East Division best and worst case scenarios for 2015
Best Case: 8-4. Jim Mc-Elwain’s arrival in Gainesville leads to an offensive revival and the Gators start the season with five straight wins. Losses to Missouri and Georgia prevent them from winning the SEC East, but Florida improves on its win total from a season ago and shows promising signs for the future.
Worst Case: 5-7. Florida still can’t find any offense and the youthfulness of the roster takes its toll in close games. Back-to-back home losses to Tennessee and Ole Miss spoil a good start to the year. McElwain fails to win a rivalry game in his inaugural season as head coach.
Best Case: 11-1. The Bulldogs cruise through an easy September schedule and win a season-defining game against Alabama on Oct. 3. Mark Richt’s squad follows that win up with two victories over Tennessee and Missouri and lock up the SEC East before Halloween. A loss on the road at Auburn is avenged in the SEC Championship Game, and Georgia makes the College Football Playoffs.
Worst Case: 8-4. While Georgia is loaded at pretty much every position, quarterback is not one of them. The ‘Dawgs can’t find a reliable signal caller and lose to Alabama and Te-nnessee in consecutive weeks. Two late losses to rivals Auburn and Georgia Tech land Richt on the hot seat.
Best Case: 7-5. A couple of great recruiting classes in a row start to pay off for Mark Stoops and the Wildcats reach a bowl game for the first time in his tenure. Kentucky finishes the season with a home win over in-state rival Louisville and the ‘Cats secure their first winning season since 2009.
Worst Case: 4-8. Three straight conference losses in September send the season spiraling out of control, and the Wildcats can’t recover in time to qualify for bowl eligibility. A conference win over Vanderbilt keeps Kentucky out of last place in the East but the Wildcats take a step backward overall.
Best Case: 10-2. The Tigers take advantage of perhaps the easiest schedule in the SEC en route to a third straight appearance in the SEC title game. Despite losing to Georgia and Arkansas, Missouri wins the rest of its regular season games to once again shock the rest of the division.
Worst Case: 7-5. Gary Pinkel’s team can’t duplicate the magic from the previous two years and the Tigers stumble to a 7-5 season. Mizzou relied heavily on a veteran front seven and strong receiving corps in 2014 and lost several key contributors at those positions. Maty Mauk struggles without perimeter weapons and the Tigers lose several close games.
Best Case: 8-4. After a difficult and disappointing 2014 season, the Gamecocks respond by drastically improving. The defense makes major improvements and Steve Spurrier finds a reliable quarterback to run his complicated offense. Spurrier’s team is young but finishes the season with home wins over Florida and Clemson.
Worst Case: 5-7. Spurrier spent the offseason constantly reminding everyone that the Gamecocks would still be relevant in the East and how his age shouldn’t be a concern. If South Carolina can’t fix the defensive woes that ailed it last season, the program might take another step backward in 2015.
Best Case: 10-2. An early-season home win over Oklahoma gives the young Vols the confidence they need to win the SEC East for the first time since 2007. Tennessee also knocks off Florida for the first time in a decade, and a midseason home win over Georgia serves as the East division tiebreaker. The Volunteers lose to Auburn in the SEC title game, but it’s a major step forward for a program that’s been dormant for several years.
Worst Case: 7-5. Tennessee has as much hype as any team in the East Division entering the season, and much of that is based off of a young roster that finished last year on a very positive note. The Vols are still young, however, and the first half of the schedule is among the most difficult in all of college football. If it can’t beat Oklahoma and Florida, seven wins are probably the most that Butch Jones’ team can reach this year.
Best Case: 3-9. It would be shocking if the Commodores won a conference game this season. Derek Mason is 0-8 in SEC play and his team is again the worst in the league. A late-season home game against Kentucky is the only semi-winnable conference game for the ‘Dores, but it’s still a long shot.
Worst Case: 1-11. It’s certainly not a guarantee that Vanderbilt wins its non-conference games. The Commodores travel to Houston and Middle Tennessee State, and both teams are capable of beating Vandy. Games against Austin Peay and Western Kentucky should be victories, but the Commodores cannot take any team for granted this season.