We’re still seven months from the start of the 2018 season, but that shouldn’t stop you from going ahead and penciling in Alabama and Georgia as the teams that will meet in Atlanta in the December 1 SEC championship game.
Actually, forget the pencil. Write it down in pen – or even a Sharpie.
Alabama and Georgia have some issues, but nowhere near as many as their division opponents. Thus, the teams that met in Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the 2017 national championship will meet in the same stadium for the 2018 SEC title.
Don’t believe it? We’ll lay it out for you.
Georgia has the easiest path. The Bulldogs’ toughest league games are their division crossover affairs against Auburn and LSU because no one in the East Division is going to beat Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs; heck, no division foe should come within 10 points. The SEC East is a lot like the Big Ten West: There will be zero drama. Georgia will roll in the SEC East and Wisconsin will roll in the Big Ten West.
If everything is A-OK at all three schools, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee should annually contend in the East. But things aren’t OK at Florida and Tennessee. Those teams were a combined 3-13 in the SEC in 2017, and while each should be better in 2018, no way will either win the division.
Both have new coaches. Both have giant questions on offense because of issues at quarterback; will either be able to throw it effectively? And while each has the potential to be better on defense in 2018, there are concerns on that side of the ball, too.
Florida is moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4, but linebacker was Florida’s weakest defensive link last season with a group of ’backers recruited to play a 4-3; now they’re transitioning to a 3-4 and some defensive ends are going to have to play outside linebacker. As for the Vols, consider that Tennessee was the first team in SEC history to allow 3,000 rushing yards in a season in 2017. Let’s say the Vols lower their rushing yards-per-game average by 75, which obviously is a huge number but possible under new coach Jeremy Pruitt. They still would be surrendering 176.0 rushing yards per game; those are Kentucky numbers, folks (UK allowed 175.3 rushing yards per game in 2017), and Kentucky numbers don’t win you anything.
The rest of the SEC East? We just mentioned Kentucky. Does anyone seriously think UK can win the East other than the most ardent (and delusional) Wildcats fan? UK hasn’t had a winning record in SEC play since 1977. (New UK football slogan: “40 years of mediocrity and counting!”) It is not winning the East. Neither is Missouri (the defense has a long way to go) or Vanderbilt (the talent level is too low – way too low).
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