Fans hear this same tale each and every year. It’s September and the traditional top dogs in the East don’t look up to the merit of making it to Atlanta. But every season, the ball falls the way of the traditional powers. 2017 may be the best chance for a team that has never been to Atlanta to make it that far. This Saturday may determine if one of the unlikely contenders can actually contend for the East Championship in 2017.
Currently, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida are the teams in the East without a conference loss. Even though UGA and Vandy have yet to play a conference game, there is still only one combined loss in that group (Florida lost to Michigan in week one). Missouri is so irrelevant it’s hilarious, Tennessee couldn’t get out of their own way this weekend and South Carolina was exposed against Kentucky. Tennessee still has Alabama and LSU on their schedule, so they might as well be out of the running. So there are essentially four teams with legitimate shots to win the division.
Vanderbilt has the biggest game in recent school history this weekend with Alabama coming into Nashville. While this game does not carry the same weight on the division as UK/Florida, it would be a coming out party if Vandy were to pull the upset. The Dores pack quite the punch on both ends of the ball thanks to the regime of Derek Mason. The odds will forever be in Alabama’s favor, but I expect Vanderbilt to hang around for a good portion of the game. If they were to pull the upset, it would be more of statement that the East is ready to compete with the West rather than a game with big implications on the division standings.
“Alabama, you’re next”
Lol, alright buddy. Go back to the library or something. pic.twitter.com/N3wH7aVUKq
– Barstool Bama (@BarstoolAlabama) September 17, 2017
Georgia will take on the red-hot Mississippi State Bulldogs in a game that has big implications. If UGA wins this, the rest of the East will need to take down the Dogs at some point. Georgia has a very favorable schedule this season with Auburn being their other West opponent later this season. Their only true, difficult road game for the remainder of the year is Tennessee. If Mississippi State beats UGA this weekend, it could put Georgia behind the eight ball a little heading into the thick of SEC play.
Now for the game that could change it all. Florida vs Kentucky could be the game that knocks the season off the rails. In previous years, Kentucky has taken tough losses, never able to reach the plateau of the SEC Championship. The schedule works out in UK’s favor for the first time this season. If the Cats were to beat Florida, they would have a tiebreaker over a team that still has to play at LSU, Vanderbilt, Georgia, and at South Carolina this year. There is a good chance both Kentucky and Florida will finish with the same record, so this game carries a huge amount of weight. The winner will carry the tiebreaker throughout the season and most likely to Atlanta.
The SEC East has been dominated by teams for two years at a time. Since 2011, the same team has repeated as division champs (Georgia, Missouri, Florida). By the law of averages, it is time for a new team to take over atop the SEC East. If you don’t believe in that kind of mojo, maybe look deeper at how 2017 could be the year the East puts a new team in Atlanta this December.