SEC Football: Analyzing Strengths and Weaknesses of the East Division

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 5, 2012

One week into the season, and impressions have already been made in the SEC East.

South Carolina and Vanderbilt got things started on opening night with a 17-13 slugfest in Nashville, where Gamecock Connor Shaw injured his throwing shoulder late in the first half. Week 1 also included an impressive performance by the Tennessee Volunteers and sluggish performances out of Georgia and Florida.

What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of the SEC East after one week of play?



Tennessee is Good...Really Good

Someone please explain to me why the Tennessee Volunteers aren't ranked in the Top 25, because I saw that team first-hand on Friday against N.C. State, and that's a really good football team.

The wide receiving corps didn't miss a beat, with Cordarrelle Patterson filling in for the recently-departed Da'Rick Rogers, and Justin Hunter looked healthy after tearing his ACL last season.

The ground game was slow, but picked up when Marlin Lane emerged as a threat in the second half. Lane, who was buried at No. 3 on the depth chart, finished the night with nine carries for 75 yards and two catches for 19 yards.

The secondary had some major lapses, but new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri brought the heat, which forced four Tennessee interceptions.

Tennessee is a contender, folks.


Florida Found a Running Game

Florida running back Mike Gillislee essentially won the job as the Gators' No. 1 running back late in the spring, but nobody really knew if he was able to handle the pressure and responsibility of the job until last Saturday.

He can.

Gillislee's 24-carry, 148-yard, two-touchdown performance against Bowling Green proved that he can be a feature back in the SEC.

People focused on the quarterback battle at Florida all spring and fall, but finding a between-the-tackles running back was the most important question that the Florida offense had to answer during the offseason.

To be successful in the SEC, you have to run the ball and play defense. We know Florida has a great defense, and if Gillislee can keep it up, Florida may be more of a threat than initially thought.


Georgia RB Todd Gurley is Legit

Gurley's stat line on Saturday vs. Buffalo: Eight carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns, two kickoff returns for 127 yards and one touchdown.

Not bad, to say the least.

Mark Richt commented on Gurley during the SEC Coaches' Teleconference on Wednesday.

"You saw in the game about what we saw during every scrimmage," said Richt. "Lord willing, he will carry it more than eight times."


Connor Shaw is a Boss

People will draw whatever conclusion they want on South Carolina after its 17-13 win at Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks won a road game in the SEC with a quarterback who barely could throw the ball, so I don't quite understand the sentiment that the Gamecocks aren't a Top 10 team.

But nevertheless, one thing is for sure: Connor Shaw is a beast.

After injuring his throwing shoulder late in the first half, Shaw fought through the pain and led his team to victory. His gutty performance was signified by his 12-yard run down to the goal line early in the fourth quarter, setting up the game-winning touchdown.



South Carolina's Wide Receivers

One of the biggest issues facing the South Carolina Gamecocks during the offseason was the quest to find a replacement for Alshon Jeffery.

No South Carolina wide receiver had more than 21 receiving yards on Thursday night.

Granted, Shaw was injured and could barely throw, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the question remains unanswered.


Georgia Didn't Look Inspired

Georgia was sleepwalking a bit against Buffalo, still managing a 45-23 win.

But it wasn't stress-free.

The Bulldogs led just 24-16 at halftime and let the Bulls embark on touchdown drives of 11 plays and eight plays in the first half, the latter of which was a 94-yarder.

Had it not been for Todd Gurley's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first half, Georgia fans would have been sweating even more at halftime.

Call it sleepwalking, call it holding back, call it whatever you want. Georgia will have to be much more focused this weekend on the road at Missouri.


Kentucky Needs a Running Game

Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith threw 50 passes against Louisville. 


One-dimensional won't work, and Kentucky desperately needs to find a running game if it wants to win football games and if Joker Phillips wants to stay employed.

CoShik Williams led all ball-carriers with 10 carries for 62 yards, but he was injured against the Cardinals.

More balance is needed out of the Kentucky offense.



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