It is said that there are only three sports on the South: football, football recruiting, and spring football. Under that context, I suppose there is definitely room for my 2008 SEC predictions, even though it is March. So without further adieu, here is how I see the East playing out.
Florida is coming off of a subpar year by their lofty standards. They lost four games last year despite being led by Heisman winner Tim Tebow, the first sophomore to ever win the award. However they return him and most of their prolific offense plus more depth at running back with USC transfer Emmanuel Moody. Expect big things again from Urban Meyer's offense. The defense will be a year wiser, and even though Derrick Harvey left for the big bucks, they should be improved. The schedule plays in their favor as well. They get LSU at home, and the toughest road game is at Tennessee. Florida will be better than both these clubs. The most difficult fixture is against Georgia in Jacksonville, and the last time Georgia beat the Gators twice in a row was when Reagan was in the White House.
Prediction: 13-0 BCS Championship Game
Georgia had probably the best ending to the 2007 season out of anyone in the country. The offense was really clicking with Knowshon Moreno ripping off big runs and Matthew Stafford coming in to his own. They showed extremely well on defense by holding high octane offenses Kentucky and Hawaii to just 23 points combined. However I don't see them getting through a tough September game at Arizona State nor the Cocktail Party match with the Gators. I do expect them to win the rest, which include road trips to LSU and Auburn.
Prediction: 10-2 Sugar Bowl
Tennessee won this division a year ago, and they return most of their key players on offense, including the entire offensive line. Defensively they return six starters from the back 7, but lose three from the line. The luxury of being Tennessee allows for them to have good replacements. Jonathon Crompton will be more than adequate at QB for the Vols. I do believe that Tennessee has slipped a notch or two in recent years due to the antiquated coaching tactics of Phillip Fulmer, but this is still a very good team nonetheless. The slate is tough this year, and I expect them to drop three of their first six to Florida, Auburn, and Georgia. These games will battle harden the Vols, who should breeze through the last half of the schedule to end the season on a high note.
Prediction: 9-3 Outback Bowl
A lot of people are writing off Kentucky, especially after they lost so much of their passing game to graduation. Curtis Pulley will add mobility at QB, allowing for the new recieving corps to make adjustments and also for their unusually deep running back unit to do its damage. They also return ten starters on defense. They will not be as good as last year, but their schedule is very favorable because LSU will not get a shot at revenge. I project them going into the Florida game on October 25 with 6-1 record, then dropping four of the last five giving them their third straight winning season.
Prediction: 7-5 Liberty Bowl
We are still waiting for Steve Spurrier to deliver for South Carolina, but they seem to lose a lot of big recruits to Clemson. The QB of the future, Stephen Garcia is suspended until the fall, which will extend his learning curve. They lost Corey Boyd and the top returning reciever Dion Lecorn only caught 27 balls last year. As a result, they won't be able to keep up with the rest of the league most Saturdays, no matter what ball plays Spurrier can draw up.
Vanderbilt will be the same team they always are, which is a team that just lacks the athletes to win in this league. They will play close games, tough defense, and may end up beating one the middle of the road teams. Yet they just don't have the depth to get it done, and will once again fail to qualify for a bowl game.