It didn’t take a fortune teller to predict where we sit at this moment in the SEC East, as week five of the season approaches. It’s pretty obvious where the division sits, as Georgia and Florida are on a collision course for their matchup in Jacksonville later this month.
We’ve seen Florida make a strong comeback against Alabama, thanks to the running game and Emory Jones taking the next step in his maturation. A week later, the Gators took care of Tennessee, thanks to a strong second half and ability to wear down the Vols on the ground.
Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson throws a pass against South Florida during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
This Florida team seems to have found consistency at the QB position, which will only get better once Anthony Richardson returns this weekend. Picturing the Gators with both QB’s healthy could cause nightmares for teams remaining on their schedule. The way in which the defense has stepped up this season should be a positive sign, especially for the folks calling for Tod Grantham’s job.
There is no doubt they are at least impressed with how this team has performed along the defensive line. We also can’t forget how they’ve looked with pressure mounting against them. Now, we will see how this team performs on the road this weekend, as they travel to Kentucky. But, right now it feels as if the Gators are clicking, which could be a scary sign for Georgia.
Speaking of the Dawgs, if you want to see what a complete team looks like, you don’t have to search far. This Georgia team seems to be thriving under the leadership of QB JT Daniels, who has returned from an oblique injury, and put up some incredible numbers. Yes, I know who the Dawgs were facing, but it still doesn’t take away the humiliation they’ve cause their opponents, including Clemson. We’ve seen this Georgia defense cause multiple problems with their front seven and the pressure they are getting on opposing QB’s. The Dawgs are ranked #1 in the country in total defense, only allowing 3.27 yards per play and are averaging 3.7 sacks per game. There’s a reason why this team is being looked at as a possible national champion. Both sides of the ball are playing at a superior level. But, with Arkansas coming up on Saturday, they could be facing their toughest task to date.
Head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts in the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Sanford Stadium on September 18, 2021 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
As for Kentucky, they are playing just good enough right now to be undefeated, setting up a big game with Florida on Saturday. This Mark Stoops led team has their flaws though, which has been put on display over the last few weeks. Playing with consistency on offense has been an issue, as QB Will Levis and RB Chris Rodriguez look to put it all together this weekend. The Wildcats have thrown five interceptions and fumbled the ball twelve times, while recovering only six. This team can’t afford those type of mistakes, which is why they must cut back on the turnovers if they have a chance to beat the Gators. There’s no denying this team has talent at multiple spots, but if the defense can’t force mistakes from Florida and they turn in over a few times, it will result in their first loss of the season.
As for the rest of the eastern division, it’s pretty simple. Missouri isn’t consistent enough on defense to give the offense a chance at winning. The Tigers are 7th in the country in 3rd down conversions, but that won’t do them any good if they can’t get off the field on defense against Tennessee. I expect Connor Bazelak to take control of the offense this weekend, which could lead to a difficult outcome, if he’s not careful with the ball.
On the Tennessee front, we now head into week five of the season without an announced starting quarterback. The Vols have seen Joe Milton battle an injury, while Hendon Hooker was banged up a bit against Florida. I would expect Hooker to get the start on Saturday against the Tigers, as long as he’s healthy. This Tennessee team has shown they can run the football, if their OL is healthy, but even that’s a concern right now. The Vols defense have had their moments this season, but a lack of depth at key positions is starting to hamper any kind of success, especially in run defense. If this team is going to get to six wins, they’ll need more consistency from the defensive line, along with the offensive unit. This upcoming game against Missouri could decide which way this season goes from here.
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) holds the ball in the second half of an NCAA college football game against South Carolina, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)
The Gamecocks are coming off a loss to Kentucky and are looking for a win. It won’t be as easy this weekend as they maybe thought. Troy comes to town, looking to spot any kind of success Shane Beamer is trying to brew up. South Carolina is hoping to get Luke Doty on track, while trying to find playmakers on defense. It won’t be easy, as the Trojans are a tough team, out of the SunBelt conference. They just need a convincing win in Columbia.
As for Vanderbilt, well things are just bad. The offense lacks an identity, the defense lacks a true leader and the coaching staff is trying to find a way to stay in the game. They can try to be creative, but I don’t expect that to help with any wins. Look, they were left in a rough position and I understand they’re trying, but Clark Lea has himself a very tall hill to climb. They do play UConn this weekend, so maybe they can win their 2nd non-conference game of this season.