The SEC Eastern Division Preview
The SEC Riviera Roundup
July 7, 2020
By Chris Warner
Dan Mullen has paid his dues. He coached Tim Tebow to a Heisman on Urban Meyer's staff at UF. He coached in Starkville for nearly a decade and did well, even by their standards. Now, he's atop one of the SEC's coveted Big 6 (More later); With that, comes winning expectations. The Gators have a sturdy, fifth-year senior in Kyle Trask at quarterback. Hardly a game changer, what he lacks in sheer playmaking ability he makes up for in stature, leadership, experience and toughness. At 6-5, 240 pounds, he is a physical presence and a nightmare for smaller defenders. If Mullen can mold a young receiving corps around his skills and promote a running game that has struggled, then Florida should challenge a revamping, reloading Georgia for the Eastern Division Crown.
The Big 6, Redefined:
Tennessee or Texas A&M
I have always been enamored by the “Big 6” Grouping Reference in the SEC. Nevertheless, the league can usually be distilled from its competitors to its wannabes in this abbreviated list. If you are left off the list, your championship chances are likely non-existent, or certainly far off. After all, this is football, and winning football teams require the stronger, faster, more skilled players. The Big 6 comprises these more talented teams. Confident in the first five, I am unsure about the sixth slot, embattled by league dark horses, and potential spoilers down the stretch.
The Roundup: First to Worst in the Eastern Division
Florida – Mullen, Trask and an improved running game and defense means an SECCG appearance.
Georgia–Smart jettisoned his senior quarterback and offense in order to compete in the new SEC.
Tennessee–With a 13-12 record, Pruitt is bent on winning. Better players and performances await.
Kentucky-At 44 wins and 44 losses, Coach Stoops is closing in on Bear Bryant's record 60 wins.
South Carolina–25 losses through four seasons is a nadir for USC coaches. Urban Meyer to Columbia?
Mizzou–Drinkwich sounds like a staple at the local Bar & Grill, not an SEC coaching surname.
Vanderbilt– The Commodores continue to lead the league in every conceivable academic statistic.
The League, Overall, Heading into 2020
So ostensibly I have Auburn and Florida in Atlanta. Historically the LSU Tigers have never done well after a championship season and I feel Myles Brennan and the Tigers may need to season up for a later campaign—his senior year, like Joe Burrow did. Everyone will be gunning for LSU, the defending national champs. I do not think Brennan and the Tigers will navigate road games against Florida and Auburn unscathed, nor do I think Alabama will win at both LSU and against Auburn. With LSU at home I like Auburn's chances to defeat both teams and maybe lose to Georgia and still get in the championship game.
Pruitt and Fisher, on the fringe of league respectability, know they must pull upsets if they are to continue to move up the talent and recruiting ranks. Both will play the hungry underdog role well as they continue to grind out a foothold, through tireless recruiting, to the top of the nation's toughest conference.
Until next time...
Chris Warner is the author of over twenty books, including, “Tailgater's Guide to SEC Football Volume Five,” “Bushwhacked at the Flora-Bama” with Joe Gilchrist and “The Wagon to Disaster” with Aaron Beam.
Visit his website. Learn more: chriswarnerauthor.com
GREAT SEC QUOTES:
“The first thing I do is get a kicker. If it wasn't important they'd call it arm ball.”
“Hindsight is 50-50.”
“I thought Tech people drank better whiskey than this.”
-Bear Bryant, after picking up an empty bottle thrown at him by Georgia Tech fans, prompting him on his next outing there to wear a football helmet coming onto the field
“Class is when they run you out of town and you look like you are leading a parade.”
-Bill Battle, Tennessee Coach
Also, in case you missed it...the SEC Western Division Picks: