SEC East is wide open, Missouri can turn East race on its head


Missouri can shake up the SEC East race in a major way Saturday.

The 5-0 Tigers are off to a hot start, including last week’s thumping against Vanderbilt, hanging 50 on the road. That doesn’t happen too often in the SEC, especially against a solid Commodore team that has played good defense the last two years.

Related: 9 biggest takeaways from week 6

Combine the hot start with major injury concerns for Georgia, and all of a sudden Missouri looks like a trendy pick in Athens.

The SEC East race is wide open, and it’s the most fantastic subplot to watch play out in 2013.

Let’s take a stroll through the main contenders:

Related: Current SEC East standings

Florida (4-1, 3-0)

Florida’s top defense and emerging passing game makes the Gators a trendy pick in the SEC East heading into LSU; some are even arguing the Gators are East favorites. Even if the Gators lose to the Tigers, they still control their own destiny with remaining games against Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina, but all three come away from Gainesville.

We’ll find out how good Florida’s defense is against LSU. QB Tyler Murphy is absolutely an upgrade at quarterback. His instincts are the biggest upgrade for an evolving playbook and offense.

Florida’s biggest obstacle? Try four ranked opponents in their next five games. If the Gators win the East without the conference’s best defensive player in Dominique Easley, is Will Muschamp the coach of the year?

Florida’s remaining SEC schedule:

  • Oct. 12: @ #10 LSU
  • Oct. 19: @ #25 Missouri
  • Nov. 2: vs. #7 Georgia (Jacksonville)
  • Nov. 9: Vanderbilt
  • Nov. 16: @ #14 South Carolina

Related: SEC strength of schedule through week 6

Georgia (4-1, 3-0)

One week ago, several were counting down the days to Georgia-Florida in Jacksonville as the Bulldogs last major test before Atlanta. But after season-ending injuries to RB Keith Marshall and WR Justin Scott-Wesley, two of the offense’s biggest weapons are now gone. WR Michael Bennett is also out for the foreseeable future with a torn meniscus. Todd Gurley is 50-50 with an ankle injury, and defensive backs Tray Matthews and Connor Norman are all question marks for the game due to injuries.

Related: Can Georgia survive with the new injuries?

Can they survive the injuries? The losses of Marshall and Scott-Wesley were a major hit to a luxurious depth chart that helped make the offense great. Now, the average defense is going to have to step up and win some games. And that starts Saturday against the explosive Missouri Tigers. And they still have some guy named Aaron Murray, who’s taken his game to the next level in 2013.

Georgia still holds the head-to-head over South Carolina, and the major obstacles remaining are Missouri, Florida and top 25-worthy Auburn. If Georgia survives and wins the East, Mark Richt may be your coach of the year, knowing how nasty the Bulldogs schedule truly is in 2013.

Georgia’s remaining SEC schedule:

  • Oct. 12: #25 Missouri
  • Oct. 19: @ Vanderbilt
  • Nov. 2: vs. #17 Florida (Jacksonville)
  • Nov. 16: @ Auburn
  • Nov. 23: Kentucky

Missouri (5-0, 1-0)

Missouri made a statement Saturday against Vanderbilt. The Tigers hung 51 on the road, and they officially announced their presence in the East race. Saturday, the Tigers can turn the East race completely on its head if they upset the depleted Bulldogs.

Quietly, James Franklin is having a fantastic season. He’s thrown for 1,407 yards, 13 TDs and three INTs. He threw for just 1,562 yards, 10 TDs and seven INTs in 2012, but last year is a distant memory. He has weapons all around him on offense. Three different receivers have 20-plus catches, and the Tigers feature a potent and explosive backfield in Henry Josey and Russell Hansbrough.

Almost as quietly as the offense, the defense is having a great year, too. They are allowing just 22.4 points per game, and DE Michael Sam already has six sacks, tied for the SEC lead. With only one conference game played, several are still wait-and-see on Missouri.

The Tigers’ next three games against Georgia, Florida and South Carolina will separate them as contenders or pretenders. But right now, they look like major contenders.

Missouri’s remaining SEC schedule:

  • Oct. 12: @ #7 Georgia
  • Oct. 19: #17 Florida
  • Oct. 26: #14 South Carolina
  • Nov. 2: Tennessee
  • Nov. 9: @ Kentucky
  • Nov. 23: @ Ole Miss
  • Nov. 30: #9 Texas A&M

South Carolina (4-1, 2-1)

While Missouri may be a bigger unknown, the contender with the most question marks is South Carolina. The Gamecocks are 4-1, but the defense has struggled putting games away.

USC jumped out to a 28-0 lead against Vanderbilt, only to see the Dores cut it to 35-25. They also jumped out to 28-10 lead over UCF, and the Knights jumped back into it and lost just 28-25. And last week, it was the same story against Kentucky, as SC took an early 21-0 lead, and Kentucky cut it to 27-21 before ultimately losing 35-28. The defensive numbers aren’t terrible, but they can’t seem to put away teams and continually leave lesser foes in the game. Will this come back to bite them down the stretch run?

Connor Shaw and Mike Davis continue to lead the offense. Shaw has thrown for 927 yards and seven TDs, while Davis has rushed for 614 yards and eight TDs, leading the SEC averaging 122.8 yards per game.

The Gamecocks would need to win out and need Georgia to lose twice to get to Atlanta.

South Carolina’s remaining SEC schedule:

  • Oct. 12: @ Arkansas
  • Oct. 19: @ Tennessee
  • Oct. 26: @ #25 Missouri
  • Nov. 2: Mississippi State
  • Nov. 16: #17 Florida

Saturday will educate us on the SEC East race – the biggest evolving storyline thus far.

Photo Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports



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  • Jon,

    Once again, great job. I’m cautiously optimistic about Missouri @ Georgia this weekend. UGA’s injuries provide a better opportunity for a Missouri win, but Murray is an impressive QB with an equally impressive O-line. This is still going to be a battle and could possibly replicate the Georgia/Tennessee game from this past weekend. I’m making the trip from Columbia to Athens this weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing the UGA campus and all that Athens has to offer.

    By the way, the injuries are so unfortunate for Georgia – I feel for those guys and UGA fans. As a Missouri fan, I know all too well how injuries can plague a team.


    • ZOU!. Yea I liked our chances beofre given their Defense. I think a key for us besides being healthy was DGB emerging which moved Lucas from WR to slot, can’t see a linebaker covering him. Love the rushing attack and add a healthy franklin. What you have to watch for is the depth on that Georgia team is all 4 and 5 star, Athens is a wild place with great fans and Murray is an NFL QB. No Excuses. FINISH!

      • As evidenced by every game thus far, our D has a lot of soft spots. You nailed it with the Murray comment, though. He’s playing on a different level this year. Don’t be fooled by our offensive losses; the receivers looked good because he was making them look good. JSW is blazingly fast and we’ll definitely miss his speed, but the rest of our WR corp is near-equally talented in the open field and catching in traffic. Of course, Gurley and Marshall are beasts and will be sorely missed. However, we still have talented and experienced depth at RB. Our OC will be forced to adjust his play calling which will put the ball in Murray’s hands even more than it has been. That’s a dangerous prospect for any D. I’m sure your O will keep it interesting, but look no further than the last drive in regulation against Tenn to see what our O can do with Murray and the backups.

        On an unrelated note, welcome to Athens! I hope you both have a great time in our Classic City. If you’re in town long enough, go out of your way a little and visit the 8E’s and 9d’s bars for a unique nostalgic experience.

  • Hey Jon! Props to you for stepping up and admitting that Mizzou is capable of turning the SEC on its head. Granted, there are many tough battles ahead for them but the question that remains is: what if they lose one of their next three games and win all of their home games and lose one away game? That is a “real” possibility and not one that many want to accept. If that were to happen (and that is one monumental IF), they could well win the SEC east. I know I am speaking sacralige to all those who follow the historic powerhouses in the SEC east, but it actually is a possibility. I’m just saying…A consistent/healthy Mizzou creates big problems/challenges for the predictors the rest of the way out.

    MU – 4 big games yet
    UF – 4 big games yet
    SC – 2 big games yet

    • I’m hoping that our ‘home field advantage’ will be beneficial in games versus Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and A&M.

      • That’s what I’m counting on as well. We almost stole one against UF last year at their place and we held our own for awhile against SC last year but our injuries and their stellar play got the best of us. Being healthy makes this a much closer contest and higher percentage chance of winning…especially at home…and yes, aside from Jonny M, A&M does have significant kinks in their defensive armor.

  • Oh and
    UGA – 2 big games

  • Every year when I am sure I know who will win the east I’m wrong. This year I’m not sure if Georgia can limp their way to the big game with all those injuries. Florida’s still offensively challenged. South Carolina just doesn’t have it this year (they will lose to Clemson and/or Florida). Missouri can actually surprise everyone and run it this year. If Georgia didn’t lose so many players I would say they have it locked but now..who the hell knows. But it will be awesome to watch.

  • DearBraveSheep, It is possible that inside, I will be more conflicted than ever as evidenced by my username here. It is possible I would have to decide who to truly root for if Mizzou had to face Alabama in the SEC CG. Being an overall SEC fan I’d be pleased if either won; however, for another NC to be won by the SEC, I’d have to pull for the Tide (don’t hate me Mizzou fans) if these two were ever to meat in the SEC CG (mind you, that is likely below a 33% chance of happening. LOL

  • I think Missouri has surprised everyone (except Missouri fans). While any of the usual three (Florida, Georgia, or USC) are slightly more likely to win the East, Missouri has the only complete team right now, with the best offense, with Georgia limping along, and a pretty solid defense that only Florida is besting currently. The East is wide open right now, and we will see who shall emerge at the end of November victorious.

  • the “zoo” hasn’t been that tough a road game for a lot of teams. not like it used to be. but it sure is nice to go from preseason bottom feeder to wait and see. Jon, if Missouri really stand a chance to win in Athens will it be because of the offense ive weapons that are missing or will it be the two defensive backs missing that proves to be the biggest key?

    • Agreed. Missourians are laid back and I like that. However, we don’t create an intimidating atmosphere at The Zou, with the exception of UGA @ Mizzou last year and I feel that this was due to the hype around our first SEC game. It’s something that we, as fans, really need to work on.

  • To any Mizzou fans making the trip to Athens, the early kick off will hamper some of the tailgating but there will be plenty afterwards. Get downtown if you can and try out several of the bars/food places. Athens is one of the greatest College towns in the SEC. It is a short walk from downtown to the stadium and you can enjoy the Arches and North campus area. The Dawg Walk about 1.5 hours prior to kick off is a sight as well. Enjoy :-)

  • It might seem like each team is just bringing the same game every week but this is often not the case. Gary Pinkel said it like this recently “We haven’t come close to playing our best football yet”. Florida is another example that may exceed it’s previous ceiling by a forced change in qb flexibility. For Georgia I would say they benefit from the confidence that comes from knowing what the 2012 state of the art in college football was. None of these examples can pick a 2013 winner. The variables in these equations are many. While I personally believe that God helps pick winners sometime, I also believe that much of the time he just lets humans fight it out, laughing a little here. If there is an obvious result coming that we should all see it might be:
    Both Missouri and Georgia are going to score in the high 40s or low 50s (not the 30s so many deluded fans are expecting) in this game. The cautious approach each team had in 2012 will look like caution in the wind this weekend. Every fan should first be saying a prayer that no more players get injured and second that their team runs away with the win. There is a common nature to the fans of these programs that makes both very likable, I know what it is, do you? Not only can this game be a thriller, but it could also stage college football performances never seen before, because both teams have more than one roster characteristic I have never seen before in college football. two examples: a quarterback with a lot of positive repetitions, or a rushing backfield where every snap can bring a not only top level physical ability but fresher than any other opponent can show, or receivers who can and will go anywhere on the field and make a catch no matter how many defenders are scattered waiting. Let’s get ready to rumble. May the score reflect the real status of each program this week and propel both teams to even better performances next week.

  • Dawgs fans obviously can’t wait for Gurley to return, but til then…it’s just survival. Hoping we can squeak one out this weekend…esp. since I’ll be in the stands. With our freshman beasts Green, Hicks and Douglas in the backfield…paired with Murray and some TE action over-the-middle…I still think we can pull this out. GO DAWGS!!!

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