Team; SEC; Overall
Missouri; 2-0; 6-0
South Carolina; 3-1; 5-1
Florida; 3-1; 4-2
Georgia; 3-1; 4-2
Tennessee; 0-2; 3-3
Vanderbilt; 0-3; 3-3
Kentucky; 0-3; 1-5
SATURDAY’S EAST GAMES
Georgia at Vanderbilt, noon, CBS
South Carolina at Tennessee, noon, ESPN
Florida at Missouri, 12:21 p.m., WPCH
A week after Georgia’s loss to Missouri complicated and expanded the race for the SEC East title, the battle resumes Saturday with three intra-division games.
For the East’s four contenders, the day will begin with one of them unbeaten (Missouri), three of them once-beaten in league play (Georgia, Florida and South Carolina), two without their starting quarterbacks (Missouri and Florida), and one without its three best receivers and likely its two best tailbacks (Georgia).
And there’s still half a season to play.
Saturday’s games — Florida at Missouri, Georgia at Vanderbilt and South Carolina at Tennessee — could again re-route the road to representing the East in the SEC Championship game in the Georgia Dome on Dec. 7.
At this point, Missouri and Florida control their own route, meaning they can get to the Dome without help from anyone else. Georgia and South Carolina would need a bit of help. Georgia holds the tiebreaker over South Carolina. Missouri holds it over Georgia. Florida hasn’t played any of the three other contenders yet.
Before things get any more tangled, here’s a midseason accounting of the crowd fighting for the top of the East:
MISSOURI (6-0, 2-0)
SEC games remaining (6): Saturday vs. Florida, Oct. 26 vs. South Carolina, Nov. 2 vs. Tennessee, Nov. 9 at Kentucky, Nov. 23 at Ole Miss, Nov. 30 vs. Texas A&M.
State of the team: Missouri has won as many SEC games this season as all of last season, the Tigers' first in the league. But the momentum of last week's 41-26 victory at Georgia is mitigated by the loss of starting quarterback James Franklin to a separated shoulder suffered in that game.
Simplest route to Atlanta: The Tigers are assured of reaching the Georgia Dome if they defeat Florida and South Carolina and lose no more than one of their other games.
Biggest obstacle: They'll be without Franklin for the next three to five games. Redshirt freshman backup quarterback Maty Mauk's first start comes against Florida's stellar defense and his second against South Carolina.
Coach speak: "Honestly, I don't look at the standings," Gary Pinkel said. "I'm just focused on Florida. I started looking at film of them on Sunday, and there's no time to look at the standings."
FLORIDA (4-2, 3-1)
SEC games remaining (4): Saturday at Missouri, Nov. 2 vs. Georgia (Jacksonville, Fla.), Nov. 9 vs. Vanderbilt, Nov. 16 at South Carolina.
State of the team: Florida has the best defense among the four contenders, allowing only 13 points per game. But the Gators have the worst offense, ranking 11th in the SEC in both rushing and passing, and are quarterbacked by longtime backup Tyler Murphy.
Simplest route to Atlanta: Having not yet played any of the other three contenders, Florida can assure itself a berth in the Georgia Dome by sweeping those games — all away from Gainesville — and beating Vanderbilt.
Biggest obstacle: The Gators have lost five starters to season-ending injuries — quarterback Jeff Driskel (leg), tailback Matt Jones (knee), wide receiver Andre Debose (knee), offensive tackle Chaz Green (shoulder) and defensive lineman Dominique Easley (knee).
Coach speak: "We've got to create more explosive plays offensively in both running and throwing the ball," Will Muschamp said.
GEORGIA (4-2, 3-1)
SEC games remaining (4): Saturday at Vanderbilt, Nov. 2 vs. Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.), Nov. 16 at Auburn, Nov. 23 vs. Kentucky.
State of the team: Even without receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley, both out for the season with torn knee ligaments, the offense should thrive if tailback Todd Gurley and receiver Michael Bennett return productively from injuries. But defense and special teams are big concerns.
Simplest route to Atlanta: If Georgia wins its four remaining SEC games and Missouri loses two of its six, the Bulldogs will be in the conference title game for the third consecutive season.
Biggest obstacle: A defense that ranks 96th among major-college teams against the pass and 97th against third-down conversions.
Coach speak: "It might be who can handle the adversity the best," Mark Richt said of the division race. "Who can find a way to win? Who can fight and scratch? And who can, you know, figure out a way? That's probably what it's going to come down to."
SOUTH CAROLINA (5-1, 3-1)
SEC games remaining (4): Saturday at Tennessee, Oct. 26 at Missouri, Nov. 2 vs. Mississippi State, Nov. 16 vs. Florida.
State of the team: South Carolina is the division's most balanced team, ranking third in the 14-team SEC in defense (despite the inconsistent play of end Jadeveon Clowney) and fourth in offense (because of the consistent play of quarterback Connor Shaw and tailback Mike Davis). And the Gamecocks are the healthiest of the East contenders, having dodged a scare when Shaw returned to action one week after what initially appeared to be a serious shoulder injury.
Simplest route to Atlanta: After failing to reach the SEC title game despite beating Georgia each of the past two seasons, the Gamecocks will reach the title game despite losing to Georgia this season if they win all of their remaining conference games and the Bulldogs lose one of theirs.
Biggest obstacle: To set up a huge game against Florida in Columbia, the Gamecocks need to avoid a loss in a stretch of three consecutive road games that started with last week's rout of Arkansas and continues at Tennessee and Missouri.
Coach speak: "Right now we're in good shape. The thing is, can we continue?" Steve Spurrier said after the Arkansas game. "We're back with a chance."
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