SEC Eastern Division capsules


Last season: 11-2, 7-1 SEC

Quick hit: If defensive-minded coach Will Muschamp can finally get the offense cranked up, Florida is a legitimate national championship contender.

Duo of note: Florida may have the country's best cornerback duo in Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy, and Purifoy may also play on offense.

They'll win the division if: If they can improve on a passing offense that finished last in the SEC and No. 118 in the country in 2012. The "Fun N Gun" days seem like a distant memory.

They'll come up short if: Florida lost two NFL first-rounders on defense, but has enough overall raw talent to be just as good. But will they develop fast enough?

Must-see game: Florida could be 7-0 (if it beats LSU on the road) when the Gators meet Georgia on Nov. 2 in a game that usually decides the SEC East. It's the beginning of a brutal November stretch, which also includes games against South Carolina and Florida State.


Last season: 12-2, 7-1 SEC

Quick hit: Georgia fell 10 yards short of playing for a national championship last season. The Bulldogs have plenty of holes to fill on defense, but have an all-star cast of skill players on offense for another title run.

Duo of note: By the end of the season, quarterback Aaron Murray could hold many of the SEC's passing records. But Murray was still named third-team preseason All-SEC. Some of that has to do with the quarterbacks ahead of him (Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and A.J. McCarron), and some has to do with the perception that Murray can't win the "big game." … Sophomore linebacker Jordan Jenkins, despite his inexperience (six starts), is considered to be the face of a Georgia defense which has to replaces seven starters.

They'll win the division if: If they can get past a brutal opening stretch against Clemson, South Carolina and LSU. Georgia may have had a cupcake schedule last season, but not this season.

They'll come up short if: Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham can't adjust with all the new faces in his scheme.

Must-see game: Because of Georgia's highly publicized opener at Clemson on Aug. 31, many are overlooking the following week's game against South Carolina, which could decide SEC East supremacy.


Last season: 2-10, 0-8 SEC

Quick hit: Basketball always will reign supreme over football at Kentucky, but first-year coach Mark Stoops has given Wildcats fans a lot to get excited about eight months into the job: He finished strong with this year's recruiting class and had Kentucky off to a historically good start with 2014 prospects. But can Stoop win games? It won't be easy this season against one of the nation's tougher schedules.

Duo of note: Offensive coordinator Neal Brown is installing his pass-happy scheme, but may not have the personnel yet to successfully run the "Air Raid" scheme (40 passes per game). … Raymond Sanders of Stone Mountain is one of the conference's more underrated running backs.

They'll win the division if: Unlikely, and Kentucky may have the country's toughest four-game stretch. Starting Sept. 14, Kentucky plays Louisville, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama — all national-championship contenders.

They'll come up short if: Likely, but Stoops really only has to improve on last season's 2-10 mark. That should be pretty easy with Alabama State, Western Kentucky and Miami of Ohio on the schedule.

Must-see game: Louisville at Kentucky on Sept. 14, which sadly might be toughest game of regular season for the Cardinals.


Last season: 5-7, 2-6 SEC

Quick hit: So much for first impressions. After only one season into the SEC, coach Gary Pinkel already is on the "hot seat." That's hard to believe about the same guy who led Missouri to eight bowl games in 10 years, but joining SEC creates surreal expectations. It was Missouri's first losing season since 2004.

Duo of note: Nobody struggled more with making the SEC transition than quarterback James Franklin. He finished with 10 total touchdowns in a disappointing and injury-riddled season after scoring 36 the season before. … New offensive coordinator Josh Henson has to find more touches for wide receiver Dorial Beckham-Green, who was ranked as nation's No. 1 prospect in 2012 by Rivals.

They'll win the division if: Unlikely, but they could threaten with an upset here or there. Few people remember that Missouri played the SEC's second-toughest schedule last year and nearly upset Florida and Vanderbilt.

They'll come up short if: If Missouri can't be more competitive. Last year's six SEC losses were by an average of 19.2 points.

Must-see game: Missouri could be 4-0 when it plays at Vanderbilt on Oct. 5, and the outcome is fork in the road for Tigers.

South Carolina

Last season: 11-2, 6-2 SEC

Quick hit: Coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons while returning college football's best defender, coach Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks may have their best chance (or his last chance) at winning South Carolina's first SEC championship.

Duo of note: Georgia coach Mark Richt stated defensive end Jadaveon Clowney was better than anyone in the NFL right now, which was a laughable statement. Maybe the Georgia coach was playing mind games? However, Clowney is a Heisman candidate who may be the No. 1 pick in the next NFL draft. … QB Connor Shaw, when he can stay healthy, is the type of mobile playmaker that gives Alabama-like defenses fits.

They'll win the division if: If they can develop a big playmaker on defense other than Clowney after losing their top four tacklers from last season. Clowney can't be everywhere on every play.

They'll come up short if: If they can't capitalize on not having to play Alabama or LSU this year after all the whining from Spurrier about schedules.

Must-see game: South Carolina at Georgia on Sept. 7. Will the Gamecocks beat Georgia for the fourth season in a row?


Last season: 5-7, 1-7 SEC

Quick hit: The honeymoon period may be over for coach Butch Jones as Tennessee opens the season with five of its first eight games against teams that finished last season ranked in the top 10. Jones created astronomical expectations among Volunteers fans because of his enormous early success with recruiting.

Duo of note: Tennessee's offensive line, led by former North Gwinnett High standout Ja'Wuan James, may be the SEC's best, with a combined 123 starts.But who will be behind that line? Freshman Joshua Dobbs from Alpharetta is one of four contenders fighting to be the starting quarterback.

They'll win the division if: Unlikely because it's too soon. Jones will need a year or two with his own players to repair damage Derek Dooley's mess.

They'll come up short if: Likely, and if Tennessee doesn't make a bowl game or loses to Vanderbilt, Jones will lose some of his magic on the recruiting trail. There's a lot of pressure on former UGA assistant John Jancek (defensive coordinator) to rebuild the SEC's worst defense.

Must-see game: Vanderbilt at Tennessee on Nov. 23. Getting blown out by Vanderbilt last year still stings with most Tennessee fans.


Last season: 9-4, 5-3 SEC

Quick hit: Coach James Franklin is one of the country's hotter names after taking Vanderbilt to new levels. Last season, the Commodores made back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in school history and finished ranked for the first time since 1948. Can Vanderbilt improve on that? Or are they maxed out?

Duo of note: Roswell's Chris Boyd combines with Jordan Matthews to form one of the nation's better receiving tandems. They have a new quarterback throwing to them: Austyn Carta-Samuels, a transfer who passed for 3,655 yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in two seasons at Wyoming.

They'll win the division if: Unlikely, but success would be either upsetting a ranked team or winning 10 games in a season. If Vanderbilt is to continue the historic rise, it must take advantage of this veteran group because 13-plus starters leave after this season.

They'll come up short if: If they can't adequately replace three of four starters on the defensive line, which separates the SEC from the rest of college football.

Must-see game: Vanderbilt at Tennessee on Nov. 23. The Commodores blasted their in-state rival last year. Either team will salvage the season with a win here.