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2016 SEC Football Week 12 Talking Points: East Division

Things are clearing up, but that doesn’t mean discussion has died down.

NCAA Football: Florida at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

With Kentucky and South Carolina effectively being taken out, do you see Florida going to Atlanta or will Tennessee make a late push?

Alex Dusza (@alexdusza): At this point, Tennessee should be the favorite. With Florida going with Austin Appleby for the Purdue quarterback transfer bowl this weekend, along with the Gators having injury issues, they will likely lose at LSU. At that point, Tennessee only needs to defeat either Missouri or Vanderbilt and the Volunteers would take the East with holding the tiebreaker over Florida.

Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): The injury report in Gainesville is starting to look similar to the one in Knoxville. The Gators played this past weekend without Luke Del Rio, starting linebackers Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis and center Tyler Jordan. If you thought those were bad, then what do you call watching Marcus Maye and Bryan Cox Jr. being added to this list? I think that the Gators should win the East, but given the fact that the game is being played in Baton Rouge and how well LSU has run the ball against everyone not named Alabama, I have to give the nod to Volunteers even though I wouldn’t be surprised if they found a way to lose to either Vandy or Mizzou.

Jonathan Waldrop (@aukiwal83): I don’t think Florida has the horses to beat LSU in Baton Rouge. Their defense can keep the Tiger offense in check somewhat, but UF’s offense is going to get manhandled by LSU’s defense. LSU has more talent across the board and they’ll win.

Tennessee certainly isn’t the model of consistency, but you have to think with Mizzou and Vandy left, the Vols will probably win out and be able to go to Atlanta. It’s a dream scenario for SEC officials, too, because the idea of the SEC Championship Game was really developed around getting to see the conference’s two traditional powerhouses play each other twice in one season. We just may be able to see that for the first time in 25 tries.

Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): I think Florida will lose to LSU… and then back into winning the East by virtue of Tennessee losing to either Mizzou or Vandy. Don’t try to fight it. You know that’s how this will go down, because nobody wants to win the East this year.

Mizzou finally won an SEC game! Do they get another before the end of the year?

Alex Dusza: With Tennessee and Arkansas coming up, likely not. They could get off to a better start earlier in the SEC season with South Carolina coming to Columbia (west) the second week of the year. Given the youth of South Carolina’s offense and that nearly every skill position contributor should be back, Missouri could improve drastically next season, at least on that side of the ball.

Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): No. Then again, they do play Tennessee.

Jonathan Waldrop: I keep waffling on this one, because last week I said Mizzou will pull the upset in Knoxville, but I also just said Tennessee will win the East. So...yes/no??

Tom Stephenson: I don’t think so. Even in the win over Vandy, they still seemed to have too many issues to make me feel confident in them winning another one.

Are any SEC East Coaches seriously on a hot seat this year?

Alex Dusza: Earlier in the year, Mark Stoops and Derek Mason seemed like they were in jeopardy, though given Stoops’ buyout and Vanderbilt’s usual patience with coaches they could have been safe. But with Kentucky likely going bowling and Vanderbilt showing improvement (despite the setback against Missouri), it seems they should both be safe. Kirby Smart would be safe after only a year regardless, but beating Auburn should help cool his seat a bit which could have been pretty hot going into next year had Georgia not beaten Kentucky and Auburn the past two weeks.

Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): Butch Jones? I really don’t know what to think of the situation in Knoxville. Tennessee came into the season with a ton of hype and then needed overtime to beat App State. They somehow found their way to 6-0 after a miracle finish ‘between the hedges’ and then injuries caught up with them. The loss to South Carolina was pretty inexcusable given the youth of the program---credit though to Will Muschamp.

The folks on Rocky Top want to win and they want to win now. Winning the East is still on the table, which would help Jones’ cause. An SEC championship would also be in play---of course unlikely---were the Vols to backdoor their way to the Dome. I think it would be too early to oust Jones, but if the reports of him losing the locker room and more transfer to top players, i.e. Jalen Hurd, are true and continue into the spring and next fall, then there might need to be a change in Knoxville.

Jonathan Waldrop: I really like what Mark Stoops has been able to do the last few weeks, even with losses to UGA and Tennessee. I think they give him a fifth year to keep improving. It seems to be a week-to-week thing with Derek Mason, because they beat Georgia in Athens and give Auburn a really good game, but then they turn around and lose to Missouri. I’m just not sure if they can keep doing this, but they also have to realize that James Franklin was lightning in a bottle and achieving Bobby Johnson-type figures annually is probably their lot in life. Plus, Mason has improved every year. That one’s a toss up. Butch Jones will probably get the Vols to Atlanta, which was the goal, but they could easily be either 9-1 or 5-5 right now. Jones will get one more year, but if they take a major step back, then he’s gone.

Tom Stephenson: I would say it’s better than even money that all seven will be back next year. Butch Jones could be in trouble if Tennessee loses to either Mizzou or Vandy. Other than that? Smart, Odom, and Muschamp are in their first year. McElwain is fine. Stoops will get to a bowl game. Derek Mason might seem to be on a hot seat to outsiders, but people connected to the Vanderbilt program seem confident he’ll be back; Vanderbilt is notoriously slow to fire coaches, which works in Mason’s favor. Given all that, I think all of them will be back for 2017.