Entering the season, Georgia was the presumptive favorite to win their third straight SEC East title. Led by Jake Fromm, D'Andre Swift, and a stout offensive line on offense and a defense as strong as ever, Georgia was assumed to be on a collision course with the SEC West winner. However, South Carolina's double OT shocker of an upset against the Bulldogs has upset the apple cart in the East. It seems to be shaping up as a two team race between longtime rivals Florida and Georgia, with Missouri getting to play the role of spoiler. Below is a look at how the schedule shapes up for these three teams.
Florida (7-1, 4-1 SEC):
The Gators have already played both of their opponents from the West and went 1-1 against a pair of Tigers, beating Auburn at home and falling to LSU on the road. Florida plays their final three SEC games following this week's bye, playing Georgia in Jacksonville (11/2), hosting Vanderbilt (11/9), and then concluding SEC play at Missouri (11/16). It is hard to imagine the Gators dropping a home game to the Commodores. The drawback on Florida's schedule is the road game to Columbia, MO, a place where Missouri is undefeated on the season. In reality, the game with Georgia could be a de facto championship game for the East. As of lately, the Gators have seemed to be playing better football than Georgia, but it should still be a tight defensive contest in Jacksonville. Based on their recent play, I would make Florida a slight favorite over the Bulldogs.
Georgia (6-1, 3-1 SEC):
The Bulldogs have been a bit suspect on offense lately. Two weeks ago, in their upset loss to South Carolina, Georgia turned the ball over four times and only scored 17 points. Then, last week in the remnants of tropical storm Nestor, the Dawgs failed to score until part way through the third quarter, but still beat Kentucky 21-0. The Gators will be a much stiffer test than the Wildcats were, so the Bulldogs cannot afford another slow start. They do have a bye this week to get things sorted out on offense. Following the game in Jacksonville against Florida, Georgia hosts Missouri (11/9), travels to Auburn (11/16), and finishes SEC play hosting the Texas A&M Aggies (11/23). Missouri has seemingly struggled on the road, so it is a benefit to Georgia to get them at home. However, the road game to Jordan-Hare, with Auburn coming off a bye, will be a stiff test for the Bulldogs. Georgia could conceivably win the East as a two loss team, by beating the Gators but dropping a game to either Auburn or Texas A&M. Georgia's recent offensive struggles puts them slightly behind Florida as the favorite to win the East.
Missouri (5-2, 2-1 SEC):
Missouri has been a baffling team this season. During the preseason, many prognosticators pegged Missouri as a team that could be undefeated entering their game against Georgia. The Tigers promptly lost the first game of the season on the road to Wyoming. Missouri then responded with five straight home wins (including a convincing win over the South Carolina squad which upset Georgia), before losing on the road last Saturday against Vanderbilt. As hard as it is to imagine, Missouri, with losses to Wyoming and Vanderbilt on their resume, still controls their own destiny in the SEC East. Missouri will have to prove they can win games away from home before they will be taken seriously in the race for the East. The Tigers have a chance to pick up a road win this Saturday against Kentucky. Following a bye on 11/2, Missouri finishes the season with four consecutive weeks of SEC play: at Georgia (11/9), vs Florida (11/16), vs Tennessee (11/23), and at Arkansas (11/29). Missouri will be seen as the spoiler in the SEC East instead of a contender, until they prove they can win games on the road.