With only a week to go until three SEC East teams (Vanderbilt plays South Carolina, and Tennessee opens against Appalachian State) kick off the 2016 college football season, now is a good time to take a look at where the seven teams in the division stand.

Most expect the East to be a three-team race between Tennessee (No. 9 in the preseason AP Poll), Georgia (No. 18) and Florida (No. 25).

The remaining four teams — Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt — will try to upset the balance of power, but it won’t be easy.

Let’s take a quick look at which direction each team is trending heading into the season:


Direction: Cruising along

Why: The biggest question in Gainesville is the quarterback position.

When have we heard that sentence before? Try 2015, when all the Gators did was win the SEC East before losing to eventual national champion Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

Is Luke Del Rio the answer at quarterback? Maybe, but the Gators should be fine either way, relying on a stout defense to carry them to big victories.


Direction: Trending up

Why: A healthy Nick Chubb and a recovering Sony Michel will go a long way toward making Georgia’s offense a force to reckon with in 2016.

Then, if freshman QB Jacob Eason wins the starting job and performs up to expectations, the Bulldogs could have one of the top offensive units in the SEC.

If the defense (which has questions at the linebacker position) can hold up its end of the bargain, the Bulldogs should make some noise in the three-team SEC East race.


Direction: Cruising along

Why: After two straight 5-7 seasons, “cruising along” isn’t exactly going to save coach Mark Stoops’ job. The Wildcats need to make it to a bowl game this year, but that won’t be easy.

Kentucky has six winnable home games (Southern Miss, New Mexico State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Austin Peay), but if the Wildcats don’t win all those games, the road to a bowl gets much harder.

If redshirt sophomore QB Drew Barker can provide a spark to the Kentucky offense, the Wildcats will be in a great position to climb the SEC East rankings. If not, the team will likely be left out of the bowl picture come December.


Direction: Trending up

Why: The Tigers are trending up, but that’s mostly just because there was no more room to go down after 2015.

QB Drew Lock should improve in his sophomore season and graduate transfer RB Alex Ross (Oklahoma) and WR Chris Black (Alabama) should help the Tigers’ offense rebound.

Add in a defense that’s supposed to be among the SEC’s best again in 2016 (after finishing No. 6 overall last year) and a season that should provide less off-the-field distractions and the Tigers are strong candidates to go bowling in December.

South Carolina

Direction: Trending down

Why: The Gamecocks are young and inexperienced and under a new regime. First-year coach Will Muschamp needs one of his three quarterback candidates to emerge; freshman Brandon McIlwain has the most potential to do so this season.

Defensively, the Gamecocks aren’t in much better shape. They finish 95th in total defense last season, and that was with Skai Moore. He’s out for the season. South Carolina should improve, but not enough to make much of a difference in the SEC East standings.


Direction: Trending up

Why: Expectations are rocky top high in Knoxville. QB Joshua Dobbs and RB Jalen Hurd want to ensure this is a season to remember for Volunteer fans.

Tennessee is ranked No. 9 in the preseason AP Poll and is expected to win the SEC East. Anything less would be considered a disappointment.

The Volunteers had the sixth-best offense in the SEC (No. 52 in the country) last season, but with another full season of Dobbs and Hurd, that ranking should improve.


Direction: Trending down

Why: Much like with Mark Stoops at Kentucky, the seat can’t get much hotter for coach Derek Mason at Vanderbilt.

Mason and the ‘Dores took offense when USA Today slotted them 113th nationally in preseason ranking of every FBS team.

Vandy has a talented defense heading into the 2016 season, but the offense remains questionable. Last season, Vandy’s offense was ranked 116th in the country, ahead of only Missouri (No. 124) in the SEC.

The schedule doesn’t do them any favors, either. Vandy has to travel to Kentucky, Missouri and Auburn, making what should be winnable games that much harder.