Florida Gator Football: SEC East Is No Longer a 2-Horse Race

Kevin KingSenior Analyst IISeptember 16, 2012

KIAWAH ISLAND, SC - AUGUST 08:  An alligator floats during a practice round of the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course on August 8, 2012 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Two conference wins in two weeks is always nice.

But in the case of the 2012 Florida Gators, it may have been much more than nice. The back-to-back wins have vaulted them past one of their biggest obstacles to the SEC East title.

How would beating a rebuilding Texas A&M and a questionable Tennessee team put the Gators in the SEC Championship Game? It didn't but it helped much more than many think. So much so that the SEC East is no longer to be considered a two team race.

First, it is safe to say that Texas A&M is somewhat of an unknown this year, though its 48-3 thrashing of SMU this week surely helped to get the program's name out.

Still, this is a team that has some fine athletes. And, this new staff knows what to do with good athletes.

As for the Volunteers, it is also true that it isn't known just how good they are. But, they were good enough to beat a ranked N.C. State team that won eight games in 2011.

That Wolfpack team also returned its senior quarterback in 2012 and most of its other offensive and defensive weapons. Moreover, it was favored in the game. But the Vols prevailed and, in the process, broke a six-game losing streak at the Georgia Dome.

Still, the most important and most overlooked aspect of all, is that it was back-to-back road wins against SEC opponents. From this point forward, Florida only plays one other road conference game. That comes October 13, at Vanderbilt.

Next Saturday, they play a struggling Kentucky team in the swamp. Then, have a week off before No. 2-ranked LSU visits on October 6. Here is a link to the Gator schedule for 2012.

On October 20, South Carolina comes to Ben Hill Griffin, followed by the annual Georgia game in Jacksonville, on October 27. The Gators' final SEC game will be against Missouri, at home on Nov. 3.

Though Florida still has plenty of difficult games to play, there are no other back-to-back road games—a true schedule concession in the country's most difficult conference. In addition, their only other road conference game this year is at Vanderbilt.

These facts, along with how quickly quarterback Jeff Driskel has adapted to running the offense, have changed the minds of many observers. Suddenly the Gators are squarely in the middle of what many had concluded was a Georgia and South Carolina race for the SEC East title.

The Gators 555 total yards of offense at Tennessee represented their best offensive output of the season. In addition, the 20 points allowed to the Vols is also a season high. In the other two games, they gave up 17 points to Texas A&M and 14 to Bowling Green.

Though the conference game against Kentucky can't be overlooked, it appears the next big test for the Gators team will be versus LSU on October 6, after the bye week. Expect that game to draw a lot of network coverage that week. Florida is ranked No. 14 in this week's AP Poll, so there is a possibility they may be ranked in the Top 10 by the time of their matchup with LSU.

Make room Bulldogs! Move over Gamecocks! There's a big ole Gator back in the house, and he appears mean and just as determined as ever!