What seemed likely in the preseason now looks to be even more of a safe bet as Georgia and Florida emerge as the clear top contenders in the SEC East.
The Bulldogs and Gators don’t play for another three and a half weeks, but anticipation is already building for their Oct. 28 showdown in Jacksonville as the teams appear to be on a crash course for a defacto division-deciding duel.
To take stock entering Week 6, Florida (3-0) and Georgia (2-0) are the only SEC East teams still unbeaten in conference play.
The only other team without a losing record on this side of the conference is Kentucky (1-1), which has already lost a potential tiebreaker to Florida. The Wildcats close SEC play against Georgia on Nov. 18.
Meanwhile, South Carolina is 1-2 in the league with its games against Florida and Georgia still to come in November. To have any chance, the Gamecocks likely have to win out, including victories over the Gators and Bulldogs while hoping for a tiebreaker situation. That’s a tall task for a team trying to survive without its top player, injured receiver Deebo Samuel.
Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt are all 0-2 in the conference. The Vols already have lost to Florida and Georgia, so count them out. Vanderbilt could soon be in the same boat, as it lost to the Gators last week and plays the Bulldogs this week. And Missouri, well, the Tigers look to be the worst team in the conference.
Florida and Georgia have work left to do, but the path to the title seems to be clearing in their way.
Florida hosts LSU this week and Texas A&M next week before that anticipated showdown in Jacksonville. Both foes are flawed, but so too are the Gators, who now turn back to redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks after pulling him out of two of his first three starts. Those are both potential losses for Florida, which would certainly alter their odds.
Georgia has an easier road with a visit to Vanderbilt this week and a home game against Missouri the week after before its bye week.
Football coaches loathe the thought of looking ahead on the schedule, but fans certainly can and will.
So unless Florida loses both of these next two games, that annual rivalry showdown with Georgia should have the highest stakes its had in several seasons.
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