SEC Football: Does the East Division Return to Power in 2012?

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterAugust 24, 2012

Florida head coach Will Muschamp
Florida head coach Will MuschampSam Greenwood/Getty Images

It wasn't too long ago that we were talking about the SEC East being the more dominant division in the SEC, and the West was playing catchup.

My, how things have changed.

The West division is home to three straight BCS National Championships, produced 66 percent of BCS Championship Game participants during the last three seasons and boasts a 30-9 record vs. the East over the last two seasons, including SEC Championship Games.

That's staggering considering traditional powers Florida, Tennessee and Georgia reside in the East, along with a South Carolina program that dances around the top 10.

Esteemed columnist Pat Dooley published a column in the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun on Friday that lays out the path for the SEC East to return to prominence and post an 8-6 record vs. the West in 2012.

And honestly, it's not terribly unrealistic.

South Carolina holds all of the cards in Dooley's equation. If the Gamecocks can sweep its cross-division games vs. Arkansas and at LSU, that might get the division over .500 vs. the West.

I don't think the Gamecocks will do that, but it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

South Carolina has a stacked defense headlined by a treacherous pass rush behind defensive ends Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney. Connor Shaw was a stud last year toward the end of the season, and the return of running back Marcus Lattimore will only help that offense.

The East will certainly be a division on the rise yet again. South Carolina is a legitimate national title contender, Georgia's schedule suggests that the Bulldogs will find their way to the top 10 and I pegged Florida to have a 9-3 record in 2012 as well.

Getting over .500 vs. the West may be difficult in 2012, but the East is on its way back to prominence and will get there soon enough.