veterans around QB Patrick Towles, and the defense gets just about everyone of note back except for Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith up front. For Vandy, the first season under Derek Mason was all about lump taking. Eight underclassmen started the final game of the year on offense, and seven underclassmen got the nod on defense. This still might be the 14th-best team in a 14-team league, but it should be far more competitive and far more fun to watch after 2014’s nightmare. Don’t expect miracles, but the Commodores will come up with at least one big monkey wrench win.


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