Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Official 2011 SEC East Predictions

The time has come for me to give my full thoughts and predictions on what I expect out of each SEC team in 2011. The conference is going to have more wide-spread competition this season then there has been in the past, which is why my predictions may not be agreed upon with everyone reading them.

But as always, we will march on.

This edition will preview the SEC East. Last year the conference was weak, as the yearly superpower Florida slumped into a down season which left the division race wide open between the other 5 teams. South Carolina eventually took the title and were then beaten by Auburn in the Georgia Dome (pretty badly I might add).

2011 is no different.

Florida Gators

The Florida Gators were a dominant force in the SEC when Urban Meyer took over 6 years ago. Winning two national championships in three years and not to mention having the media's godchild Tim Tebow will earn you that status.

Urban Meyer is gone, and Florida found a replacement in former Texas and Auburn defensive co-ordinator Will Muschamp. This is Muschamp's first coaching gig, one which he hopes to impress immediately because lets be honest, a place like Florida recruits itself doesn't it?

2011 is another rebuilding year for the Gators. They have a new coach, new defensive and offensive co-ordinators and just 9 returning starters on both offense and defense combined.

With a tough schedule this season, as well as a new system to learn for the players I am not optimistic about Florida this year. The fact that Charlie Weis has coached some poor Notre Dame offenses in the past and Will Muschamp being a rookie head coach doesn't exactly scream confidence.

7-5 for the Florida Gators (Five losses to any of Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State.)

Georgia Bulldogs

The perennial under-achievers of the SEC roll into 2011 with a team with some talent, but still unproven in several areas. The Bulldogs went 6-7 last year, including an embarrassing bowl loss handed to them by Central Florida. One thing they do have going for them this season is their quarterback position. Aaron Murray is the best quarterback in the SEC, but who is going to run and catch the ball on offense?

The Bulldogs are banking on in-coming RB recruit Isiah Crowell making a Marcus Lattimore type impact on their season. If Crowell is even half as good as Marcus Lattimore then Georgia may have a nice year after all.

The Bulldogs do return 7 starters on defense. They have an experienced secondary but a young defensive line.

Richt simply put, has to win this season. Georgia is a team that could improve only a little or they could improve a hell of a lot, you never know under Mark Richt. I think they will improve quite a bit.

8-4 for the Georgia Bulldogs (Four losses to any four of Boise State, South Carolina, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State.)

Kentucky Wildcats

Joker Phillips had about as good of a first year at Kentucky as anyone could have hoped for. The Wildcats were in every game they lost, and even gave the BCS Champions Auburn a little scare (37-34).

Its a new year for the Cats, and after losing their three offensive stars (QB Mike Hartline, RB Derrick Locke, WR Randall Cobb) the fact that they play a tough SEC schedule doesn't make matters any better for them. Their SEC slate includes road games against LSU, South Carolina and Georgia, and they get the Gators, Vols and MSU at home. However, their non-conference schedule should help them make a bowl game this year.

If their defensive line can make an impact, then UK can win a few games this year. Linebacker Danny Trevathan is a great player to watch on defense too.

7-5 for the Kentucky Bulldogs (losses to any five of Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, MSU, Ole Miss, Louisville.)

South Carolina Gamecocks

Last season, Steve Spurrier had the fortune of having a team full of uber-talented players, most of which return this season. Marcus Lattimore became a household name at runningback, Alshon Jeffery is their monster wide reciever, and Stephen Garcia (when not on the booze) is an adequate quarterback.

With Garcia and Jeffery both certainly on their way out after this season, this may be Spurrier's best chance to win the SEC yet. He has the talent to win games on both sides of the ball, not to mention having All-SEC corner Stephon Gilmore and DE Devin Taylor.

South Carolina went into the SEC Championship game looking like a large threat, whilst they still were they stifled against Auburn (giving up 56 points) not to mention losing out on the Chick-Fil-A Bowl by Florida State. A late-season meltdown cannot be in the cards for Steve Spurrier anymore.

The Gamecocks are bonafide favorites to win the East this season, and I see them being well a oiled machine on offense and defense every single game. They play in a weak SEC East so they have the schedule in their favour, but if they can play well on defense consistently, and get a few lucky bounces of the ball here and there, then lookout.

Here come the Cocks.

11-1/12-0 for South Carolina Gamecocks (A possible ONE loss to either Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State) --- SEC EAST CHAMPIONS

Tennessee Volunteers

The Vols looked to be making waves in the SEC before Lane Kiffin bolted, which meant last season was a major rebuilding year for Derek Dooley.

In 2010, the Vols managed to just get by after finishing a very average 6-6. I think Dooley did a good job last year considering the circumstances.
The Vols played with less than 70 scholarship players for much of the season, and also came within a couple of plays of an eight win season. When you consider what the team went through after Kiffin's sudden departure in January, I think that was the best case scenario for Derek Dooley, don't you think?

Onto 2011 and the Vols are looking to make a name for themselves in the East, and contend for the somewhat wide-open division title. Tyler Bray came into the spotlight last season and is looking to improve through 2011. Obviously this Vols team isn't ready to contend for a National title, but that doesn't mean a 8-9 win season is out of the question.

I think considering what the Vols currently have, if they can get a few good bounces of the ball through 2011 I think they can challenge for the East and beat a few decent teams.

8-4/7-5 for the Tennessee Volunteers (losses to four/five of Florida, South Carolina, LSU, Georgia, Arkansas).

Vanderbilt Commodores

Now we come to the dead-wood. Ok, I'm just kidding but yet again the Vanderbilt Commodores are set up to have another pretty mediocre year of football, but I don't suppose they care too much. After all they have solid baseball and basketball programs.

Nothing ever really excited you about Vanderbilt Football. Sure they beat Auburn in 2008, but thats for another article. Last season Vanderbilt finished a horrible 2-10 (1-7 in the SEC), but they can't get any worse this season, surely?

There has been a lot of positive vibes coming out of Nashville about Vanderbilt football lately, and that's good enough for me (lazy I know).

6-6 for the Vanderbilt Commodores (Losses to six of Ole Miss, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, UConn).


So that's my thoughts on the SEC East. Obviously the division is still rebuilding, but I think certain schools are sleuthing their way back into SEC relevance once again. None (apart from South Carolina) will compete for an National Championship, but 2012 could be that year for a few more East schools. But that's for another day.

Thanks for reading.