SEC East Race: Who is really in the driver's seat?
Last weekend's unexpected Auburn victory over South Carolina combined with the expected drubbing of Florida by the Alabama Crimson Tide, started a tidal wave of SEC east speculation that has only gained speed throughout the week.
Some say Georgia is in the best position to win it. Others say South Carolina, despite serious quarterback issues, still holds that distinction. Some even think Tennessee, with a win over Georgia this weekend, will have a shot. Florida is more than alive in this discussion as well--no matter the blowout last weekend nor their underdog status in Baton Rouge this weekend.
So, who is really in the driver's seat?
First of all, it's way too early to even think about who will win the SEC east. There are still way too many scenarios that could play out between now and December. All four of the top competitors have serious flaws and schedule difficulties.
Hopefully, after reading this you'll come to the same conclusion I have.
No one is in the driver's seat at this point and SEC east will likely be headed for a deep ravine before some unlucky team takes the wheel just in time to be completely obliterated by the SEC west champion going in the opposite direction.
Here's thesecnation.com SEC East race breakdown.
What has to happen for the Gamecocks to win the east: Just win, baby. Thanks to South Carolina's victory over Georgia in week two, all the Gamecocks have to do is win the remainder of their SEC games.
Why the Gamecocks will win the east: Despite demoted quarterback Stephen Garcia's horrid start to the season, South Carolina will ride Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery into the championship game. If Steve Spurrier can resist the urge to bench new starting quarterback Connor Shaw the moment something goes wrong, the sophomore should be able to work through the remainder of this schedule without losing.
Why the Gamecocks will not win the east: Steve Spurrier will not resist the urge to bench Connor Shaw the moment something goes awry and this South Carolina defense has given up the fourth most points per game in the SEC this season (23.8 ppg) and still has to play two of the more offensively gifted teams in the league on the road. The Gamecocks play Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Arkansas on the road in consecutive weeks. No way they get through that stretch without at least one loss.
What has to happen for the Bulldogs to win the east: Georgia needs to win out and hope South Carolina loses at least one more time.
Why the Bulldogs will win the east: Georgia simply has the easiest remaining schedule of any SEC east team. Starting out 0-2 may have made the natives a tad restless, but the 'Dawgs faithful should be more than happy that a front-loaded schedule is good news considering all that has transpired in the east the last few of weeks. Georgia's defense is improving game by game this team should be much better at season's end than it was at the beginning.
Why the Bulldogs will not win the east: Georgia still has to play all of its SEC arch-nemeses, Tennessee, Florida, and Auburn. Only the Tennessee game is on the road, and if you know anything about Georgia's series history with the Vols, that game is never easy to predict. Florida owns Georgia. Since 1990, the 'Dawgs have defeated the Gators just three times, with the last Georgia victory coming in 2007. Auburn is a bitter rival of the 'Dawgs. The teams have split their last 16 meetings, eight wins each.
What has to happen for the Vols to win the east: Tennessee has to win out and hope for a Florida loss.
Why the Vols will win the east: Tyler Bray might be the best quarterback in the conference. Even without one of his most potent weapons, Justin Hunter, Bray will prove to be the biggest weapon the Vols have. Tennessee has also found an answer to its special teams woes. New returner Devrin Young will make a huge difference down the stretch.
Why the Vols will not win the east: Have you seen this brutal schedule? Tennessee hosts Georgia and LSU in consecutive weeks. As if that's not enough, the Vols go on the road to Alabama and come back home to face South Carolina in the following two weeks. There's no way the Vols win more than two games in that brutal stretch.
What has to happen for the Gators to win the east: All the Gators have to do is win.
Why the Gators will win the east: Florida is still the most talented team in the SEC east. They're defense is faster than any team they face the rest of this season. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps have shown their ability for years now and freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel will prove his raw ability versus lesser competition.
Why the Gators will not win the east: Did anyone else see what happened when John Brantley went down last week? The Gators were still in the game when the senior quarterback went down with what has been called a high ankle sprain. No matter who Charlie Weis and Will Muschamp settle on at quarterback this week, they will get eaten alive in Baton Rouge. And the Gators still have to go on the road to Auburn and South Carolina.
No disrespect intended to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but it's probably best for both fanbases to just focus on basketball at this point in the season.