Don’t count Booger McFarland as a believer in Tennessee next season.
The SEC Network analyst said Thursday on the “Cube Show” with Cole Cubelic in Huntsville, Alabama that Tennessee was one of three teams – along with Missouri and Vanderbilt – that he doesn’t believe has a chance to win the SEC East this upcoming season.
“That leaves Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina,” McFarland said.
McFarland’s doubts about Tennessee stem from his belief that the Volunteers have too many impact starters to replace this offseason. Quarterback Josh Dobbs, running back Alvin Kamara, defensive end Derek Barnett and cornerback Cam Sutton are among those gone from last season’s team.
Last season, Tennessee finished a disappointing 9-4 and failed to even reach the SEC championship game after it was widely believed the Vols would compete for a national title.
In Vanderbilt’s case, McFarland believes the Commodores will be a “nemesis” for some programs this fall.
In the cases of Florida, Georgia and Kentucky, McFarland noted the quarterback play of each school, even if it’s not fully known what to expect from them this season. Specifically, he called the Bulldogs the “prohibitive favorite,” but said it was hard to rule out the Gators after winning the last two SEC East titles.
As for the Gamecocks, McFarland said they were “better last year than we thought they were going to be” under coach Will Muschamp, who was in his first season with the program.
With Kentucky, McFarland looks at the returning starting experience. The Wildcats have 10 players with starting experience returning on offense and nine returning starters on defense.
“If you told me in December that Kentucky won the East?” McFarland said. “I really wouldn’t be shocked. If you told me any of those four teams won the East? I wouldn’t be shocked. So I think the East is a four-team race between Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky. I don’t think the other three teams have any opportunity to win.”
Last year, Florida finished first in the SEC East, followed by Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Missouri.
The 2017 SEC Championship Game will take place on Saturday, Dec. 2 in Atlanta. It will be the first SEC title game played at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is replacing the Georgia Dome.
McFarland was a defensive lineman at LSU from 1995-98.
(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)
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