SEC East Division Preview: Finebaum Rocks [SEC Football]
There is just something special about SEC football. Most of these teams would be favorites in other conferences. SEC football is just so crazy in terms of performance and passion compared to everything else that I have started to read a lot more SEC blogs and tuning in to SEC radio. It is still one of the best decisions I ever made.
The Bulldogs are still my favorite to win the division even with Isaiah Crowell having to leave the program due to scratching serial numbers off guns like in The Wire. Mark Richt went 10-4 last year and had to get himself off the hot seat after a 6-7 season the previous year.
6 starters are back on offense, 3 of those are on the offensive line. Aaron Murray has been a great quarterback the last few years. Last year he threw for 3149 yards and 35 touchdowns. The biggest benefit for Murray is that LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas are nowhere to be found on their schedule. Only four games are on the road (not counting the game formerly known as the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party) and are against Missouri, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Auburn.
The defense has 9 starters back including every linebacker and three out of far players on the defensive line and in the secondary. The Bulldogs gave up 45 to South Carolina, 42 to LSU, and 35 to Boise State, their three regular season losses.
The Gators are one of the most intriguing teams this season. Will Muschamp is in his second year as head coach after leaving Texas. Last year Florida went 7-6, beating Ohio State in the Gator Bowl.
This year a total of 17 players come back that started last season, including ten on the defense. The only new guy is Omar Hunter who is a senior taking over at the nose tackle position. The linebackers are some of the fastest in the conference and the secondary could be one of the most improved units in the country.
On offense Muschamp has said that they will rotate Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett in the first and second quarter. Because that works all the time. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps are also gone leaving Mike Gillislee to carry the rock. Four offensive linemen return and they need to do a better job blocking and opening holes. Brent Pease, a former offensive coordinator at Boise State comes in for his first year and that bodes real well for Florida.
3. South Carolina
This team has more NFL guys on it than the Dolphins right now. Jadeveon Clowney is an athlete at the defense end position. He scored touchdowns last year off turnovers. Connor Shaw takes over at quarterback for Stephen Garcia from the get-go after stepping in after the start of the season last year. Marcus Lattimore is one of my favorite running backs in the country but his health is in question heading in to this next season.
The OHBC has shown how good he really is by getting South Carolina to 11 wins. This was a team that couldn’t get above 7 wins and regularly had 5 or 6. The schedule brings the most concerns. They host Georgia then travel to LSU and Florida. The Gamecocks just have the toughest schedule in the eastern division.
Derek Dooley has had a rough go of it at Tennessee. He had to pick up the pieces after Lane Kiffin left 1,343,454 recruiting violations and a team built to only make it one year. Dooley has gone 6-7 and 5-7 in his two years at Tennessee. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox also left to go to Washington.
The bright side is 19 starters return. On offense only the running back needs to be replaced. 50 Shades of Bray is also back throwing the football after throwing for 1983 yards and 17 touchdowns to only six interceptions.
On defense only the defensive ends need to be replaced. The schedule is also completely manageable as they get Alabama at home and avoid LSU and Arkansas. The swing games are on the road, so this season could go really well or bad. I have faith in Dooley and fighting Volunteers. They’ll make a bowl game this year.
Lucky for Missouri that they were placed in the eastern division, because the Aggies are going to have a rough go of it in the western division. Only two linemen are back on offense and that could lead to problems when the SEC is known for their incredible defensive lines.
James Franklin is one of my favorite quarterbacks to watch because he’s as calm as a Hindu cow in the pocket but can explode up field when he takes off to run. The Tigers have 12 receivers on the depth chart.
On defense only six players come back, just like the offense. On defense only one lineman comes back and Mizzou is going to be hurting I think this year because of depth on the line. The defense is already fast because of having to defend all the passing in the Big-12, but looking at their roster they are a small team.
James Franklin had the Commodores as one of the Cinderella Stories from last season until week 4 of the season. They went 6-7 after losing to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl.
Vanderbilt has 15 total starters back this year, 8 on offense and 7 on defense. Three linemen return on offense and defense. The defense looks to at least maintain the 21.6 points a game last season, which was a ten-point improvement upon the previous year.
The Wildcats have to switch up what they are doing somehow. They can’t compete with other teams for recruits and they surely can’t overpower other teams with inferior players. With Rich Brooks gone they fell back down to not being bowl eligible but they haven’t had any level of sustained success where they were championship contenders. Only 11 starters return to a team that pays at Florida, Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee and hosts Georgia.