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The Dawgs have been granted the SEC East crown already (which always scares me). Who do you see as our biggest competitors for the East? South Carolina came on strong at the end of the season, and they had a good recruiting class, plus that stud QB is back. Maybe they are our biggest threats?
― Scott Rollins
I would agree with both of your suppositions: Georgia is the overwhelming favorite in the SEC East, and South Carolina is the biggest threat. Good job, Scott, no need for me to expand further. Please tune in again tomorrow when we answer another question.
Unless you want me to expand on that.
And, along the way, explain how Georgia actually might not win the division. Believe it or not, I can.
It’s the schedule. Yeah, the nonconference schedule is comically weak. But Austin Peay, UMass, Middle Tennessee and Georgia Tech – all of which visit UGA – won’t count in the SEC standings. The actual conference schedule has at least three games that immediately jump out as potential pitfalls.
LSU is never an easy place to win. These aren’t the powerhouse Tigers of the Nick Saban/Les Miles glory years – LSU came in at No. 23 on ESPN’s way-too-early top 25 last month – but it’s still a school that recruits well. And you never know what either team will look like come Oct. 13, when Georgia visits.
Then there’s South Carolina and Missouri, two other road games for Georgia. Both are coming off surprisingly solid years, and both return their starting quarterbacks: Jake Bentley (South Carolina) and Drew Lock (Missouri). South Carolina also gets back Deebo Samuel, who was a dynamic player before his injury last year. Athlon, in its early preview of the SEC East, ranked South Carolina third and Missouri fourth. They slotted behind Georgia and then Florida, but many people would put at least the Gamecocks higher.
And Georgia has to visit South Carolina and Missouri in the first month of the season. That will be a tough task for a Bulldogs team that will be working in so many new players on defense – particularly in the secondary, where Bentley and Lock could loom large.
Mind you, this isn’t predicting Georgia will lose all or any of these games. They’re just potential pitfalls, as will be the trip to Florida – after Dan Mullen has had most of the season to try to fix the Gators offense – and Auburn’s visit to Georgia, where quarterback Jarrett Stidham is back to lead the Tigers.
Are we writing off Tennessee and the chance Jeremy Pruitt might return to Sanford Stadium and beat Georgia? Well … let’s just say we, and by we I mean me and most of the Southeast corridor, don’t think Pruitt walked into a loaded team.
Kentucky? Georgia also visits there, so you never know, and Vanderbilt comes to Sanford Stadium, which was a bit of an issue in 2016, so that caveat is now issued.
Still, the focus would be on those first three games. Missouri and South Carolina could be especially tricky because if either knocked off Georgia, they would have a head-to-head tiebreaker. The same obviously goes for Florida if Mullen pulls off an immediate turnaround in Gainesville.
None of this is to say you should pick against Georgia in the SEC East. You should not. It’s just to say that with the loss of so many proven stars and an SEC schedule that could be – could be – difficult, that there’s a path toward someone pulling off the division upset.
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