This division is as wide open as possibly any in the country. It's so wide open, in fact, that AgainstTheNumbers.com did not put a single win total line over 8.5, and there are four teams whose line is at 8.5.
And while the SEC West will have plenty of headlines of their own with Alabama's QB situation, Auburn coming back after a trip to the national title game, Leonard Fournette, etc., the East will have more than their fair share of talking points. If all goes according to plan, there could be a four-team race for a spot in the SEC title game and possibly even the new College Football Playoff.
Florida Gators – 7.5
It really is hard to believe that this was the 2013 Florida Gators. It's a head scratcher as to how a team with so much talent could possibly go on such a miserable losing skid (seven straight losses to end the season) and lose to a team like Georgia State.
But 2013 will seem like a distant memory once 2014 begins. The Gator offense is getting a facelift, going to a no-huddle, spread attack under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. The style change will give the Florida offense a boost, giving Jeff Driskel and a cast of playmakers a chance to reek of havoc on offense. And yes, the defense will be solid per usual.
Prediction: Over 7.5 wins
Georgia Bulldogs – 8.5
Mark Richt's Bulldog squad was another SEC East team that had high hopes for a special season only to be derailed by injuries. More than two dozen injuries set Georgia back in 2013 (who I had as national champion) and a majority of them seemed to come at key positions on the offensive side.
Richt doesn't have the luxury of Aaron Murray guiding his offense anymore but he does have the two-headed monster of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall back. WRs Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley and others also return for whoever the new Bulldog QB1 may be (likely Hutson Mason). Georgia has the weapons and defense to contend for an SEC title, but the East might be too good for the Bulldogs to make it out alive, and the QB position is a concern for me right now.
Prediction: Under 8.5 wins
Missouri Tigers – 8.5
Missouri was the darling of the SEC last year, but their defense was eaten alive by Tre Mason and Auburn in the SEC title game. SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam is gone, but last year's freshman sensation Maty Mauk is back to lead a Tiger offense without the exciting Henry Josey.
Missouri plays a favorable conference schedule, but has a pair of tough tests in UCF and Indiana (hey, IU can find the end zone, man) in the first four games of the season. The Tigers play Arkansas, Kentucky and Vanderbilt in conference at home, so you can't completely write them off. But that means their tougher contests (SCAR, UF) are on the road, and that may be problematic.
Prediction: Over 8.5 wins
Kentucky Wildcats – 4
Kentucky plays eight teams in 2014 that they played last season. They were 0-8 against those teams last year. While Mark Stoops might be compiling some great recruiting classes, it's still going to take a while for the Wildcats to see the fruits of their labor.
The Wildcats' win total line is at four games, and I have them winning their first two. But they won't make it to four wins in 2014.
Prediction: Under 4 wins
South Carolina Gamecocks – 8.5
If you've done any way-too-early article reading on the SEC, you might be asking yourself how a team not named Alabama could be projected as a conference front runner after having one of its superstars taken as the first pick in the NFL Draft. But that's exactly the position South Carolina is in in 2014.
One of the reasons why is running back Mike Davis. Davis is a Sporting News All-American heading into 2014 after rushing for nearly 1,200 yards and 11 TDs last year. He is also their leading returning receiver. QB Dylan Thompson returns for the offense, also, leaving most of the question marks on defense.
Prediction: Over 8.5 wins
Tennessee Volunteers – 4.5
After the first week of the season (vs Utah State, which might even get interesting), Butch Jones' Volunteers have one game that they can almost 100 percent check off as a win (Chattanooga). Tennessee's road schedule is daunting, too, traveling to Oklahoma (preseason No. 1 by Sporting News) and Georgia in back-to-back weeks. They then travel to Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt later in league play.
The Vols offense will be a project, and AJ Johnson will be in charge of holding together the Tennessee defense. The Vols have a lot of talent, but it's young. Year 2 may be as big of a challenge as the first for Butch Jones.
Prediction: Under 4.5 wins
Vanderbilt Commodores – 6
The Commodores with first year head coach Derek Mason have a laughable non-conference schedule, playing Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion, meaning they only have to pull off two conference wins to go bowling in Mason's first season, and Kentucky is also on the schedule. Their bowling hopes may come down to the regular season finale with in-state rival Tennessee.
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