The SEC East One Month In

Divisional Preseason Storyline

The SEC East is down. It's Florida and the five little brothers. Okay, Georgia might be good after all, but South Carolina will still struggle, Tennessee's ceiling is seven or eight wins, and Kentucky and Vandy are still Kentucky and Vandy (though improved from past years).

One Month In Reality

There's not much to suggest that the division isn't still Florida's personal fiefdom, but the division doesn't look as behind the West as thought. Georgia has weathered its personnel losses all right, and they could be a very good team if they stop turning it over so much. South Carolina showed some potential in its big inter-divisional win over Ole Miss. Kentucky is still a work in progress, and Vandy has regressed.

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Preseason Storyline

The Gators are going to be very good. They have a chance to be the best team ever. Sure they have to replace Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, but you know that team's loaded. The defense will atone for any offensive shortfalls, and look for them to run roughshod over their schedule again.

One Month In Reality

The Gators may be good, but they aren't the best team ever. Tennessee's defense exposed major deficiencies in Florida's passing game and especially in the banged up UF receiving crew. The Gators' response was basically to become the best service academy ever, using a variety of option looks to roll up 362 rushing yards on Kentucky. The defense has been nearly as good as advertised so far, and it has made up for the offensive deficiencies. Now, the only real question left is what will become of the team if Tim Tebow misses any games. John Brantley may be good in practice and in the fourth quarter of blowouts, but he's never started a game.

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Preseason Storyline

(January) Hey, have you heard of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno? Stafford and Moreno? Moreno and Stafford? They're gone, and this team is doomed. Doooooooomed! (Roughly May, and onward) Hey, this Joe Cox guy is a fifth year senior. The offensive line also has a lot of experience. Wow, I didn't realize how many people who missed time with injury last year are back. Watch out! This is a bona fide sleeper team!

One Month In Reality

This is one of the least predictable teams in the country. One week, they're playing defensive slugfests; the next, they're doing an offensive shootout. It's almost as if their offensive output is positively correlated with their miscues. Against Oklahoma State and Arizona State, they committed a combined 13 penalties and scored a combined 30 points. Against Arkansas and South Carolina, they committed a combined 27 penalties and scored a combined 93 points. The only thing consistent about them is the three turnovers a game. That they've managed exactly in each of their four games so far.

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Preseason Storyline

Kentucky has been a better Kentucky over the past few years, but can they make a leap forward? The defense should be pretty good again, but it was pretty good last year and that didn't save them from having to sneak into bowl eligibility at 6-6. It should be interesting to see how they use Randall Cobb, but are they conceding another mediocre year by sticking with Mike Hartline at quarterback?

One Month In Reality

Kentucky appears to be a rough sketch of what it was last year. It can hammer the truly bad teams, as we saw with the win over Miami University. However, the Wildcats have been mistake prone, nearly giving away their game against Louisville and falling apart in every way early against Florida. Hartline has looked marginally better, and Cobb is indeed a great player. Whether UK can do better than 6-6 again against a schedule that is looking tougher now than it did in the off season is still in doubt.

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Preseason Storyline

It really depends who you ask as to what South Carolina's preseason expectation was. Phil Steele was the leader of the Gamecock doubters, citing a lack of experience on both sides of the ball. According to that crowd, which included Athlon and Football Outsiders, a rough year was coming. A few others, like the Sporting News and most Gamecock fans themselves, saw young talent ready to step up and a quarterback ready to fulfill his potential. For them, a top three finish in the East was possible.

One Month In Reality

South Carolina is like Georgia: still a mystery despite being 3-1. The Gamecocks looked awful in their win over NC State, a bit shaky in their loss to Georgia and win over FAU, and dominant for three quarters of the win over Ole Miss. Inconsistency is to be expected from a team that is, as the preseason detractors pointed out, still relatively green. The potential is definitely here for that top three finish in the division, but, as it always goes with the Gamecocks, the matter of whether they can put everything together consistently will determine their fate.

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Preseason Storyline

The Vols should be back this year. Back to bowl eligibility, that is. With Lane Kiffin's offense replacing the complex and ill-fated Clawfense, a lot of the issues on that side of the ball should be fixed. If Jonathan Crompton can stop turning the ball over, it will be even better. Defensively, they should still be a terror thanks to Eric Berry and the top shelf scheming of Monte Kiffin.

One Month In Reality

The offense at least is more coherent, with a lot less apparent confusion. Unfortunately, Crompton is little better than he was last year, if at all, and that will probably hold Tennessee back all season. The offense has looked okay in the games against Sun Belt and MAC opponents, but in two games against BCS teams (with, to be fair, pretty good defenses) it's averaging 209 yards a game. The defense has been as good if not better than advertised, as it locked down Florida's offense and forced two turnovers in the Lane Kiffin Bowl. You can't really go wrong with Berry leading the way, but the defense wasn't the problem last year either.

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Preseason Storylines

Everyone was happy for Vanderbilt having made a bowl for the first time since the Reagan administration and winning one for the first time since the Eisenhower administration. Despite that breakthrough, most folks predicted that Vandy would return to its customary place near the cellar of the SEC East. The defense was expected to be good again since most players were returning. The coaches tried to fix the offense by installing a hurry up spread scheme similar to what new starter QB Larry Smith ran in high school.

One Month In Reality

The offensive transition hasn't gone quite as smoothly as hoped. The Commodores have scored 10 offensive points combined in two SEC games, and while a lone touchdown against LSU is understandable for this team, managing just a field goal at home versus Mississippi State is not. The defense is holding up its end of the bargain, allowing just 7.25 points a game with seven of the 29 given up being garbage time points by Rice. Regardless, Vandy (for now) appears to have returned to its role of worst team in the conference, and it's going to take some real growth to get back to a bowl.

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