Unless you’ve been living under a rock all season, you know that two of the traditional powers in SEC East have been very down this year. Florida and Tennessee have combined for an 11-13 record on the season. South Carolina has stepped up some to fill the void. Only Georgia is showing signs of playing championship-caliber football.
Looking ahead, I don’t see that there will really be any change to that in the near future. Below is a look at the division and how I see it playing out the next few years.
In Tennessee’s case, I don’t see them being relevant for at least two or three years. They are low on scholarship players. There are rumors that several current team members will be transferring at the end of the year. Even if head coach Derek Dooley is some recruiting mastermind, he’s years away from getting the team back to where they need to be.
Next year won’t be much better than this one, because there just aren’t that many young studs in waiting. Bray’s a quality QB and will be back next year. Their stud WR, Justine Hunter, will be back, as will Da’Rick Rogers. As for the rest, they’ll be putting pieces together for a while.
Florida is in bad shape as well. They are very low on scholarship players, and going 6-6 in the regular season isn’t going to bring in the 5-stars like they are used to. I can’t see them getting it together next year or the year after that. It may start the downfall of the evil empire.
How bad is it down there? They limited Florida State to under 100 yards on offense and still lost!
There isn’t a lot to look forward to down in Gainesville. Their defense is decent at best, but given that their head coach is supposed to be a defensive guru, you would think that they would be strong there.
Their offense is a train wreck. Their freshman QBs are awful, and their formerly strong running game is getting killed. They have nothing for a go-to receiver. Charlie Weis will have his hands full for a while.
Which SEC East Team Will Win a National Championship Next?
South Carolina is showing a nice resurgence, but once Lattimore is gone, likely after next year, they will sink back down to their normal fourth place in the SEC East. Not only that, but how long will head coach Steve Spurrier be around? He’s getting older and will likely retire in the coming years.
Unless they break the mold and bring in a young stud head coach, then they’ll bring in the next over-the-hill great coach to die a slow death in Columbia. Maybe Urban Meyer will be ready to get back to the SEC by then.
Kentucky and Vanderbilt will always be the bottom-dwellers whose job is to scare the top-tier teams from time to time and play the role of Homecoming pasty.
Georgia, on the other hand, has a stable head coach, a defensive coordinator that has shown great improvement in year two and an offensive coordinator who’s slowly coming into his own. If you’re a stud 5-star recruit and you’re looking at a school in either Florida, Georgia, Tennessee or South Carolina, Georgia is an easy choice.
Looking ahead to next year, Georgia will be returning the best QB in the SEC, a former 5-star running back who, while inconsistent in his freshman season, will have a year of strength and conditioning under his belt and a year of experience. If they land either of their top two running back recruits in 2012, then they will also likely produce early and often.
Where Georgia will be very strong next year is with their wide receiver corps and on defense. Georgia’s freshman WRs have come on strong. They will have stud TEs for years. The defense under year two of Todd Grantham’s 3-4 system has come on strong, and will be returning most of the starters.
Things are looking up for the Bulldogs of Georgia. It is likely that they will trade Alabama for Missouri, and barring a 2008-like tragedy, will be the clear favorite to challenge LSU or Alabama in the SEC Championship Game again. I’m going to go ahead and predict that Georgia wins it all in 2012, just so I can have it on record.