SEC East: Surprises, Disappointments and The Spoilers

Darrell OwenbyContributor ISeptember 27, 2009

LEXINGTON, KY - SEPTEMBER 26:  Runningback Derrick Locke #20 of the Kentucky Wildcats is tackled by A.J. Jones #16 of the Florida Gators in the third quarter of the game  at Commonwealth Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The College Football season is 33% in the books.  In the Southeastern Conference, the divisions are beginning to tighten up.  We are able to partially tell who the pretenders and the contenders are.

From the top down, the SEC East actually looks flat.  

Comparing the East to any other year, it is conceivable to say that the SEC West may be stronger this season.  No matter how you slice it, it is still the best over all conference in the college athletics.

The Florida Gators are riding high at number one in the nation.  While the majority of the pollsters and pundits alike believe Alabama may be the better team, there is no way to prove it until the SEC Championship game in December.

The Gators looked mortal versus the Tennessee Vols in Week Three.  Many are shouting that the Vols defense, led by mentor Monte Kiffin, shined a spotlight on the Gators' offensive weaknesses.  

I disagree.  

If you watch college football at all, you know that the Gators are weak at left offensive tackle.  

Just ask Tebow.  That is the side he was sacked from when he received his concussion.  Florida also has no threats at wide receiver.  Unless these two positions solidify, look for the Gators to drop one to two conference games this season. 

The Verdict:  

The Gators, although ranked number one in the country, have not been able to live up to opposing fans' expectations.


Coming into the season, the Georgia Bulldogs are a team that everyone had a question mark on.  After an opening day loss at Oklahoma State, the questions seemed to be valid.  

Looking at the Bulldog's entire body of work to this point, the question marks were in the wrong places.  The offense was expected to be average at best while the defense excelled.  

The defense has looked very poor at times while the offense has found different ways to score.

The Verdict:  

Unless the Georgia Bulldogs begin to play solid defense week in and week out, this team will only be playing the spoiler role.  While the offense has performed above expectations, even with a 3-1 record the Dawgs are somewhere between a disappointment and a spoiler.


The South Carolina Gamecocks were said to be facing a make or break season for Coach Steve Spurrier.  After opening up with a nonchalant 7-3 win at NC State, the offense has floundered at times.  

This Gamecock squad has one of the best defenses of recent memory.  Does this team end up playing the spoiler role?  

Just ask Ole Miss.

The Verdict:  

Honestly, the Gamecocks begin with a 7-3 win and then a 41-37 loss.  This team, in my estimation, has been a surprise, considering this team is only four yards shy of being undefeated, the Gamecocks are extremely underrated.


The Kentucky Wildcats are another team that is difficult to pin down.  The offense has been average and the defense was exposed versus the Florida Gators.  

Randall Cobb is the only apparent offensive weapon this team has.  Defensively, this team is still young, but is paced by a strong secondary.

The Verdict:  

This team is about where most analysts expected them to be.  While Cats fans are getting used to going to bowl games, this team is going to have to scrape and fight to get there.


The fans of the Vanderbilt Commodores had high hopes for their team entering the season.  Vandy has been competitive, but does not have the wins to show for it.  

Some Vandy fans are already calling for Offensive Coordinator's Ted Cain's job.  Did anyone really expect to see Vandy fans standing up to call for anyone's job?

The Verdict:  

To the fans, this team has been a disappointment.  To the outsiders, this team is about where we expected them to be.  Vanderbilt will be hard-pressed to become bowl eligible.  Due to last season's success, Vandy will be unlikely able to sneak up on many people.


The Tennessee Volunteers are another team that is currently stuck under the microscope.  

On one hand, you have Lane Kiffin and his myriad of comments while on the other, he still has a team filled with Phillip Fulmer's recruits.  

Kiffin has almost refused to remove Jonathan Crompton at quarterback despite eight interceptions in four games.  Overall, believe it or not, Kiffin and his staff have this team headed in the correct direction.  

The Verdict:  

This team is right around where most people expected them to be.  As they enter a rough section of their schedule, it will take more than a few snide remarks or off-handed comments to turn the corner.

How do you see the SEC East teams?  While Florida has been exposed to a certain extent, will the Gators be able to win the East?  Who are your surprises and disappointments?

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.