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5 Thoughts - Florida Is The Class Of The East

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Sep 26, 2011


5 Thoughts - The non-conference games don't matter. It's time for league play. No it's on to the Alabama showdown


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5 Thoughts, Sept. 26 

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Past Thoughts  2010 5 Thoughts | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3

- Fiutak: The bias against Boise State
- Cirminiello: Oregon is back to being Oregon 
- Zemek: The incredible flopping punter
- Sallee: Florida is the class of the East
- Fiutak: Non-conference games are overrated    

By Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

Last November, after Florida had suffered through seven conference games with a woefully tragic offense, the Gators hosted South Carolina in what was the de facto SEC East championship game. The Gators lost by 22 points that night, but despite the comedy of errors that littered the 2010 season, Florida was still a mere 60 minutes from taking the SEC East crown.

After four games, it’s clear that the Gators are poised to make a legitimate run at the SEC East title in head coach Will Muschamp’s first year at the helm. Not only can they make a run, they should be the favorite.

So what has changed this year?

Let’s start with the defending division champs. The Gamecocks still suffer from a one-dimensional offense and have a woefully inconsistent quarterback in Stephen Garcia. It seems strange to say that the South Carolina offense is all Marcus Lattimore considering that Alshon Jeffery is the best wide receiver in the country, but that’s where the Gamecocks are at this point. Stop Lattimore, and you stop South Carolina. It was true last season, and it is true again this season.

Sure, South Carolina’s defense is lights out, but Garcia is going to do his best to try and give games away. If he plays like he did the last few weeks, that will happen two or three times once South Carolina gets into some meatier competition. You know it, and I know it.

For South Carolina, nothing has changed, and that’s the problem.

Meanwhile, in Gainesville, new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has transformed Florida from offensive punch line to offensive power in just one offseason. With an average of 462 yards per game, the Gators have the most potent offense in the SEC. Sure, the majority of that offense was amassed against Florida’s typical early season cakewalk, but that’s not an excuse if you look deeper into the numbers..

Consider Florida’s start to 2010. Against similarly weak competition, Florida averaged 355 yards per game through four games - 107 yards fewer than this season. Again, a reminder, this same Florida team - which got worse on offense before it got better after its first four games of 2010 - was within 60 minutes of playing for the SEC Championship.

With the rest of the SEC East either still re-building or going backwards, this race will come down to Florida and South Carolina. If we’re judging on each team’s body of work in 2011 (which we should), Florida should be the odds on favorite to win the division.
  
- Fiutak: The bias against Boise State
- Cirminiello: Oregon is back to being Oregon 
- Zemek: The incredible flopping punter
- Sallee: Florida is the class of the East
- Fiutak: Non-conference games are overrated