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Gamecocks, Team to Beat in East

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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South Carolina should be the new favorite in the SEC East.

South Carolina should be the new favorite in the SEC East.

In an already wide open division, with a notable dearth of, at least proven, talent at the quarterback position, Jake Bentley offers the Gamecocks something they alone have, amongst their divisional peers -- the best player at the most important position.

Not only is Bentley the best quarterback in the division, by miles and miles and miles, at this point, but he might be the only good one.

Granted, this is only a one game sample size, each under varying circumstances, but here are the other five SEC East starting quarterback’s lines from today (Florida didn’t play, but it feels safe to say that their situation would not help any sort of counter argument):

Stephen Johnson, Kentucky (vs. Eastern Kentucky): 15/22, 224 passing yards, 1 TD

Quinten Dormady, Tennessee (vs. Indiana State): 13/18, 194 passing yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt (vs. Alabama A&M): 15/18, 202 passing yards, 4 TDs

Jake Fromm, Georgia (at Notre Dame): 16/29, 141 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Drew Lock, Missouri (vs. South Carolina): 14/32, 245 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs

Hardly awe inspiring.

For whatever Stephen Johnson ends up being, at Kentucky, his offensive line will never allow him to live up to his full potential, and he is not the sort of overbearing talent that can make up for those deficiencies.

Dormady’s poor showing against that level of competition is incalculably problematic for a team that is searching for answers all over the field.

Shurmur was the best quarterback in the SEC East, today, statistically speaking, for whatever that’s worth (nothing). Suffice it to say, that does not bode well for his field general brethren.

Fromm struggled in his first career start, on quite a large stage for such an occasion. His performance is certainly forgivable, and he will end up being a very good, if not great, college quarterback. Until then, though, he is still a true freshman quarterback in the SEC, which puts a clear ceiling on an offense that already has its fair share of holes.

Finally, Lock, who will occasionally put up some mind-boggling numbers, has proven time and time again to be little more than a volume stats guy.

It was clear before the season that South Carolina would be a team that got better as it went, that the offense would have to carry it through the early stages, while the defense found its sea legs.

It’s becoming evermore clear that it have any problems doing so.

Not playing Georgia or Florida until November is key in South Carolina’s division title aspirations.

By that point, if the defense is even marginally better, this squad could be a force to be reckoned with.

Fromm at Georgia’s helm, simply by nature of his being a true freshman, means that the Bulldogs will lose a game or two that they shouldn’t, especially if the playcalling doesn’t improve.

The same could be said for Florida, given its own quarterback problems.

South Carolina, as a whole, may or may not be the best team in the SEC East. South Carolina is not the deepest team in the East. South Carolina does not, and will at no point, have the best defense in the East.

That said, as long as Jake Bentley continues to be the best quarterback in that division, the Gamecocks are the team to beat.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP