Maybe we should stop making predictions.
Well, at least of the SEC East.
Last year, Tennessee was the alleged dominant force during the preseason. For a myriad of reasons, the Vols fell short, while Florida backed its way into another division title.
This offseason, Georgia is declared the King of a division whose mission is a tad pointless: Make it to Atlanta, lose to Alabama.
But we make predictions because they’re fun. Last season, I picked Tennessee to go 12-0 (there were logical points made), which obviously didn’t pan out. This season, the SEC East is as wide open as it gets. You can make a case for any team not named Missouri or Vanderbilt. But for the other five masters of mediocrity, a division crown is in sight.
The Bulldogs are favorites due in large part to the expected growth of quarterback Jacob Eason, whose ridiculous arm talent allowed him to make a pair of ice-in-vein throws last season.
Hell, his arm is jaw dropping even when he doesn’t complete passes.
You could throw this pass 1,000 times and never hit the pylon quite like this again. https://t.co/5KMU3qKrcX
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) October 29, 2016
Georgia also has a stable of talented running backs and reeled in one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. There’s reason for optimism in Athens, but personally, I would caution those who are overly optimistic. Kirby Smart is only heading into his second season as a head coach, meaning he hasn’t had the time to fully establish the culture he wants. In addition, he still doesn’t have a team full of players he recruited.
Although I predict Georgia will win the cupcake SEC East, it isn’t a guarantee.
Then, there’s the reigning, two-time division champion Florida Gators. Their head coach (allegedly) isn’t the man who was nude with a shark, but he is the man who has managed to make it to Atlanta despite fielding one of the worst offenses in the conference.
The Gator defense is undoubtedly an elite unit, but how much longer can Florida have control of the division without a competent offense?
Teams like Kentucky and South Carolina are on the same boat. It’s highly unlikely they win the division, but would it be that surprising? Both programs are steadily improving and recorded signature wins last season, as the Wildcats stunned Louisville and the Gamecocks spoiled Tennessee’s 2016 campaign.
Speaking of Tennessee, they could win the East as well!
Nobody is picking them to do so, which is understandable. Butch Jones has made quite a few mistakes during his four-year stint in Knoxville. After fielding easily the division’s most talented team last season, a 9-4 performance was a massive disappointment for some.
Comparing the hype surrounding the program this offseason to the unstoppable hype train of last season is night and day. Almost every fan expects a “down season,” which means another 8-4 performance would be unacceptable (although, given the amount of roster and coaching turnovers Tennessee suffered with this offseason, 8-4 is actually a great performance).
The team still hasn’t figured out its quarterback situation, although it’s crystal clear that Quinten Dormady should be the starter. There are a plethora of irreplaceable defensive stars that’ll somehow be replaced in Derek Barnett, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and Cam Sutton. Oh, and the entire coaching staff is practically different.
On paper, there is no more unpredictable division in college football than the SEC East. Alabama should win the SEC West with ease, we know there are a trio of teams competing for the Big Ten East and that Washington has the Pac-12 North on lockdown for the foreseeable future. But we don’t know what’s going to happen in the East.
And that’s what makes it fun.