Could the University of Tennessee Win the SEC East?

Alex FergusonSenior Analyst IIMay 23, 2011

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 18:  Orange-clad Tennessee Volunteers fans sing along with 'Rocky Top' during a game against the Florida Gators at Neyland Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Florida won 31-17.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

In the light of everyone talking about how wonderful South Carolina will be, as they are bringing back running back sensation Marcus Lattimore, brilliant wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey and quarterback Stephen Garcia (hopefully after a stint in off-season rehab!), as well as No.1 college football recruit Jadeveon Clownley, I got thinking.

Who's going to win the SEC East? Will it be Florida, who's frankly got too much athletic talent everywhere (although we still raise an eyebrow about QB John Brantley, and hope for Gators' fans that he can be better than last year)? Or will it be the Gamecocks? Or will it be Georgia, who ESPN tipsters are talking about being dark horses because of their talented quarterback Aaron Murray, some good players on 'D' (although we'd argue that losing your top tacklers IS going to hurt) and a great tight end called Orson Charles?

Well, here's our dark horse for the SEC East: Tennessee.

Think we're mad? Here's why:

1) They return 14 starters, including three in defense (Malik Jackson, and safeties Prentiss Waggner and Janzen Jackson). Their secondary is pretty experienced, which means that opposing quarterbacks are going to find it pretty hard to throw on them. To be fair, they got ripped apart by teams' running game last season, and a season of experience will make this team pretty nasty on the line, too.

2) We love Tyler Bray as the quarterback of this team. He's a country mile better than Matt Simms, who was laughably awful in 2010, and he's got a lot of Neylanders believing. He's got an experienced wide receiving corps, which will feature Justin Hunter and Zach Rogers, who will be a whole lot better than they were last year. Look, we know that the Vols are going to need help at wide receiver, but they should work things out. Plus, their offensive line's going to be a hell of a lot better than they were last year.

3) The schedule's not exactly awful, either. They should go 2-0 against Cincinnati and Montana, and we think that they are going to frighten the hell out of the Gators in Gainesville. They'll stuff Buffalo at home and be up for Georgia in a loud Neyland Stadium—a team who beat them last year. Although we think they'll probably lose two straight against LSU and Alabama (both teams will be vying for a National Championship spot), they'll both be hard-fought games. This leaves them the showdown with South Carolina, at Neyland Stadium.

What do you think?