Lack of talent in division means SEC East is Georgia's to lose
For any team to lose its best player in the middle of the season to an indefinite suspension, that usually spells trouble for most teams. When it’s arguably the best player in the nation, the consequences are even great.
When Georgia found itself in this situation last week with the indefinite suspension of running back and Heisman candidate Todd Gurley, it wouldn’t have shocked many people for the Bulldogs to slip into oblivion.
However, no team in the country is prepared to withstand a loss like Todd Gurley than the Bulldogs. Featuring outstanding depth at running back, Georgia boasts three backs — Keith Marshall, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb — that could probably be starters at most schools. And with a talent like Gurley starting at UGA, they’re considered backups.
Even with the depth, though, the timing of the suspension was horrible. Coming just 48 hours before Georgia’s biggest game of the year, the prospects of the Bulldogs marching into Faurot Field and beating Missouri were skeptical at best. But thanks to that running back depth, Georgia emerged from Columbia, Mo., with a huge victory and now have its goal of reaching the SEC Championship game right in front of them.
Looking ahead for Georgia, the Bulldogs face just one game where they’re the likely underdog and that will be against Auburn on Nov. 15.
If the Bulldogs take care of business as they should in the rest of the games, that’ll leave them with a 6-2 conference record, more than enough to win the SEC East this season.
Of course, as much as Georgia will be favored in its remaining games, a sure thing hardly pans out in an ultra-competitive conference like the SEC. So honestly, perhaps the biggest reason for Georgia’s increased chances of winning the SEC East is simply the lack of good football teams within the division.
There are only three plausible contenders remaining in the SEC East other than Georgia and that distinction falls to Florida, Kentucky and Missouri.
Observing both the Gators Wildcats and Tigers, they have their obvious weaknesses. For the Gators, they’ve hung on by a thread just six weeks into the season. Among hot seat talk surrounding Will Muschamp, an inept offense led by Jeff Driskel and communication breakdowns, the Gators are essentially two play clock controversies away from a 1-4 record. As long as Georgia beats the Gators in Jacksonville, it’s unlikely Florida could catch Georgia no matter how the Gators fare in their other games.
When looking at the Wildcats, they’re certainly a much improved team from past years, but their biggest issues is scheduling. As great as the Wildcats has played this year, they’ve also benefited from a favorable schedule. Five of the first six games on their schedule were played in Lexington. The second half presents a much tougher challenge as games against LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri await the Wildcats.
Could UK make its way through that five-game stretch unscathed? Theoretically, yes, but likely the Cats are looking at probably three losses against LSU, MSU and UGA. Even two losses, especially if UGA is one of them, would all but knock out the Cats.
One other team left that could possibly match or beat that conference record in the SEC East is Missouri. And judging by how they’ve looked in the first two SEC games on the schedule, the likelihood of the Tigers running the table against Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas is rather improbable. Plus, Georgia owns the tiebreaker against the Tigers, which essentially adds a one game buffer between the Bulldogs and Missouri.
The loss of a player like Todd Gurley can never be understated. However, the depth at running back combined with the lack of talent in the SEC will certainly soften the blow of Gurley’s suspension, especially if it turns into a prolonged absence. In turn, Georgia is still very much the class of the SEC East and the ultimate favorite at this point to represent the beleaguered division in Atlanta come December.