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The SEC East isn't a whipping post for the West any longer. Georgia has proven to be a worthy national championship contender. Meanwhile, Florida has been sneaky good finishing the last two seasons in the top 10 under Dan Mullen. Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and South Carolina showed flashes of promise mixed with lingering mediocrity. And Vanderbilt has been... Vanderbilt.
What should we expect in 2020 from the SEC East? In short, we expect the East to stand toe-to-toe with the West. The level of talent in the East has jumped and it's going to show on the field this season.
Georgia racked up another ridiculous recruiting class (the best in the nation) to compliment an elite quarterback transfer. Florida and Tennessee also stacked on some talent for this coming year with the 8th and 10th rated recruiting classes. That's a lot of talent headed to the eastern side of the South. Let's look at how we think things will shake out this season.
I can hear you now, "Wait, you just told me Georgia had the best recruiting class in the nation, they're stacked with talent everywhere on the field, and they also got an elite qb transfer. How is Florida in the #1 spot?"
That's all true. However, Georgia's schedule is the more difficult of the two. Thanks to this fact, we give a very slight edge to Florida.
Florida returns one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC in Kyle Trask. He'll get an occasional breather thanks to the presence of Emory Jones. This is a talented duo with lots of upside for the Gators.
Although Florida lost some key contributors on both sides of the ball, they're reloading with graduate transfers and rising stars. Everything seems to be lining up for Florida to take that next step from top 10 to national title contender. We think it will come down to the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party the end of October.
This should really be more of a 1A and 1B with Florida and Georgia. We're splitting hairs trying to rank these two. As mentioned above, we give the edge to Florida primarily because of the schedule Georgia faces. They have crossover games with both Alabama and Auburn this year.
Jake Fromm is gone and Jamie Newman steps in to replace him. Newman is a proven talent coming as a graduate transfer from Wake Forest, but we don't know how he'll mesh with Georgia. We're guessing it will go well, but you never know until you see performance on the field.
Georgia is stacked everywhere. This team is almost good enough to field two top 10 teams thanks to consistent recruiting the last few years. If Georgia somehow makes it through their SEC schedule without a blemish, the playoff might just feel easy.
Last season was a wild ride for Tennessee fans. An embarrassing 0-2 start left fans thinking, "Here we go again."
However, Jeremy Pruitt got his squad fired up and turned things around. The Vols finished the season looking like a different team. The defense was reliable and the effort on the field was impressive. There are two major questions coming into this season:
1. Can the Vols get consistent quarterback play from one of the many options on the roster? They won't take a step forward if they can't find someone reliable under center.
2. Can the Vols overcome a schedule that includes Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia? If Tennessee can get 2 wins out of the 4, that's a successful season.
Mark Stoops can coach. He's proven that in his time with Kentucky. If quarterback Terry Wilson can stay healthy and the defense can maintain their stellar play (4th in the SEC in points allowed last season), they'll be a dangerous team.
We don't see any way that Kentucky makes it through Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Auburn to reach the SEC title game, but stranger things have happened. Either way, we predict Kentucky will pull off one big upset this year.
Bold prediction notice... this will be the final season of Will Muschamp. The Gamecocks improved their play-calling by bringing in Mike Bobo and added talent with a top 20 recruiting class, but it's not enough to overcome LSU, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and Clemson who all loom on their schedule.
We think a blowout loss to Clemson will be the final straw. Maybe Muschamp's crew will surprise us, but we're doubtful it will be enough to satisfy the South Carolina faithful.
Eli Drinkwitz steps in to run the show in Columbia. There are a lot of question marks and not a lot of answers this early. Missouri has some talent and a favorable schedule, but it's tough to see the Tigers making too much noise this season.
But, that's what we all said before each of their SEC East titles in 2013 and 2014 You can't discount their crossover games being the weakest the West has to offer with Mississippi State and Arkansas.
If feels like Vanderbilt is always sitting down here at the bottom in preseason (and honestly, postseason) rankings. The Commodores will try to get something rolling this year by shuffling the staff around Derek Mason.
The biggest thing Vanderbilt has going for them this year is the schedule. Their out-of-conference and SEC West crossover games are manageable with the exception of a talented (and motivated) Texas A&M team.