Charting the SEC East

Trying to handicap the SEC East football race this year is a waste of time. You'd probably get better results drawing the names out of a hat. Florida has holes. Georgia has holes. Tennessee has holes. South Carolina has holes. I wouldn't be surprised to see them go 5-3 in league play, creating a four-way tie for the division title.

Since the odds against a four-way tie are astronomical, I'll go with Florida. The Gators play Alabama, LSU and Georgia within the Sunshine State, which is why I'm giving them a very tentative nod as the best bet to win the division. Here's how I see the race shaking out:

1. FLORIDA. The Gators aren't all that and a bag of chips. Their ground game is mediocre, and Chris Leak is not the guy I'd want trying to rally my team from behind in the fourth quarter. Florida has the division's best defense, however, and should be better offensively now that everyone's had a year to learn Urban Meyer's spread attack. SEC RECORD: 7-1. LOSSES: at Auburn

2. GEORGIA. Quarterback D.J. Shockley will be missed. So will tight end Leonard Pope, guard Max Jean-Gilles and three of last year's secondary starters. The Dawgs have a good backlog of talent, though, so they won't fall off the face of the Earth. It'll just feel like it. SEC RECORD: 5-3. LOSSES: at South Carolina, Florida in Jacksonville, vs. Auburn.

3. TENNESSEE. The Vols should be typically stout defensively and they can't possibly be worse offensively. Progress will be evident but you can't expect the Big Orange to come all the way back from 5-6 in one year. SEC RECORD: 5-3. LOSSES: vs. Florida, at Georgia, at Arkansas.

4. SOUTH CAROLINA. The Gamecocks get Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas in Columbia but I can't see them doing better than a 2-2 split of those games. Still, as unpredictable as the East is this year, I wouldn't count out Steve Spurrier's troops. SEC RECORD: 5-3. LOSSES: vs. Auburn, vs. Tennessee, at Florida.

5. KENTUCKY. The Wildcats will be considerably better but it won't show up in the record because they're stuck in the toughest division of the NCAA's toughest conference. Today's sports quiz: Will Rich Brooks learn he's being canned before or after the season finale? SEC RECORD: 2-6. LOSSES: at Florida, vs. South Carolina, at LSU, at Mississippi State, vs. Georgia, at Tennessee.

6. VANDERBILT. Vandy without Jay Cutler is like Christmas without Santa Claus, like Easter without the Bunny, like July Fourth without fireworks. You get the idea. The Commodores play two beatable foes – Ole Miss and Kentucky – but both are road games. SEC RECORD: 0-8. LOSSES: at Alabama, vs. Arkansas, at Ole Miss, at Georgia, vs. South Carolina, vs. Florida, at Kentucky, vs. Tennessee.


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