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SEC East's problems could affect College Football Playoff

SEC East's problems could affect College Football Playoff
Florida quarterback Treon Harris has been reinstated by team after a student withdrew her allegations of sexual battery against the freshman backup. (Joe Robbins / Getty Images)

Have you noticed this year how fewer people are addressing the Southeastern Conference as the SEC?

It is now simply the SEC West. A great league's power has been consolidated and marginalized.

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The SEC West is college football's best division, with four ranked teams in the top seven of this week's Associated Press media poll.

The SEC East is like the Kardashians. The East was underperforming in football before facing a host of other ancillary, off-field issues.

Vanderbilt lost to Temple, Missouri lost at home to Indiana but did beat South Carolina, which defeated Georgia, which appears headed for a train wreck.

Long lost Florida (3-1) finally had cheer to spread last week after it came back to beat Tennessee, 10-9, in Knoxville.

The cheering stopped when it was announced Monday that Treon Harris, the freshman backup quarterback who rescued the Gators against the Volunteers, had been suspended as authorities investigated a sexual assault allegation.

Harris was reinstated Friday but will not play Saturday against Louisiana State.

"This has been a learning experience for everyone involved," said Florida Coach Will Muschamp.

As the Harris distraction was unfolding, two other Florida players got into a fight, reportedly over a missing pair of cleats. Backup quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg ended up with a busted lip after a run-in with defensive lineman Gerald Willis.

"Nobody stole anything," Muschamp said. "If anybody stole anything, they wouldn't be on this team anymore."

The coach likened the "misunderstanding" to a sibling spat. "Me and my brother, Mike, used to fight all the time," he said. "That's the way it goes in families."

Florida's may need counseling.

The SEC East took another hit Thursday when Georgia suspended star tailback Todd Gurley as it investigates allegations he may have taken $400 for signing memorabilia.

Gurley is the backbone of the Bulldogs' offense and had just moved to the top of some midseason Heisman Trophy lists.

The SEC West and East are separate divisions but also interconnected in the larger scheme. A weakened and damaged East could affect the conference and the College Football Playoff.

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Georgia (4-1, 2-1) at Missouri (4-1, 1-0) on Saturday has a different subtext without Gurley, one of the nation's top-five players.

And what becomes of Florida?

Harris was suspended just hours after it appeared he might be the answer to an awful offense. Muschamp will hand the offense back to struggling Jeff Driskel for the game against LSU.

"Jeff's a tough young man," Muschamp said. "He's resilient…. he understands the situation. He needs to play better."

Dysfunction in the SEC East resonates in all directions.

Georgia plays West power Auburn on Nov. 15. If Gurley isn't back, it will provide Auburn a huge advantage in a game it might need to make the four-team playoff.

Georgia played three games last year when Gurley was injured, and lost two of them.

Gurley figured to be a huge weapon against Missouri, which has one of the SEC's weaker run defenses. Indiana, in its upset win Sept. 20, gashed Missouri for 241 yards and three touchdowns.

Florida plays Missouri and Georgia in the coming weeks and ends the regular season against Florida State. Schools in the playoff chase are hoping Florida can act as spoiler against the top-ranked Seminoles.

Others hope the SEC East can produce a champion worthy of upsetting the West in the conference title game.

The big question as the SEC West rolls on is whether the SEC East can hold on.

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