Weeks ago, we were all whining about how weak the SEC Eastern Division was.
Heck, we still are.
But no matter how average the East is this year, especially compared to the West, things have worked out to where we will have a very exciting afternoon of football on that side of the conference Saturday afternoon.
Georgia is riding a five-game conference winning streak, after being left on the side of the road for dead following two losses to open the season. And Arkansas' win over then-East leader South Carolina over the weekend gave the Gamecocks two conference losses to Georgia's one.
(I can only imagine all the Hog calling in Athens, Ga., Saturday night.)
Georgia is now 5-1 in league play, while South Carolina is 5-2. Georgia's only SEC loss came at the hands of South Carolina, so the Gamecocks own the tiebreaker if it comes down to that.
“I know that the players all understand what is at stake and that we are in a better position now and do control our destiny,” Richt said. “We have been fighting like mad for that ever since the moment South Carolina beat us. The thing that has gotten us this far on a weekly basis is just trying to take care of business. That has to be our focus -- for every man to do his job starting tomorrow and not waiting until Saturday. Everybody has a job to do. We have to focus on that, and focus on the process. We feel like good things will happen if we do.”
Now, we have quite the day ahead of us. Saturday, South Carolina will finish up SEC play by hosting Florida at noon ET. Three hours later, Georgia will host Auburn "Between the Hedges." So, sometime during the Georgia game, word will trickle into Sanford Stadium about what exactly the Bulldogs have to do.
If South Carolina and Georgia both win, then we'll have to wait for the outcome of the Georgia-Kentucky game next week to determine the winner. Obviously, Georgia would need to win to advance.
A South Carolina win and a Georgia loss, gives the Gamecocks the division. While a South Carolina loss and a Georgia win sends the Bulldogs to Atlanta, no matter what happens next week against Kentucky.
Did you get all of that?
Neither team has been great this season, but no matter how they've played up until this point, Saturday should be pretty fun.
For South Carolina, you have to believe that if the Gamecocks don't make it back to Atlanta, there will be a lot of reflection about plays not made here or there. The little things cost them against Auburn at home, and right when it looked like the offense was getting things together against Arkansas, the defense was picked apart by the Razorbacks' passing game.
This week, the Gamecocks will take on a Florida team that has stumbled through 2011, but could be dangerous this weekend. A healthy John Brantley can make a play or two against South Carolina's defense, and Florida's defense has the talent to frustrate the Gamecocks when they have the ball. But can the Gators put a complete game together for the first time since September? That remains to be seen.
South Carolina has the defensive playmakers to make Florida's day miserable on the offense and the player are there on offense to score points on the Gators, they just have to be more consistent.
But you have to wonder about the mindset of this Gamecocks team. South Carolina controlled its own destiny until its trip to Fayetteville, Ark., and now has to keep an eye on Georgia's game with Auburn.
The best thing about Saturday for the Gamecocks is that they play first. A win puts all the pressure on Georgia.
"We know where we are," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "We gotta hope Auburn beats Georgia and we gotta beat Florida. Simple as that. We can win the division next week. Auburn's a pretty good team and they'll be ready for Georgia. We'll be ready for Florida."
Auburn is a pretty tricky team and with a week to rest, Georgia will get the Tigers' best. Plus, you have to think about where this team's head will be once it finds out what happened with South Carolina. How will this team react if it trots out onto the field and sees that South Carolina has beaten Florida? That absolutely puts Georgia in a must-win situation.
We snickered at the East for most of the season, and we still are to an extent, but that won't keep us from tuning in to what should be an intriguing day on the forgotten side of the SEC.