The one thing certain five weeks into the college football season? Expect the unexpected in the SEC East.
Five weeks into the season, South Carolina has beaten Georgia and lost to Missouri. Kentucky showed Florida they are not your father’s Wildcats. Tennessee pushed Georgia to the limit and even in a loss showed signs of a team turning things around.
In the six divisional games so far, four games have been decided in single digits. Vanderbilt has the dubious distinction of losing two games by double digits.
This week Florida takes on the Volunteers while the Wildcats host the Gamecocks. The following week, Missouri faces Georgia, then goes to Gainesville to take on Florida in an October 18th matchup. After Missouri, Florida has three consecutive games against Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
A string of late-season games may have some teams fighting for position. Other teams out of the race, such as Vanderbilt, may play spoiler to championship aspirations.
The division looks much different than what was expected coming into the year. Many preseason rankings placed Georgia or South Carolina atop the East. The departure of Missouri’s top three wide receivers led writers to predict a less successful season for the 2013 East Champs. The verdict was out on the Gators; some saw Florida winning the East, while others pegged them near the bottom of the division.
For Florida head coach Will Muschamp, the division is better than the credit it’s given by those in the media.
“I mean I think so, but you know you listen to the ESPN folks, they don’t think so,” he said. “But that’s all right. I don’t really listen to them anyways.”
The parity seen in the East expands to all of college football, according to Muschamp. The amount of competition means teams have to execute in every phase of the game.
“We got to go take it one game at a time, take matchups the way they happen and occur,” Muschamp said.” “I think it’s pretty difficult. And I know we all like to look and say, ‘Well look at this score and look at this team, well that ought to happen here.’ Well that’s not always the case. Every team matches up a little differently against other teams.”
The Gators experienced the change in the division in a Week 3 matchup against Kentucky. The Wildcats hadn’t beaten Florida since 1986, but played the Gators tough, taking them to three overtimes before Florida won, 36-30.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel said he sees more games like Kentucky as teams compete to get to the SEC Championship Game.
“There’s going to be some tough games,” he said. “There’s going to be some games you have to grind out maybe in the fourth quarter, maybe in overtime. So I think the competition level is really close because there’s a lot of good players and a lot teams in the East.”
For a conference known for beating one another up during the season, the SEC East has lived up to the reputation this year. With unpredictability altering predicted records, the team heading to Atlanta in December may be one leaving us even more confused than we are now.