How Week 1 reshaped my view of the SEC East
If you look at the SEC West and SEC East not as the actual divisions they are, but as a collection of football teams, there’s no real reason for the massive imbalance of recent seasons. Florida has been one of the nation’s premier programs over the past 25 years. Georgia has a brilliant tradition and was kind of a perennial top 10 sort of team in recent years. Tennessee has been a power, South Carolina recently won 11 three years in a row, Missouri competed at a very high level in recent memory.
But after one week, the two biggest conclusions of a study of the SEC’s division of little brothers are: 1) the East still stinks and 2) it’s smell is much more equal than I originally thought.
I know, if you’re a fan of an East team, you’re already working on your comment or your e-mail about how the East doesn’t suck. And here’s the takeaway — whoever you root for, your team had something in Week 1 that looked impressive. You can site Florida’s defense or Mizzou’s offense, or South Carolina’s special teams play and clutch execution, or Tennessee’s late rally as examples of why those teams are good.
But you’re wrong.
Because for every silver lining, there’s a giant freaking storm cloud looming a foot ahead.
Florida has no offense. It hasn’t for years, but it’s somehow regressed. Missouri has no defense. This makes less sense to me, because it had a great defense, hired the defensive coordinator to be its coach, and forgot how to play defense. Carolina got doubled up in yardage. Yes, the Gamecocks made big plays, Deebo Samuel in particular. But if you’re going to lose the yardage battle by over 200 yards, you better make every single big play. Tennessee still can’t stop the run. And sure, not everybody is Georgia Tech, but remind me of the last good football team that couldn’t stop the run. I’ll wait.
And there’s more glass half full/glass completely empty stuff. Kentucky’s defense was stout and imposing. That said, it couldn’t run the ball and was outgained by over 100 yards. By a CUSA team. Vandy probably looked the best in Week 1, but it couldn’t run, either. And Kyle Shurmur won’t look like Tom Brady every week in the SEC.
Georgia was the one team that was sort of above reproach. The Bulldogs have the most talent in the SEC. It’s not even terribly close, although Tennessee’s offensive playmakers could make this discussion interesting. But even they seemed to be sleepwalking through Week 1, running OK, but not great. Passing OK with backup Jake Fromm, but relying again on a true freshman to potentially lead them to a division title.
The East isn’t very good … again — which is a good thing for competitive balance. Unlike the West, where a Mississippi State or an Arkansas knows that the glass ceiling is very real, anybody could grab the East.
Again, Vanderbilt probably looked the best of these teams in Week 1. Vanderbilt.
But if you want to know who’s going to win, consider this: Forget your team’s strength. That’s right, throw it out the window.
Find that weakness, that big flaw.
Whoever can manage to address or at least camouflage that flaw will be in Atlanta come December.
And they’ll lose to Alabama (or maybe Auburn or LSU). But hey, the glass is half full for the entire SEC — mostly because nobody knows whose glass it will end up being. After Week 1, it’s probably best if the glass if half full of something strong. East fans might need it.