There’s no other way to say it: The SEC’s Eastern Division is lagging way behind right now.
That’s not to say that South Carolina or Georgia couldn’t get hot down the stretch, win 10-plus games and have a chance to finish in the top 10 nationally.
But if the first half of the season is any indication, it’s more likely that we’re headed toward a repeat of 2010.
Four of the six teams in the East finished with losing overall records last season, and nobody had fewer than five losses overall. The Gamecocks won the division with three conference losses, and what really magnified how down the East was a year ago was the fact that it won only three times all season against Western Division teams.
It’s been a similar story this season.
Already, four of the six teams have at least two conference losses at the midway point. And by this time next week, it’s very possible that four of the teams will have at least three conference losses.
South Carolina’s only loss came to Auburn at home, while Georgia seems to be playing its best football.
Still, the only East team nationally ranked this week is South Carolina at No. 15, and four of the Gamecocks’ five wins have come over East Carolina, Navy, Vanderbilt and Kentucky – four teams with a combined 8-13 record.
South Carolina’s best win came at Georgia the second week of the season, and given the injuries to Florida starting quarterback John Brantley and Tennessee starting quarterback Tyler Bray, it looks like the Gamecocks and the Bulldogs are the two that will battle it out for the East crown.
In reality, the East probably isn’t as weak as it looks, although Kentucky isn’t helping that theory any. The Wildcats have lost their last three games by a combined 137-20 margin.
What’s magnified the East’s troubles as much as anything is the West’s strength. Alabama and LSU are the top two teams in America right now, and Arkansas is also ranked in the top 10 nationally.
Outside of the NFL, it’s hard to find anyone playing as well as the Crimson Tide and Tigers, leading most to believe that the SEC championship game will be nothing more than a coronation for whoever wins on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa.
How did the East get to this point, especially when you consider that the Gators won national championships in 2006 and 2008?
Coaching turnover intertwined with coaching controversy would probably be the best place to start.
Urban Meyer reeled in an army of highly ranked players when he was at Florida, five-star prospects who had all the glitz and even more hype. But Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi might have been onto something when he wrote that Meyer left Will Muschamp a track team and not a football team.
Tennessee has had three head coaches since the 2008 season, and with Bray out, the Vols will be hard-pressed to avoid their third straight season of six or more losses.
The big question hovering at Georgia the last couple of years has been whether Mark Richt was going to make it. He overhauled his defensive staff following the 2009 season, and the climate really turned nasty last season when the Bulldogs suffered through their first losing season since 1996.
It’s probably a stretch to think that the East champion will have three conference losses again this season, but two losses looks about right.
And with the way Alabama and LSU have it rolling right now, it’s hard to peer into the future and see an Eastern Division team winning another SEC title any time soon.
But as we’ve all seen in this league, about the only sure thing is change itself.
The East will cycle back at some point. It just may be a while.