Tennessee vs. Florida Debacle Shows SEC Is Not What It Was in 2012

Randy ChambersAnalyst ISeptember 21, 2013

Sep 21, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators running back Matt Jones (24) runs with the ball as Tennessee Volunteers linebacker Brent Brewer (17) defends  during the second quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Congratulations, SEC haters! You folks finally have a chance to see the conference take a step back, which then opens up the door for a non-SEC program to win a national championship for the first time since 2005.

Although we're only a month into the season, it's safe to say that the SEC is nothing compared to what it was last season. Though Alabama won the national title last year, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, LSU and Texas A&M could have all given Notre Dame a run in the national championship. This year, it seems to be the Crimson Tide and everybody else.

This was proven in the Tennessee-Florida matchup. While the Gators won the game 31-17, they didn't do so in convincing fashion. They turned the ball over three times, struggled to move the ball and had a hard time putting the Volunteers to bed. There were nine combined turnovers in this sloppy SEC battle.

To be fair, quarterback Jeff Driskel did leave the game due to an ankle injury, but his 3-of-6 passing and one interception weren't helping.

Dropped passes, missed blocks and turnovers have become routine for the Gators.

Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated described the situation perfectly:

Keep in mind that Florida was at home, coming off a bye week and playing a Tennessee squad that just allowed 59 points to Oregon. Yes, Florida had a hard time last season beating average opponents, but it's also the same team that many claimed was a national championship contender. After what has been shown recently, it's tough to make that claim this season.

Tennessee is also a program that was looking to climb up the SEC ladder, but two straight disappearing acts on the road indicate that the journey is a lot longer than anybody once thought. Head coach Butch Jones clearly doesn't know who his starting quarterback is, and the defense hasn't improved much since last year's historically bad performance.

But Tennessee and Florida aren't the only two SEC teams having a hard time waking up, as Georgia sleepwalked against North Texas on Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs had a 35-21 lead heading into the fourth quarter! Vanderbilt also didn't put Massachusetts away like most believed it would, as the Commodores beat the Minutemen 24-7.

Shoot, even Arkansas lost to Rutgers 28-24 after having a 24-7 lead.

Here's a nice nugget for SEC fans to digest:

The SEC is a conference that prides itself on depth. It's supposed to be the strongest conference in college football with the best players and most national championship-caliber programs. Right now, it looks like a bunch of teams that play sloppy football and can't get out of their own way.

This may or may not mean much once January comes around, but that door is certainly open for a non-SEC team to make a push for a crystal football.