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Frenette: Gators biggest obstacle to win SEC East is COVID-19, not Georgia

Gene Frenette
Florida Times-Union
Georgia's offensive line vs. Florida's defensive line at the line of scrimmage in annual grudge match at TIAA Bank Field.

While many people have serious doubts about whether a full college football season will be played, the newly revamped 10-game Southeastern Conference schedule doesn’t change my perspective on Florida being able to end Georgia’s three-year reign atop the SEC East division.

Some view UF’s new crossover opponent, Texas A&M on the road (October 10), as a bigger impediment to a division crown, while Georgia did catch a break in adding SEC West weaklings Arkansas and Mississippi State.

However, it doesn’t mean the Georgia schedule lacks punch. Coach Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs  have a rugged October stretch that starts with Auburn (October 3) and Tennessee (October 10), followed by back-to-back road games against Alabama and Kentucky. UF has no away games in consecutive weeks.

Barring the Gators losing multiple high-impact players to COVID-19 opt-outs – receiver Trevon Grimes and top defensive end Zachary Taylor have debunked speculation on social media and plan to return -- there’s still plenty of reason to think UF can unseat the Bulldogs.

Florida has a more stable quarterback situation with the underrated Kyle Trask, plus four returning starters on the offensive line. Georgia is trying to decide between five scholarship quarterbacks, including freshman Carson Beck from Mandarin High, though Smart is expected to choose between Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman and USC transfer JT Daniels.

A lot will depend on how much Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator Todd Monken, a former Jaguars' receivers coach, can invigorate a unit that had far more experience in 2019 and still finished only fifth in the SEC in scoring and total yards.

Looking at the new schedule, there’s no clear advantage for Georgia or Florida, so the SEC East will likely be decided by their November 7 showdown at TIAA Bank Field.

In Year 3 with coach Dan Mullen, the Gators have a distinct edge over Georgia at quarterback and the offensive line, where they return three senior starters. The biggest obstacle to Florida winning the SEC East might be staying healthy through COVID-19, not Georgia.