SEC Football: How Florida vs. Tennessee Affects Conference Championship Race

Shawn BrubakerContributor IISeptember 15, 2012

COLLEGE STATION, TX - SEPTEMBER 08:  Mike Gillislee #23 of the Florida Gators at Kyle Field on September 8, 2012 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Few games this week will have a bigger impact than Florida vs Tennessee, as the winner has a very good chance to represent the SEC East in the conference championship game.

Here's how the conference race will shake up after the game.

If Florida Wins

If Florida wins, they will do so on the strength of their defense.

Tennessee barely has a running game, which should easily allow Florida to make the Vols one-dimensional. That could let Florida force Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray into costly mistakes.

The Gators should also be able to run the ball effectively. Tennessee struggled to stop the run in the opener against North Carolina State, meaning Mike Gillislee could dominate this game.

Gillislee already has four touchdowns this year at a 6.1 yards per carry rate. He's definitely the best running back that Tennessee has played all year, so expect a big game from Gillislee.

A victory for Florida would set them up nicely to take on LSU at home on October 6. The Gators should easily beat Kentucky next week, followed by a week of rest.

With an extra week to prepare for LSU and momentum from big wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee, Florida would be in good shape to score the upset.

A loss against the Tigers wouldn't be crippling though, as the rest of the schedule is manageable. The toughest matchup would be a neutral site game against Georgia, which will definitely be a hard fought game.

Florida has the defense to slow down Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, and by that point the offense should be improved.

What makes Florida a good bet to represent the SEC East is that most of their toughest games are at home or a neutral site, and their offense should only improve as the season goes on. A win against Tennessee today would set the Gators up nicely for the rest of the season.

If Tennessee Wins

Tennessee is at home against the Gators and features one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. With a returning Justin Hunter threatening the Florida defense, Tennessee has a good chance to score the big win today.

Tennessee has a slightly more difficult schedule than Florida after this game. The Vols will play host to Alabama and go on the road to Georgia and South Carolina.

Unfortunately, there is no way that the Vols can win all of those games. Their opponents are just too good.

Still, the Vols could score a big home upset against Alabama. Tennessee's Neyland Stadium is notoriously difficult to play in, which could help the Vols shock Alabama.

A win against the Gators today and the Crimson Tide later in the season would set Tennessee up nicely for a conference championship run.

If they win those two games, they would need to beat either Georgia or South Carolina on the road. The Volunteers probably aren't good enough to win both, but winning just one might be enough to represent the SEC East.

All in all, a win for Florida would bode very well for their chances to make an appearance in the SEC Championship game, while Tennessee has a slightly tougher road.

Regardless, both teams need this win to keep their conference championship hopes alive.