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Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Take Two: East contenders and pretenders

By Edward Aschoff

This week, we're looking at three SEC schools -- Florida, Georgia and South Carolina -- that are trying to get over the hump and bring an SEC championship home in 2013.

We have already hit Florida and Georgia, and we'll tackle South Carolina Friday. In the meantime, we thought we'd take a look at all three schools and see if they really are contenders or merely pretenders to make it to the SEC championship in Atlanta.

We're using our "Take Two" format to express our feelings toward all three of the top teams in the SEC East heading into the spring.

I'm a gentleman, and I respect my elders, so I'll let Chris go first:

Take 1: Chris Low

Muschamp
Can Will Muschamp and the Gators keep their momentum after an 11-win season?
FLORIDA

Pretender: Will Muschamp and that Florida staff deserve serious props for getting to 11 wins last season despite having very little margin for error. As good as the Gators should be on defense again this season, it’s difficult to see them improving enough on offense to get to Atlanta. They won a ton of close games a year ago. Those odds turn against them in 2013, especially playing four of five games away from home in October and November.

GEORGIA

Contender: While most people are fixated on what Georgia lost on defense, there are more than enough talented players on that side of the ball just waiting for their shot. And when you score the way the Bulldogs should on offense next season with so much firepower returning, you can give up some points and still win. Getting LSU and South Carolina at home is key.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Contender: The Gamecocks have been right there each of the past three seasons, including a trip to Atlanta in 2010. They should again have one of the top defensive lines in the SEC, and it’s always nice to have two quarterbacks who have proven they can get it done in clutch situations. Their league schedule also appears to be more manageable in 2013.

Take 2: Edward Aschoff

FLORIDA

Contender: The Gators have some major offensive issues to repair, but this is the first time Florida has had the same offensive coordinator for two straight years since the Urban Meyer days. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease says he’s more comfortable tweaking things in order to help a more confident Jeff Driskel. The defense is younger, but constant rotation last year has these younger pups ready to step in this fall.

GEORIGA

Pretender: The offense should be fantastic, but the defense is going to look brand new with 12 players gone who either started or saw significant time. While this team could be scary to face late in the season, the Dawgs must play at Clemson and host both South Carolina and LSU before October even arrives. I fear the defense will take too long to really grow.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Contender: The Gamecocks lose the two-deep at linebacker and have to find someone to replace rangy safety D.J. Swearinger, but that defensive line should be dangerous again, especially with Jadeveon Clowney back. The offense should be pretty balanced with two solid quarterback options and some talented backs to work with, starting with sophomore Mike Davis. Plus, South Carolina spends all of November at home.