There were quite a few games over the weekend and of course there are more questions than answers on the potential of most teams. The trend is to schedule weaker opponents on the first week and no one does it better than the SEC. Some schools looked like they may have championship potential and some looked like they needed some work. On to the predictions.
1. Georgia: Coach Richt better win this year or he will be on his way out. When I say win, I mean becoming at least BCS Bowl eligible. Anything less will not satisfy hungry Bulldog fans. I am looking for this years Bulldog squad to take the number one slot in the SEC East. Why? Florida is likely to be rebuilding somewhat and Georgia returns a good a fair amount of starters from a team that was pretty good last year. The non conference schedule is not too tough. They have already blown out the Cajuns and will likely do the same with Colorado and IAA Idaho State. Georgia Tech may be another matter however. The East may not have the best team in the SEC but it is overall possibly (but perhaps not this year) somewhat tougher than the West. That may pose a problem for the Dogs. They do miss Alabama but must play Arkansas, Mississippi State and Auburn out of the East. It should be interesting. I pick the Dogs for the number one spot in the division. I realize I may be going out on a limb somewhat.
2. South Carolina: The Gamecocks victory over Southern Miss showed something. The Golden Eagles are a team that is known to give mid level SEC teams a bit of a problem. The only thing is, South Carolina may be, this year at least, one of the elite of the conference. Time will tell of course, but Spurrier is still a heck of a coach and knows how to win. South Carolina is not the easiest place in the SEC to win year in and year out. The do not have the history of being an elite program like Bama, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia. That being said I would look for South Carolina to be ready to take over the top spot in case Georgia falters. Now the remaining non conference schedule does have some potential pitfalls. Winning against Clemson is not a given by any stretch. Troy may pose some difficulty but they should be able to handle IAA Furman. They do meet Alabama, Arkansas, and Auburn out of the West and they will likely not win all of them. They could easily be swept or perhaps finish as high as 2-1 against these foes from the other division. We will see.
3. Florida: I think that Urban Meyer is in rebuild mode this year. His power QB is in the NFL and there are a lot of new faces as starters. The lackluster performance against Miami of Ohio did not sit well with Gator fans. The Red Hawks are a lower tier MAC team this year and should not have been allowed to hang around as long as they did. Of course a win is a win and Florida did prevail. Now the remaining non conference schedule is pretty tough with games against South Florida, IAA power Appalachian State, and of course the Seminoles. It is an upgrade over last year's non conference slate which bordered on ridiculous. The will not likely win all of the non conference games. Now that being said, it is not out of the question that the Gators will find themselves in the top spot in the East. Meyer knows his business and may get his squad ready for the remaining games. They do have to take on Alabama out of the West, but miss the Hogs and Auburn this year. They might find that Mississippi State is not a pushover this year as is usually the case. I pick Florida for the third spot in this division and ending up in a good bowl before it is all said and done. Probably not one that is of the BCS variety though.
4. Tennessee: This program has been down a bit in recent years and the Vol's fans are as hungry as any. Last year's season with that fool Kiffin probably did not help matters much and may have set them back even further. Now this team is still a very dangerous squad but will not find themselves in the elite of the SEC for some time. The just do not return enough starters to make it very far in the SEC race and that may be a good thing. Last year's team went 7-6 total. Not something that the fans in Knoxville will tolerate much longer. The only remaining non conference game that should pose any real difficulty will be the Ducks. Perhaps Memphis could be a problem, as the Tigers do consider this a rivalry game, but it is unlikely they have the power to hang with the Vols long. Now Derek Dooley may prove to be one heck of a good hire here. He was fairly successful at Louisiana Tech which is a pretty hard place to win consistently. The Vols play a typical SEC schedule with an out of division date with Alabama.
5. Kentucky: Now this team can have some pretty good years (for KY football) and this year may be one of those. It is not totally out of the question that they could move up as high as three in the division. The win over Louisville helps their case somewhat as does the remaining non conference schedule. It is designed to build confidence. WKU, Akron, or Charleston Southern are not likely to pose much of a problem for the Wildcats. They are lucky also that they miss out of division games with the Hogs and the Crimson Tide. The do face Mississippi State and Auburn out of the West. With a little luck this squad may be able to move into the fourth (and possibly third) spot in the East but I will go with the them finishing fifth. This is their traditional spot.
6. Vanderbilt: Most of the "power" conferences have a Vanderbilt in the league roster. Vanderbilt is an excellent school that can occasionally have a pretty decent team. Just not one that can compete in the SEC. Baylor for the Big XII, Duke in the ACC (in football), and until recently Stanford in the PAC 10 are similar to Vandy. Vanderbilt was the only SEC East team to suffer a loss on opening day when they met up with Northwestern (no longer an also ran) on Saturday. No shame there. Northwestern can be pretty competitive in the Big X, at least in recent years. The remaining non conference schedule is pretty tough by Vandy standards with a date at UCONN and bringing Wake Forest to town. They should be able to prevail against the Eagles of Eastern Michigan. The Commodores do have the a luxury of missing most of the power teams in the West with only a date with the Hogs on Oct 30. If things bounce their way in conference play they may be able to escape the cellar but that is somewhat unlikely. Pick Vandy for the sixth spot in the East.