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TRips: SEC East thoughts revisited

Revisiting three predictions for the SEC East in 2012.

The South Carolina defense got the best of Murray and UGA once again, but it wasn't enough to get the Gamecocks to Atlanta.

South Carolina will beat Georgia but the Bulldogs will represent the East in Atlanta ... again

TRips: July 20, 2012: And Stephen Orr Spurrier will lose what's left of his mind.

When it happens, Spurrier's idea of placing more importance on divisional games in the race to the SEC Championship Game will turn into a full-fledged crusade. Heck, he might even skip a golf weekend at his vacation home in Crescent Beach, Fla., to push his agenda.

Like a season ago, the Gamecocks have a couple of Western Division heavyweights -- LSU and Arkansas -- on their schedule, while the Bulldogs will once again miss Alabama, LSU and Arkansas in the regular season. After a navigable September, here's the gauntlet Spurrier's team will face beginning in October: Georgia, at LSU, at Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas.

That has Outback Bowl written all over it.

As for the meeting with Georgia, even without 2012 NFL first-round picks Stephon Gilmore and Melvin Ingram, the South Carolina defense, led by defensive ends Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney, will harass Aaron Murray for 60 minutes.

Georgia won't be able to run and Murray won't be able to hide. In the grand scheme of things, though, it won't matter. UGA will head to Atlanta and Spurrier, who holds a 14-5 edge over the Dawgs as a head coach, will be at his sound byte best.

How it actually played out: As expected, South Carolina handled UGA, who couldn't protect Murray from the Gamecocks' pass rush. A few weeks later, the Bulldogs eased past UF and into the SEC Championship Game. And yes, the Gamecocks are indeed headed to the Outback Bowl.

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray will lead the SEC in passing yards.

TRips: July 20, 2012: Basically, the Tennessee offense will be what the Arkansas offense was in 2011. While the running game will be improved (how could it not be?), the Vols will go as far as Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers take them.

That's assuming, of course, that Hunter's return from a knee injury doesn't hit a snag and T.O.-in-training Rogers doesn't go Dez Bryant. As for Bray, he lights up inferior defenses like Keith Richards does Marlboro Reds, but can he do it against the likes of Alabama and Georgia?

How it actually played out: The Vols running game did improve, jumping from the 90 yards per game it averaged in 2011 to 160 in 2012. But that didn't keep Bray from leading the conference in passing yards (3,612) -- or UT from repeating its 5-7 mark from a year ago.

In being dismissed from the team prior to the start of his junior season, Rogers did Bryant -- whose Oklahoma State career came to an end one month into his junior campaign -- one better. Rogers landed at Tennessee Tech, where he caught 61 passes for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns before announcing his intentions to enter the 2013 NFL Draft.

The impact of Rogers' departure was lessened by the emergence of junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson, who accounted for 1,757 all purposes yards and 10 total touchdowns in 2012.

As for Bray's numbers against Georgia and Alabama, he was anything but efficient in UT losses to the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide, completing 54 percent of his passes for 465 yards and two touchdowns with five interceptions.

Now the question is will Bray, Patterson and/or Hunter, who caught 73 passes for 1,083 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, return for the start of the Butch Jones era in Knoxville or will they go pro?

Florida will field another top 10 nationally-ranked defense

TRips: July 20, 2012:That's right, I'm buying Will Muschamp. Well, on the defensive side of the ball, at least. Lost amid UF's offensive struggles a season ago was a Gator defense that ranked eighth nationally (299.5 yards per game).

And they'll do it again this season.

While the 2012 Gator D won't be especially deep, it will boast at least one All-SEC caliber performer at each level. There are some question marks on the perimeter as outside linebacker Ronald Powell attempts to expedite his return from an ACL tear sustained in early April.

Still, with defensive linemen Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley freeing up a talented linebacker corps to make plays, Florida should be extremely stout up the middle. The defense will give the Gators a chance in every game this season, leaving it up to a still-evolving offense to do enough to win them.

TRips: July 20, 2012: As the centerpiece for a team that went 11-1 in the regular season, the UF defense improved three spots from a year ago, checking in fifth nationally after allowing 283.4 yards per game.

As predicted, the Gators served up All-SEC selections in their front seven and secondary as Floyd and safety Matt Elam were first-team selections and linebacker Jon Bostic (coaches) and cornerback Marcus Roberson (Associated Press) were named to the second team.

Now comes the hard part for Muschamp, who will spend the next month sweating out NFL Draft decisions by underclassmen Floyd, Easley and Elam.

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