Georgia enters the 2020 college football season looking for its fourth consecutive SEC East title. However, Florida has won 21 games and back-to-back New Year's Six bowls under coach Dan Mullen, and the gap between these two teams is minimal going into 2020. The Bulldogs return arguably the nation's best defense and brought in Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman to start at quarterback. The Gators don't have many question marks on offense, but Mullen's team needs more out of its line and has to restock the skill positions. Georgia faces the tougher crossover with the West Division, as a trip to Alabama is on tap in early September. With that in mind, the SEC East is likely to be decided once again in Jacksonville in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, which this year is scheduled for Halloween.
Who should be the early favorite in the SEC East for 2020? That was the question posed to Athlon editors and college football contributors.
Florida or Georgia: Which Team Will Win the SEC East in 2020?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
This is probably the toughest debate of the 2020 preseason prediction process. Right now, I would give a small edge to Florida. Georgia has an edge in overall roster talent and has more five-star prospects on its roster than the Gators. Florida has more continuity on offense with two talented and capable quarterbacks in Kyle Trask and Emory Jones, and the line should take a step forward with four starters back. Head coach Dan Mullen's defense might not be on Georgia's level, but the Gators aren't far behind. The Bulldogs will be breaking in a new offensive coordinator and quarterback and have to restock a standout line. That's a lot of transition in one offseason — especially without a spring practice to work out some of the kinks.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Georgia is breaking in a brand-new quarterback and offensive coordinator and must put together a rebuilt offensive line (and without the benefit of normal spring practice). However, the Bulldogs are the three-time defending SEC East champs for a reason, and there's still a ton of talent on the roster. Kirby Smart is a defensive-minded guy and he gets back eight starters from the nation's third-ranked unit.
Florida has plenty of talent in its own right and more stability under center, but the Gators lost their most productive running back and aren't as proven in other areas, particularly on defense. The annual clash in Jacksonville on Halloween is going to be huge, and Florida has the advantage schedule-wise when it comes to conference crossover games (LSU, at Ole Miss) compared to Georgia (at Alabama, Auburn), but I'm going to side with the current kings of the East for now.
Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
Florida may have more stability on offense, but Georgia is returning most of its dominant defense and will add a dynamic playmaker on offense in Jamie Newman. The Wake Forest graduate transfer quarterback made it to campus in January, so Kirby Smart and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken have had some time to get him up to speed, even if a full summer together would have greatly benefitted the team. With Zamir White, George Pickens, and plenty of young talent, Newman should have no shortage of options on offense. This one likely comes down to the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party on Halloween, and Georgia has won three straight matchups.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
Florida is quickly moving up the SEC pecking order and is in a ripe position to knock Georgia off the pedestal in the SEC East this year. That's not necessarily because the Gators have enough bite to move ahead of Georgia head-to-head, but the schedule is more favorable for Florida. By the time these two SEC East favorites collide in Jacksonville, Georgia will have already faced Alabama in Tuscaloosa and Auburn at home. Florida will get LSU at home, and this won't be last year's LSU. That gives Florida the scheduling advantage, and that could be key this fall in the SEC East race.
Eric Sorenson (@Stitch_Head)
Georgia gets the edge because of what will be a very sound defensive team, with eight returning starters. Plus you know how Kirby Smart is a defensive whiz when he’s got a ton of talent to work with, which he will here. Florida has a few too many holes to fill, especially on defense. Quarterback Kyle Trask is steady at the controls but will need to have some young studs to make immediate strides in the wideout corps. Gimme the Silver Britches in the East.
Nicholas Ian Allen (@NicholasIAllen)
The race between Georgia and Florida might be one of the tightest of any division in college football in 2020. Though neither squad is perfect (I'm a little worried about the Bulldogs on the offensive line and the Gators' struggles in the running game carrying over from last season), both teams are worthy of a spot in the preseason top 10 and are legitimate playoff contenders. If Georgia hadn't landed Jamie Newman (or a similarly talented grad transfer quarterback), Florida would have the edge. But coupled with arguably the best defense in the country, and a forward-looking change at offensive coordinator, the Dawgs should be considered the early favorites.