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Week 8 SEC Talking Points: East Division

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What are the talking points going into this weekend’s games?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

So, Georgia lost to Vanderbilt. What’s your overall perception now of the ‘Dawgs?

Joe Clarkin (@Joe_Clarkin): My perception of them gets a little worse each week, it feels like. With all due respect to Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt at home is an awful loss. The Dores are not a good team, and it’s inexcusable to drop that game at home.

S&P has them all the way down to the fourth-worst team in the conference, and the way they’re trending right now, that seems like a plausible end-of-year finish. There is only one gimme win (UL-Lafayette) remaining on the schedule, so it could actually get worse from here.

Not to beat a dead horse, but this feels like karma for running off Mark Richt. You couldn’t live with 9+ wins every year? Well guess what, now you know had good you had it. They’ll be fine long term, probably, because Jacob Eason, but the Dawgs have neither bark nor bite right now.

Will Marshall (@awillmarshall): This is definitely a team with several flaws. The offense is hampered by a poor offensive line, an inexperienced quarterback, and a lack of downfield receiving threats. If the team gets behind schedule then it struggles despite having an amazing backfield. Meanwhile, the defense lost a lot of decent, but experienced, contributors from last season.

Overall, the Vandy loss is the one that hurts, but this is a team that still won at Mizzou, beat UNC, and only lost to Tennessee by three points. I guess one’s perception of Georgia is really wrapped up in how good you think the SEC East is this season. Does the Rorschach Test tell you that Tennessee is actually a top ten team, and that Missouri is capable of a 7-5 record? If so, then perhaps Georgia “only” wins 7-8 games this season.

Bryan Manning (@bdmanning4): Yes, it does. You can't lose to Vanderbilt at home. Rebuilding year or not, this is still the Georgia Bulldogs. They have a talented roster overall. However, a terrible, and I mean terrible, offensive line is the major problem. The ‘Dawgs can still rally to a respectable finish, but it isn't going to be the kind of year most expected.

Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): The disturbing part isn’t that Georgia lost, but how they lost. Jacob Eason had a career day (at least, so far), and Georgia scored 16 points because Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were complete non-factors. That said, Georgia did have a 5.27 to 3.31 advantage in terms of yards per play and S&P+ pegs them as having a 84% win expectancy, so this loss was a bit of a fluke. It hasn’t been pretty, but I think they’ll still end up in a bowl game... just, well, it may be played in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): Hasn’t changed. I thought going into the season that Gerogia was an 8-4/9-3 team. Walking out of the Georgia Dome on September 3, I was leaning toward nine wins, but after losing to Vanderbilt on Saturday, I’m going to go ahead and chalk this up as an eight-win team. I refuse to feel bad for any Georgia fan over the Hail Mary loss to Tennessee and then the latest embarrassment at the hands of the Commodores. Firing Mark Richt may end up being the right decision, but I promise you he wouldn’t have lost to Vandy ‘Between the Hedges.’ Fun Fact: Since 2013, Vandy and Georgia's series is tied at 2-2. Want to be on top of the East? Well, maybe you should beat Vanderbilt.

Mizzou is 0-3 in SEC play with games against Kentucky, South Carolina, Vandy, Tennessee and Arkansas looming. How do they finish?

Joe Clarkin (@Joe_Clarkin): Record-wise, Mizzou is exactly where I thought they’d be at the beginning of the season. Anyone who tells you 2-4 wasn’t the most likely scenario is lying. With that said, I did not think they’d look that bad at LSU and Florida, and that’s concerning, especially considering how good the offense looked early in the season.

The reality is they’re, at best, a mediocre football team. Their likely true talent on offense lies somewhere between the explosion we saw against Eastern Michigan, Georgia and Delaware State and the implosion we saw against Florida and LSU. This is a team built to beat bad football teams and lose to good ones, and I think they’ll continue to do that. None of these next four games scare me, so I’ll stick with 6-6, which was my preseason prediction.

Will Marshall (@awillmarshall): The way they’ve lost the last two weeks has to be a tough pill to swallow in Columbia. When the Tigers have faced P5 teams they’ve really struggled. I watched the West Virginia game, and the margin seemed like it was a lot more than 14 points. Even the UGA game is a tad deceiving as Missouri’s offense was largely shut down in the second half. At this point, I’m leaning towards five wins. I think they beat MTSU, and win two games between South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky.

Bryan Manning (@bdmanning4): I could see Mizzou winning three of its final five SEC games. Kentucky, SC and Vandy are all winnable games. I can also see the Tigers giving Arkansas a run for the money. And with all of injuries Tennessee is going through, well you just never know. The Tigers are set up for a strong finish.

Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): I think they’ll win 3 of 5 and, along with what should be a win over MTSU, that should get them back to a bowl game. Missouri isn’t a great team by any stretch, but based on what we’ve seen so far I think they’re a better team than Vandy, South Carolina, or Kentucky.

Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): After Mizzou narrowly lost to Georgia at home, I was impressed with the Tigers offense and felt that this may be team that could sneak up on the East again. Then, I woke up and realized that Georgia was no good, and, in turn, Missouri wasn’t any good either. I had the Tigers as a 1-7 team in the league coming into the season and I will stick with that pick because there’s no way in hell they could lose to that South Carolina team, right?

Does Florida have a shot to beat out Tennessee for the top of the SEC East?

Joe Clarkin (@Joe_Clarkin): Sure, they have a shot. But it’s going to be tough, because I don’t see the Vols losing again, even with their injuries continuing to pile up. Tennessee’s end-of-season schedule is soft, whereas the Gators have two games (at LSU, at Arkansas) that look like really difficult road trips.

Hard to see them winning out in conference, which they’d have to do in order to get to Atlanta assuming Tennessee runs the table. They just have to hope the Vols drop another game, and considering their toughest remaining test is either Mizzou at home or Vandy on the road, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Will Marshall (@awillmarshall): I agree with Joe. Tennessee’s schedule is on the cusp of softening up, and they’ll be able to pick up some wins despite their injuries with their edge over Florida.

Bryan Manning (@bdmanning4): I don't think so. Tennessee has a favorable schedule the rest of the season, however, do we trust Florida on offense? I just can't see it. UT’s injuries make anything possible, but I think the Vols’ lead is safe.

Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): There’s a chance, but it would require either the Gators to win out or Tennessee to lose to one of the East’s lightweights. There might be a better chance of the latter than the former, though: The Vols’ loss to Alabama just seems like one of those deflating losses that sends a season off the rails.

Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): Are you sensing a theme here? All of these teams in the East are absolute garbage, except for Tennessee who has suffered injuries since the App State game so I really can’t be that hard on the Vols, even if their offense hasn’t lived up to expectations. Sure, Florida could win out and represent the East for yet another boring ass SEC Championship Game. I just don’t think that the football gods are that cruel, and the fact that they still have to go on the road to Arkansas and LSU doesn’t give me confidence that this team can “run the table” the rest of the way in the East.