Co-written by Nathan Odom
This week on Rocky Topics, Sam Forman and Nathan Odom debate whether or not Tennessee will win the SEC East in 2015.
Forman: Will Tennessee win the East in 2015? Simply put- yes. There are several reasons why they will win the East. First, Tennessee brings back 10 starters on offense and as much talent if not more than any other team in the East. Second, the East was nothing short of horrendous last year, and the Vols finished with more momentum than anyone else in the East. Joshua Dobbs comes back and will have more starting experience than anyone else starting under center. Plus, UT will have more veteran leadership on the field in 2015.
Odom: Sam, I respect what Tennessee has to offer, but I have two words for you: Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia has beaten Tennessee five consecutive times and will return many key pieces to a team that should have won the SEC East this year. The Bulldogs have four returning offensive lineman, a strong front seven and several members of the secondary in what should be a veteran defense. Although they lose fifth-year senior quarterback Hutson Mason, Georgia fans will likely see Brice Ramsey ,the third ranked pro-style quarterback in his recruiting class, under center. Oh, and don’t forget about backfield monster Nick Chubb. Georgia is in prime position to take the SEC East crown in the 2015-2016 season.
Forman: I will give you that Georgia should have won the SEC East last year, but we are talking about 2015, and that is the year of the Vols. Georgia will have several key players coming back – true – and Chubb was definitely impressive last year as well. However, the Vols and the Bulldogs will both have new offensive coordinaters next season. Tennessee will have a veteran starter and no real competition for the starting job, and that will aid the Vols. I will even go as far as to say the East will be between Tennessee and Georgia next year, but you can give me anyone on UGA’s roster, and the Vols can match him if not beat him. You mentioned Nick Chubb. Let me remind you UT has a beast of their own named Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara that will join him in the back field next year. Lastly, Georgia still didn’t add any depth to the wide receiver group whose inability to stay healthy has been an Achilles heel for the last two seasons.
Odom: You would take Jalen Hurd over potential Heisman candidate Nick Chubb, who seemed to match, if not outplay at times, his predecessor Todd Gurley, a Heisman candidate as well? But I digress. Georgia has a favorable conference schedule on the potential road to Atlanta. They host some of their toughest games between the hedges in Athens: Alabama, reigning SEC East champion Missouri and talent-laden Florida all have to play in front of roughly 92,000 screaming Bulldog fans. They are 28-4 in Sanford Stadium in the past five seasons and will use that advantage to notch big conference wins.
Forman: First, the only reason Hurd did not out play Chubb this year is the quality of the offensive lines in front of them. Tennessee’s offensive line struggled more than almost any other in the country last year, a problem they will not have in 2015, so yes I will take Hurd. Second, Tennessee has the more favorable schedule. The Vols get a boost with not having to play UAB and getting Bowling Green in Nashville instead. Plus, Oklahoma, South Carolina and the Georgia Bulldogs will be at home in the house that Neyland built with 102,455 screaming fans. The Vols will have to travel to the Swamp to play Florida and Bryant-Denny Stadium to play Alabama,Tennessee’s biggest road test. The Vols have almost beaten the Gators in their last two meetings, and Alabama is the only game I will say Tennessee probably won’t win in 2015.
Odom: Although I do agree that Tennessee’s schedule is more favorable than it has been the past few years, some tough games at Missouri, Alabama, and in the Swamp will hurt the Vols’ chances at a trip to Atlanta in December. Georgia hasn’t been scared of playing in Neyland the past few years- winning the past two games there. If it comes down to the Tennessee-Georgia game to decide who is crowned SEC East champion, I like Georgia. The Vols are on their way back, but I’ll say it’s at least one more year before Tennessee returns to Atlanta.
Edited by Maggie Jones