Heading into Week One of the 2022 season, Georgia leads the way as the most oft-predicted SEC East Division champion. And I can't think of a scenario where the prediction doesn't become reality. But, it's hard to count out Kentucky and Tennessee to at least make things interesting. The only way the Bulldogs don't make it back to Atlanta is if the defense doesn't show out and the offense stalls under Stetson Bennett. The offensive firepower of a few East Division teams will keep some of these games closer than last season. Georgia's first SEC test is against South Carolina in Week Three. 1. Georgia We all know that the SEC East runs through Athens, but acting like this defense will be anything like last season would be foolish. They're going to have to prove it. Led by Nolan Smith, Kelee Ringo and Robert Beal - who led the team in sacks. A consistent Stetson Bennett is key for Georgia, who has Adonai Mitchell and Ladd McConkey at receiver. The Bulldogs had the luxury of relying on one of the best running back groups and will now need Kendal Milton and Kenny Mcintosh to carry the load. Having Brock Bowers as a downfield weapon can't be understated for Stetson Bennett. Bowers, a tight end, looks to build upon a fantastic freshman season. The Dawgs will play Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky in November. So if an upset is coming, it might not happen until late in the season.
Plenty Of Weapons In Tennessee
Can't Buy The Kentucky Hype
3. Kentucky I want to believe the hype around Kentucky and Mark Stoops. Coming off a successful 2021 season, the Wildcats had to replace Wan'Dale Robinson, who turned heads with his playmaking ability. The status of Chris Rodriquez in the first three games has me worried about their Week Two trip to Gainesville. Kentucky has Will Levis to lead them at quarterback, but will need more than his legs to win games. Don't get me wrong, he can sling it, but I worry about the talent at wide receiver. If the defense can continue improving, this will be a dogfight with Tennessee for second place. Get back to me after week two in Gainesville. 4. Florida
Bottom Half Of The East Division
5. South Carolina Bring on the Spencer Rattler era. I am fully onboard to see what the Gamecocks can put together in 2022 with this offense, along with Austin Stogner at tight end. What worries me is long-term defensive production, especially playing Arkansas and Georgia in back-to back weeks. South Carolina will surprise folks this year, but not enough to be in play for a division title. I am not down on this team and think they could battle Florida. But, head coach Shane Beamer needs to prove he can continue building, which I think he can. Don't sleep on the Gamecocks knocking off a few unsuspecting teams.
6. Missouri Eli Drinkwitz needs to figure this thing out pretty quick. Naming Brady Cook the starting quarterback is a nice start, but having to replace Tyler Badie will be a tall task. The schedule doesn't do them any favors and the trip to Kansas State in Week Two could be an early loss. They've got work to do on defense, which was the common theme in 2021. Sadly, I don't see it getting much better in 2022. 7. Vanderbilt Credit the Commodores for going on the road and beating up Hawaii. They saw the opportunity to put their foot on the throat and didn't let up. I enjoy watching Mike Wright scramble and make plays with his feet down the field. After their all-but-certain upcoming win against Elon, they play Wake Forest and Northern Illinois. Then Vandy enters SEC play. The over/under on wins this season was 2.5 and I am certainly taking the over. If they can go 3-1 in September, this would be a fantastic start for Clark Lea's second year. Here is what Glen Guilbeau thinks about the SEC East Division.
Stay tuned to OutKick for our SEC West predictions, coming Wednesday.