Why is the East so bad, and why is Tennessee the most serious threat to Georgia?
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has watched college football in a decade, right? The SEC is going to rule the recruiting roost for another year. Two days prior to Signing Day, six of the top 13 teams nationally come from the SEC. The issue for Tennessee: they’re the sixth team in that group, and only the second SEC East representative out of the top 19 teams.
As usual, it’s possible to have a pretty good recruiting class and still barely finish in the top half of the SEC. That’s life in the best conference in America on a yearly basis. In literally any other conference, Tennessee’s 13th-ranked class would be a top three showing, including second in both the Pac-12 and Big 12. This is how it goes.
More importantly, note that out of those six teams, four reside in the SEC West. All four are in the top ten nationally. Georgia is a recruiting hotbed for everyone, and Tennessee is Tennessee. I still can’t figure out why Jim McElwain can’t recruit, but that’s a thing.
A more accurate reading of the conference would use a four-year rolling average based on player ratings from 247 Sports. Here’s how Tennessee stacks up to their conference, and here’s why the East is so bad. This doesn’t include attrition yet, as that takes a rather long time to calculate. SEC East teams are italicized.
- Alabama (93.24)
- Georgia (91.18)
- LSU (90.63)
- Auburn (89.52)
- Texas A&M (89.27)
- Tennessee (88.79)
- Florida (88.51)
- Ole Miss (87.98)
- Mississippi State (86.48)
- South Carolina (86.00)
- Arkansas (85.91)
- Kentucky (85.12)
- Missouri (85.04)
- Vanderbilt (83.88)
Up to 2012, Florida was the most talented team in the SEC based off of a four-year average. They’re now seventh and rapidly falling, though I think this is probably their floor. Most notable, however, is that four of the bottom five recruiters in the SEC come from the East.
You can call it coaching, poor location, whatever: this is why the East is terrible. Ten years ago, the East had four of the top nine teams nationally on its own. Now, it has two of the top 19 nationally. Florida ranks behind Maryland. Is this not utterly insane?
Worse, the East still had three of the top five in recruiting up to 2012. Now, they’ve barely got three in the top seven, and Florida is a real candidate to make that two. If you’re left wondering why the SEC East champion will be a smoldering pile of ashes in Atlanta in December, this is why.
Tennessee’s in an incredible spot to make this a two-horse race with Georgia for the next five years. I think McElwain’s a great in-game coach, but the dwindling talent at Florida is disastrous for his future. South Carolina’s there, but…not really. None of UK, Missouri, or Vandy are winning an East title in the next decade. Cold take me on that one if you want.
Tennessee is best positioned to be the most serious threat to Georgia’s reign. It’s almost by default, but if the talent on the team can be coached up to its potential, they can continue to make Georgia the most disappointing school in the East for another few years.