Things changed in the SEC East suddenly on Sunday afternoon. Tennessee went from a slight favorite to win the division in 2016 to the overwhelming favorite.
Wait for SEC Media Days for the media to pick their favorite if you want, but there’s no reason for Tennessee fans not to expect to be in the SEC Championship Game in 2016 after Georgia fired coach Mark Richt.
Tennessee’s fan base was hopeful for a trip to Atlanta in 2016. Now they should be certain.
The already weak SEC East should be even weaker with one of its annual powers in a rebuilding year. Sure, a new coach could reinvigorate the Bulldogs, but if history is any indication, the transition will take its toll.
Look at Florida. Sure, the Gators made it to the SEC Championship Game, but that was almost by default. Tennessee blew its chance to beat its archrival. Georgia was down for much of the season. The rest of the SEC East was awful.
Florida’s weaknesses have been exposed. The Gators have struggled down the stretch. There’s a reason teams make coaching changes. It’s usually because things aren’t going well.
Tennessee will host Florida in 2016. Given the way the two teams have played over the past month, there’s no reason the Vols shouldn’t end that losing streak. The Gators should also be without quarterback Will Grier, who will still be serving his one-year suspension.
With Georgia and South Carolina both undergoing coaching changes, the Vols are in prime position to win the East for the first time since 2007.
The way Tennessee has played as of late provides even more reason why Volunteer fans may want to book rooms in Atlanta for the first weekend in December of next year. Tennessee’s coaches have been aggressive and a step ahead of the competition during the Vols’ five-game winning streak.
Moreover, Tennessee’s key players performed well down the stretch. They’ll have another year of development under their belt. It’s time for expectations to be ratcheted up a notch.
Tennessee may even top Georgia before that. The Vols are already battling Georgia for some top prospects. A coaching change should only help the Vols as they try to land those prospects.
Here are some of the notables:
- 5-star defensive lineman Derek Brown from Lanier High School (Buford, Ga)
- 4-star offensive tackle Landon Dickerson from South Caldwell (Hudson, N.C.)
- 5-star athlete Mecole Hardman from Elbert County High School (Elberton, Ga.)
- 4-star safety Nigel Warrior from Peachtree Ridge High School (Suwanee, Ga.)
- What went wrong for Mark Richt at Georgia
- What does Mark Richt news mean for Jacob Eason?
- UGA moves ‘all about Kirby Smart’
- Richt’s firing confirms what many believed: It was time for a change
- Leading candidates to replace Richt at Georgia
- Current UGA players react to end of the Mark Richt era
- Richt’s former players ‘surprised’ by the news
- National media reacts to Mark Richt being ousted at UGA
- Mark Richt couldn’t deliver, and now he’s out
- Jeremy Pruitt with recruit Mecole Hardman when news broke
- UGA commits react to the firing of Mark Richt