clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rock M Roundtable: Sizing up the SEC East

The SEC East is no longer the SEC Least, and the path to the top appears steep. Where do the Tigers stack up in this year’s division?

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Welcome to Rock M Roundtable aka Editorial Bored aka Pregamin’ (but in the Summer), a weekly Q&A where we’ll consult the editorial board on all the big questions facing Mizzou Athletics this summer.

We’re not going to spend a ton of time talking about Georgia because, obviously, they’re the favorite. But is there any chance they can be unseated in the next few years following their National Championship?

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Georgia vs Alabama Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Parker Gillam, Beat Writer: Frankly, no. Although I do agree that Tennessee and Florida could get to the same level as UGA (and even So Car on an off-chance), there is no guarantee of any of that happening. I mean, let’s remember that Florida is going through a host of changes right now, South Carolina is a couple recruiting classes away from even having near the same talent, and the good ol’ Vols are notorious for playing below expectations.

All jokes aside, Georgia is the easy money in the East for the next couple of years. Kentucky had their shot at ‘em from 2018 to 2021 as the next best team in the division, but they couldn’t beat them once. I like Tennessee’s trajectory as the next challenger, but I just refuse to trust them.

Brandon Kiley, Lead Football Writer: Nope. Zilch. Nada. Not happening.

Georgia is now where Alabama was early in Nick Saban’s tenure. The Crimson Tide had talent everywhere, but they were asking for nothing more than a game manager at the quarterback position. That’s Georgia. As long as their quarterbacks don’t lose them games by turning the ball over, they’re going to win just about every time they take the field. The Bulldogs’ recruiting is simply on another level. They’ve added 21 five stars and 73 four stars over the last five recruiting classes, according to Rivals. Their recruiting classes have ranked first, first, first, fifth and third nationally, respectively, in that span.

They’re a fully operational death star. That’s not coming to an end in 2022.

Aaron Dryden, Staff Football Writer: Probably not, no. Georgia is recruiting at levels that only a few schools in the country could even sniff. I do think Florida has an outside chance of getting there if Napier can manage to keep the crazies down in Gainesville off of his ass but even that is a hard ask. Georgia is the cream of the crop in the SEC East and they will be for a while. I worry about their ability to repeat as national champions, but I’m confident that they’ll be the representative of the East division in Atlanta.

Each team in the SEC East — Vanderbilt excluded, sorry y’all — has some reason to feel excited about this coming season. Name one team you think should feel pretty good and one that you think may be getting ahead of themselves.

Duke’s Mayo Bowl - North Carolina v South Carolina Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Parker Gillam, Beat Writer: I’ll be fully transparent. I grew up a Tennessee fan, suffered through heartbreaking losses of every kind and nearly just as many disappointing seasons...and so it goes against everything in my right mind to say that I am believing the hype about this upcoming Tennessee football season.

Hendon Hooker went through a transformation in Knoxville and found an offense that perfectly suits him. A lot of the credit has to go to Josh Heupel for stepping in and bringing back the fun to Neyland while also building a great culture. Recruiting is off the charts again, and there is real hope for this 2022 squad. The weapons are there, all that it comes down to is replacing some key members of the defense and offensive line. If they can do that, this is a team that can give Georgia a very tough game and win double-digit games.

For the negative perspective, I think out of Kentucky, South Carolina, and Florida you are going to have one success story, one average season, and then one dud. My pick for now will be Florida to have that rough year. For as much as I love Anthony Richardson’s game, this will be a fairly young team that has a tough schedule. I think they’ll be worn down by a schedule that features Utah, Kentucky, and Tennessee in 3 out of their first 4 games, and they won’t have enough to crack the top 4 of the division.

Brandon Kiley, Lead Football Writer: I always like to use Vegas as the gauge for the expectations of teams within the division. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at what the win totals are for the SEC East this year (per Caesars Sportsbook):

  • Georgia - 11.5
  • Kentucky - 8.5
  • Tennessee - 7.5
  • Florida - 7
  • South Carolina - 6
  • Missouri - 5
  • Vanderbilt - 2.5

If we set the expectations there, I think it’s going to be a good year for Mizzou fans and a disappointing season for Florida. Missouri winning five or fewer games would be a massive disappointment. This is not a great team, but the staff has clearly added talent it believes can help win now as opposed to focusing exclusively on the future. If that’s the stated goal, it should translate to wins. And I believe it will. More than five, at least.

Florida’s in a tough spot. Billy Napier takes over a team in transition. I think the future will be bright, as I believe in Napier as a coach, but that team is lacking along the offensive line and has serious questions at quarterback. That’s not where a team wants to be when it has Utah to open the season, with Texas A&M and LSU as its SEC West opponents. An “under” seven wins this season is firmly in play.

Aaron Dryden, Staff Football Writer: I’ll start with a team that I’m excited about: The South Carolina Gamecocks. Shane Beamer has done a really good job in this last cycle recruiting not just high school talent, but he’s also done well in the portal. They’re bringing in Rattler who isn’t the perfect QB, but he is at worst a good quarterback. I thought they looked good a times, and they’re my darkhorse pick to make a 2-3 win jump from last year.

A team that needs to slow its roll? Kentucky. I know they’ve been solid. I know about Mark Stoops. Yes, he can coach. That said, I’m not solid on Will Levis. He had a bit of a turnover problem in 2021 and is now without his top receiver in Wan’Dale Robinson. For those who don’t know, Robinson accounted for 47 % of Levis total passing yards. Maybe someone steps up, but I wasn’t overly impressed with Levis and his reliance on one target is something to keep an eye on.

We’ve often mentioned how 2023 may be the year Missouri finally breaks through with all of its talent coming of age. But for 2022, where do they slot in the SEC East hierarchy?

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Parker: My tier list for the division goes as follows. To preface, there is a large gap between tiers 1 and 2, a minuscule one between 2 and 3, a moderate one between 3 and 4, and what should be an insurmountable one between 4 and 5.

Tier 1: Georgia

Tier 2: Tennessee

Tier 3: Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida (in that order)

Tier 4: Missouri

Tier 5: Vanderbilt

Yes, I think Mizzou has a shot at taking down any of the teams in that third tier. I’ll pick them to go 1-3 against them, but they remain below solely because I believe they will consistently have more question marks within the roster (specifically up front) than the other schools will.

Brandon Kiley, Lead Football Writer: I mostly agree with Peter’s tiers, but I would add Kentucky to the second tier with Tennessee and Missouri to the third tier with South Carolina and Florida.

The SEC East is pretty stratified at the top. Georgia is the clear-cut top team. Kentucky and Tennessee should battle for second in the division. Missouri, South Carolina and Florida will battle it out for the middle tier in the conference. And then, well, there’s Vanderbilt.

Aaron Dryden, Staff Football Writer: At this moment, here’s how I would tier up the East:

Tier One: Georgia

Tier Two: (in order): Tennessee, South Carolina

Tier Three: (in order): Kentucky, Missouri, Florida

Tier Four: Vanderbilt

Tier two and three could all beat each other in a given week and the gap in between tier one and two is.... sizeable.

Got a question for our staff regarding Mizzou Sports? Let us know in the comments and we’ll look at adding it to an upcoming roundtable!