The top three teams in the eastern division of college Football's Southeastern Conference in 2016 will likely be the same as it was in 2015. The projected pecking order for this year is:

  • 1) Tennessee
  • 2) Georgia
  • 3) Florida 

The teams ranked lower are covered in a previous article.

3) Florida   

The Gators played in the SEC Championship game last year, losing to eventual conference -- and national -- champion, Alabama (29-15).

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After a 6-0 start, Florida lost starting quarterback Will Grier for the season. A failed NCAA drug test revealed he had taken a banned supplement and he was suspended for a year. The Gators offensive production the final eight games (4-4) was only half that before.

Grier transferred out after the suspension but it appears his replacement has been found. Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio, a red-shirt sophomore and heavy favorite to win the job. He is a good fit for McElwain's offense. He performed well in the Spring game going 10 for 11 passing for 176 yards, 2 TD's and no interceptions.

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Also, as is usual, Florida has a group of very capable receivers. 

Defense ranked 8th nationally

Though the players the defense lost this year (Bullard, Hargreaves, etc.) are exceptional, the guys coming back are as well. While likely not top ten nationally, they definitely look top 25 or better. As long as Florida gets the quarterback play, this team may look a lot more like the one that started last season 6-0 than the guys who finished 4-4. 

2) Georgia

In 15 years, Mark Richt never finished a season lower than third in the SEC eastern division. Georgia likely wont go through the nightmare UT did when they replaced a proven winner at head coach simply because Georgia did a much better job of it.

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But for now, everybody is happy. Georgia fans are happy, Miami fans are happy and Mark Richt should be happy. 

As for the team this year, with 13 returning starters back, there aren't a lot of holes to fill. On offense, Greyson Lambert -- and his 10-2 starting record -- is the way to go as they bring the nation's number one recruit Jacob Eason, up to speed.

Jim Chaney an exceptional hire by Kirby Smart

They will remain a power-run team but Chaney is creative working with quarterbacks and getting the most out of what he has -- which will be a lot. Defensively, Georgia finished ranked number seven nationally. While they are rebuilding the front seven, two significant factors are working for them.

They have a lot of players who have playing experience and their head coach is one of the best defensive minds in the game. 

1) Tennessee

19 starters return from a team that went 9-4, however, they don't know how to win close games. Whichever way you want to look at it, you are still looking at last year. New year equals a more experienced team and experience is big in college football. Tennessee averaged 35 points scoring a game last year.

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Most impressive was the 223 yards a game rushing. However, the passing game only averaged 199. Quarterback Josh Dobbs is an amazing athlete who's scrambling and running is superb. If he can just get his passing accuracy a bit more consistent he will likely be a champion this year. 

Expect the defense to be more aggressive -- and improved -- with new coordinator Bob Shoop. The Vols gave up only 20 points per game last year playing bend-but-don't-break.

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Shoop's defenses are anything but that. Tennessee SEC East has all the pieces to win the east this year. If they can stay reasonably healthy, they should get to Atlanta in December. 

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