2009 SEC Preview and Predictions: East Division
The SEC East is the final BCS division we will look at. It should be the least in doubt division as well—until you think about Georgia last season.
The Bulldogs were supposed to run the table last season. Georgia was loaded with talent and was figured to be a lock for a BCS game, if not the title game.
Instead, Georgia lost three games and finished out of the BCS. Adding insult to injury, the Bulldogs' hated rival Florida won the national championship.
So why relive this tale heading in to the 2009 season? Well, if you are Florida, you are the 2009 version of Georgia.
The Gators should win every game this season, but they cannot afford to slip. There are some things Florida can still aim for: One would be the first-ever undefeated season in school history.
The Gators are the favorites, but every team will give the Gators their best shot. So here is the SEC East preview and predictions alphabetically.
Florida Gators: Prediction 12-0
If you do not know why the Gators are the favorite to win the national championship this season you must have been living in a cave. As long as number 15 is in a Florida uniform, they will be in the hunt for the title.
Florida is loaded this season with one of the best players in the country in Tim Tebow. The Gators have one of the best defensive players in Brandon Spikes. Florida has one of the best coaches in Urban Meyer.
The only questions for this Florida team is replacing some receivers—namely Percy Harvin—and some offensive linemen. That is it. The whole two-deep comes back on defense.
If this team does not win a national championship, it will be a huge choke. The Gators have to play down to their opponent to lose.
Sure, this team can drop a game and make it to the title game. Still, I think this is far and away the best team and will finish the season 12-0.
Georgia Bulldogs: Prediction 9-3
Last season has been well-documented, and does not need to be rehashed. This season for Georgia might be about getting ready for 2010.
Georgia has players on both sides of the ball that have to be replaced. Do not feel bad for the Bulldogs, though: Mark Richt has recruited well.
The Bulldogs might not have the superstars they had last year but they do have solid players who have been waiting for a chance to play. The whole offensive backfield has to be replaced and some new receivers need to be found.
Still, the Bulldogs should find players who can at least manage the game. The best thing for Georgia is they are under the radar this season.
The Bulldogs will not have anywhere near the pressure on them this season like they did last season. Georgia can just play football this season and not worry about living up to expectations.
One thing is for sure: We will find out how well the replacements will be for Georgia. A trip to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State will tell us a lot about the 'Dogs.
Besides USC, Georgia plays the toughest non-conference schedule. They also play Arizona State, at Georgia Tech, and Tennessee Tech.
Georgia could go 2-2 in non-conference games. The losses could be Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech, both on the road.
In-conference, the Bulldogs should win against South Carolina, LSU, Auburn, and Kentucky at home. They should also beat Arkansas, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt on the road.
This season could be the season Georgia should have had last season. Still, with all the new starters this team could lose four or five games.
I think Georgia will have a nice 9-3 season and 2010 could be their year to win the East.
Kentucky Wildcats: Prediction 6-6
Kentucky has been on a nice roll the last few seasons. That refers of course to Kentucky football, which will always play second fiddle to Kentucky basketball.
Rich Brooks has built a nice program and, while it might never win a conference championship when the East is a BCS bowl contender year in and year out, there is nothing for Kentucky fans to complain about. Most of the time football is an annoying sport before basketball starts.
This season the offense will have to carry the load for the Wildcats. Kentucky has just about every playmaker back—including Randall Cobb at running back—and a very good offensive line.
The running game has a couple of good backs to carry the load, but the offense might be only as good as quarterback Mike Hartline plays. If Hartline makes few mistakes and does not turn the ball over, the Kentucky offense can keep the team in the game.
The defense is where Kentucky will struggle after losing key players on that side of the ball. While there are several good players on the defensive side of the ball, as a whole this unit is down a bit.
The non-conference schedule is winnable with games against Louisville, Miami (OH), Louisiana-Monroe, and Eastern Kentucky. The Wildcats could sweep the slate.
In-conference Kentucky has games against Florida, Alabama, and Georgia, all of which should be losses. The other games against Auburn, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee could go either way.
There is a win against Mississippi State, but it will all come down to the four games above. If Kentucky can get a spilt, they would finish 6-6 and have to pray for a bowl.
If the Wildcats win three of the four of those for games they'll go bowling. Kentucky will be in trouble if they cannot split against the Vols, Tigers, Gamecocks, and Dores.
I believe Kentucky will get the split and finish 6-6, setting them up well for next season.
South Carolina Gamecocks: Prediction 6-6
It's year five under Steve Spurrier at South Carolina and this could be the year the Gamecocks get a second or third-place finish in the East. The Gamecocks have been hoping since hiring Spurrier he would get them up to the level of the best in the East.
South Carolina does not want to beat Tennessee, Georgia, or Florida every year. They just want to be in the discussion with those teams every year.
Really, it's not too much to ask for a constant top-three finish in the East. No matter what anyone thinks, you can get talent to any school.
Just look at Boise State. You know they cannot use weather to recruit. The university is in Idaho, so it’s not like there is a lot to do.
Recruiting aside, this season the Gamecocks have to get good offensive line play and consistency at quarterback. The season could hinge on those two things.
Steven Garcia looks to take the snaps behind center this season. How much rope he will get from Spurrier, we do not yet know. If the line can block better, then Garcia might live up to the billing he received in high school.
South Carolina will have to get the replacements in the secondary to be ready from the first kickoff. The front seven should be good enough to make stops, but the secondary is what could kill the Gamecocks this season.
The non-conference schedule has two good tests, with the first coming in the first game against North Carolina Sate (the second is against Clemson). The Gamecocks are good enough to win both games.
The other two out-of-conference games are against Florida Atlantic and South Carolina State. Both games should be wins.
In-conference, South Carolina more than likely will lose to Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss, and Florida. These teams have more talent than the Gamecocks.
The rest of the conference schedule is like Kentucky’s. The games could go either way against Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Arkansas.
An 8-4 season is possible, but so is a 4-8 season. If the Gamecocks get solid offensive line play and good quarterback play, they could be bowling.
I think a 6-6 season could be an easy mark to make.
Tennessee Volunteers: Prediction 6-6
If Gene Chizik is on the hot seat in season one, so too could Lane Kiffin. There has been a lot of talk from Kiffin when he first got the job at Tennessee.
So how will it look if he loses to UCLA and the gets 70 dropped on him by the Florida Gators? If you do not think it will happen, ask Mark Richt about Urban Meyer's memory.
The Gators were taking timeouts just to prolong the butt-whipping they were giving the Bulldogs. Do not think Meyer has forgotten what Kiffin has said.
The dogs will not be called off until the game is over. Florida will try to score every time they have the ball and will try to embarrass Kiffin.
Kiffin will do one of two things for Tennessee. He will bring the Volunteers back to the top of the East, or he'll paint a bull’s-eye on his team week in and week out.
Tennessee has recruited well, and we will find out if Kiffin was the problem in Oakland or if it wass Al Davis. If Kiffin was the problem in Oakland, we'll know rather quickly.
The Volunteers have to play Florida, Alabama, and Ole Miss on the road. They will lose those games. The UCLA and Georgia games will be home losses.
Except for Ohio and Memphis—which are wins—the rest of the season could go either way. With all of Kiffin’s talking, every team will be up to play Tennessee.
A 6-6 season could happen, but I will not be surprised if this season comes off the tracks quickly for the Volunteers.
Vanderbilt Commodores: Prediction 8-4 (Heart) 4-8 (Mind)
It’s great to be a Commodores fan this football season. No, not the band Lionel Richie gave us. The Vanderbilt Commodores are riding high this season.
After going to a bowl for the first time since 1982, hopes are high going into this season. Sure it’s Vanderbilt and it might be another 26 years until they get to another bowl.
Does anyone not root for “the super-hard to get in to academic school that could” to go to a bowl game each year?
You can go to Stanford and go to a bowl game or win the conference. You can go to Northwestern and go to a bowl game or win the conference.
One thing you cannot do is be a strong academic school and win the SEC, or even be a solid bowl team. You have to root for the Commodores no matter who your team is.
While I know last season was a dream season for Vanderbilt and it could all come crashing down this season, I hope it does not and the magic continues for another year or two.
In my heart I think Vanderbilt could go 8-5 and a second straight bowl game. My mind tells me 5-8 will more than likely happen.
Still, I will hold out hope.
So the Florida Gators will get the chance to avenge their only loss from the season before when they meet Ole Miss from the West. The Gators will play for a second national championship.
The SEC will make it four championships in a row and the rest of the country will get tired of the SEC chant coming from Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
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