Five years ago, the streak of conference championships that solidified the SEC as the greatest conference in the history of sport came to a sudden close at seven, as Auburn fell in the final seconds to FSU. Florida State winning the national championship hardly invalidating the South as the essence of dominance, surely. The Final AP Top 5 that year (which also included Michigan State as lone outlier) also showed a peaked South Carolina at 11-2 and SEC upstart Missouri at 12-2.
While Georgia was a preseason power, coming off a near-miss 2012 and looking strong, injuries utterly ravaged the talented team’s season. Considering how relatively short a cycle a half-decade is in the life of a college football program, it should surprise nobody that Carolina and Mizzou are UGA’s primary challengers for the division this season. They have both been strong within the past five years.
Of the SEC East, the whole league has only ever been won by Georgia (13 times), Tennessee (13) and a still young by historic success standards Florida (8). Kirby winning SEC Coach of the Year, while his competition in orange was jettisoned, shows Georgia’s current might at the top. They’re rebuilding now.
Missouri didn’t miss a beat upon entering the vaunted league, as the SEC expanded north, winning its division in its first two tries. Missouri even beat Ol’ Georgia…once. And, the Chickens finally broke through to above mediocrity and were good late under legendary coach Steve Spurrier – not a fan.
Georgia goes at South Carolina (3:30 CBS) for the huge league opener on September 8th, where QB Jake Bentley commands an offense that welcomes back from injury its best player in wideout Deebo Samuel, one of the most explosive players in the SEC. Enter sandman, I’m looking forward to the Border Bash in Augusta the Friday before and the trip further east to Columbia, S.C.
My former classmate at UGA, Will Muschamp pushed the Gamecock defense to nine wins in his first season at Carolina. While winning at Carolina for a second straight time and staying perfect against the SEC East runner up from 2017 cements our classmate Kirby Smart as the dominant force in-division. Stopping South Carolina early sends the signal that Georgia has not slipped.
For at Co-Mo, in Missouri on 9/22, I’m further investigating the football fan travel exploits of Merv Waldrop, again. He has lots of Missouri friends.
Mizzou doubled Carolina’s divisional crown history and is an obviously stronger program historically. The Tigers again feature Drew Lock at passer. He set the SEC season record last year with 44 touchdown passes, Fromm, by comparison, had 24. My family and I were at Sanford Stadium as Lock absolutely lit up Mel Tucker’s defense in the first half, and that was remarkably the last time the Tigers tasted defeat. They won out, and teams finishing that strong is often an indicator of a big year the following college campaign.
Lil Dooley is back! Check it out, folks: Vince’s boy, of orange-pants-infamy, he has been an offensive coach with the Dallas Cowboys for years and gets the nod as the Mizzou offensive coordinator. Lock should make him look good.
If Georgia can grind out enough points to outscore both of these potentially prolific offenses, the Dawgs should be entering home SEC play at 4-0. Two fluffy cupcakes in Athens, Austin Peay (9/1) by day and Middle Tennessee State (9/15) by night, sandwich the big early away divisional contests.