SEC East Race Is Coming Into View?

Darrell OwenbyContributor ISeptember 19, 2009

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 19:  Tim Tebow #15 of the Florida Gators is tackled by Nick Reveiz #56 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

2009 was supposed to be the year of the Gators.  All other SEC East opponents were battling for second place and lower.  The Tennessee Vols have shown their SEC East brothers that the Gators have pressure points.  Has the SEC East race became a race or are the Gators still head-and-shoulders above the crowd?

Florida Gators.  The Nation's current No. 1 team did not deliver the beat down that many expected the Vols to receive.  While a win is still a win, when you are favored by more than four touchdowns, sometimes a win can feel like a tie.  The Gators were able to run the football effectively in a 23-13 home win over the Vols, but the passing game was virtually non-existent.  Tim Tebow was harassed the majority of the game by the nation's No. 3 defense.  The Gators had no deep threat, no possession receiver, and no obvious go-to receiver.  Gator fans knew that Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy's absences would hurt, but did they fully expect it to be this painfully obvious?  Florida won the game by double digits, but in this age of instant gratification and wanton blood letting, the Gators may suffer in the polls.  The sad thing is the Gators put up 300-plus yards and could have won the game 30-6 if not for a late fumble at the four yard line.  The Gators are still the favorite to win the East, but this team must find their receivers.

Georgia Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs began the season with a loss to a middle of the road team in Oklahoma State.  Since the opening game loss, Georgia's offense has been off the hook while the defense has floundered.  Coming into the season, the defense was supposed to be the strong point.  The SEC East can not be won without defense.  How long before UGA fans begin chanting "Fire Willie"?

Tennessee Volunteers.  The Lane Train has arrived.  The UT faithful are beginning to believe.  And they lost by ten points.  College football can be a crazy game.  While the UT defense showed their grit, the Volunteer offense looked horribly anemic.  Many UT fans are wishing for a five-star quarterback recruit as a late Christmas present.

Kentucky Wildcats.  Do not count the Cats out in the mix.  Kentucky is currently undefeated which is no small feat for this team.  Kentucky's offense is led by Randall Cobb.  While the UK defense is suspect, the Wildcats could play the spoiler role within the SEC East.

South Carolina Gamecocks.  South Carolina's offense has its back against the wall.  Every week is virtually a play off game.  Do not misunderstand, the Gamecock offense is getting better, but is it SEC East better?

Vanderbilt Commodores.  Gave LSU a dog fight.  Then lost to Mississippi State for the second consecutive year.  Crazy season for the 'Dores.

While the Florida Gators offense can be slowed, not even the nation's No. 3 defense could totally stop the Gators.  Florida will continue on their march to first win the East, but several teams are knocking on the door behind them.  Look for a log jam behind Florida and if the Gators take a single misstep, the competition is on.

Darrell Owenby is a seasoned SEC sports analyst, freelance writer and editor of Darrell can be heard around the nation on sports talk radio shows discussing the SEC.