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Where Does the SEC East Race Stand After South Carolina's Upset of Georgia?

Pundits and such keep saying that the Gamecocks' win shook up the division standings -- so how do the teams in the East stack up right now?

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

It's probably way too early to start talking about scenarios for either of the division races in the SEC. There are five teams that haven't played a conference game yet, including perennial title contenders Alabama and LSU. But with all the buzz that the South Carolina win against Georgia threw a wrench into the race for the SEC East, it might be worth recapping where the division race stands right now.

Have won, must keep winning

It's always better to have a game or two already bagged away when you're in a race, because it's one less game you can lose. That advantage grows when its a divisional game, because that's a free tiebreaker if things get particularly close. There are two SEC East teams that have at least one conference win, both of them in the division: Florida and South Carolina.

Florida is one of the more peculiar situations this year, because they are undefeated in the SEC (at least for now) after a harrowing triple-overtime win against Kentucky at home. And there's that little matter of the Alabama game coming up this weekend. So there's very little confidence that the Gators can remain undefeated for very long. That said: Florida still controls its own destiny no matter what happens in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. And what look like the three biggest threats in the SEC East this year -- Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina -- all play Florida either on a neutral field or in Gainesville. Don't count the Gators out just because they've looked a little sluggish so far.

The other team with a divisional victory is the South Carolina team that knocked off Georgia and scrambled this whole race to begin with. Amazingly, after getting waxed by 24 points in their home stadium on opening night, the Gamecocks are still in a win-and-get-in situation. But every SEC East game for the rest of the season is basically a must-win game, and even a loss at Auburn could make things tricky. (More on that shortly.) They do face Missouri at Williams-Brice Stadium, but South Carolina also tends to struggle when playing Vanderbilt in Nashville and Kentucky in Lexington -- both of which happen this year. The Commodores don't look to be much of a threat to anyone, but Kentucky's Air Raid-style attack has to worry Lorenzo Ward and the rest of the defensive coaching staff.

Not on the board yet

If you have to choose whether to have a loss or not have either a win or a loss, the latter is obviously preferable. There are two teas with slightly different perceptions that find themselves in that situation right now: Missouri and Tennessee.

The other other Tigers have run their record to 3-0 but won't face an SEC team until they head to South Carolina at the end of the month. The flip side of that is that Missouri will play eight conference games in a row, but the byes are about as well-placed as you could ask, with one wedged in between the South Carolina and Georgia games and one ahead of the trip to College Station to play Texas A&M. Facing the Aggies gives Missouri a slim margin for error; if that game ends up being a loss, then a second defeat is all it could take to knock them out of the race.

Tennessee faces an even more uncertain outlook, at least in terms of the perceptions game. The Volunteers are ranked 12th in the latest SEC Power Poll and just got walloped by Oklahoma -- though South Carolina proves a loss to a current or former member of the Big XII is no disqualification -- but are still 0-0 in the only category that matters when it comes to a trip to Atlanta. Assuming for a moment that the blogosphere hivemind is incorrect and Tennessee can be a player: The Vols get Florida and Missouri in Knoxville while traveling to Georgia and South Carolina. Oh, and their interdivision foes are Alabama and Ole Miss. Even if Tennessee is a very good team, that's a challenging road to get to Atlanta.

Already falling behind

A division loss or any combination of a conference loss and no wins are not the best records to have at this moment. Those are the situations facing Georgia, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

It should be noted that the Commodores still control their own destiny. Please stop laughing. If Vanderbilt can run the table -- I know; stay with me -- the loss to Ole Miss won't hurt the Commodores because they'll have tiebreakers against everyone else in the division. But saying these things only implies that you might want to be Vanderbilt in the SEC East race -- and no one wants to be Vanderbilt in the SEC East race right now. Not even Kentucky.

Georgia needs some help in the form of a South Carolina loss, but here's where things get a bit tricky for the Dawgs: The most likely loss on the Gamecocks' schedule is the trip to Auburn, and that brand of Tigers comes to Athens in November. That means that for Georgia to be really comfortable about avoiding a potential tie with South Carolina -- and avoiding a make-or-break game against once of the SEC West front-runners -- it would be best if the Gamecocks pick up a non-Auburn loss somewhere along the way. There are a couple of interesting games left on Georgia's schedule as well, including a trip to Missouri and a visit to Kentucky that practically screams trap game, bookended as it is by the World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party on one side and the Auburn game on the other. Lexington might not be the best place for sleepwalkers this year.

Which brings us to the Wildcats, perhaps the most intriguing team in the SEC East this year. Spoiler alert: Kentucky is still a long-shot to win the division. Their interdivision draw includes a trip to LSU and a home game against Mississippi State, along with the in-division visit to Missouri. But the game against Florida pretty clearly displayed that UK is not to be taken lightly this season, and with home games against the -- let's go with struggling -- secondaries of Georgia and South Carolina, Kentucky is perfectly poised to play the spoiler role and set the groundwork for contending in the SEC East -- a season or two down the road.