The SEC East division title is the Georgia Bulldogs’ to lose until further notice.

Georgia has stockpiled a ridiculous amount of talent over the last couple of years. It’s tough to out-scheme elite five-star talent. So until the Bulldogs falter, they’re the kings of the east.

But there are still six other teams in the division. And there’s going to be a team behind Georgia that stands above the rest in 2022.

A lot of national publications think that team will be the Tennessee Vols. I’ve seen the Vols ranked as high as No. 13 in way too early 2022 rankings (The Athletic had UT that high).

ESPN, however, is not one of those national publications.

They don’t even have the Vols ranked in their early top 25 for 2022.

But guess who is…

The South Carolina Gamecocks come in at No. 25 in ESPN’s early top 25.

Yes, the same South Carolina team that Tennessee beat 45-20 last season.

I have no issues with ESPN not hyping Tennessee. And I’m willing to bet that Vols head coach Josh Heupel doesn’t have an issue with it either. Preseason rankings are essentially just for fun — they don’t mean a thing.

I just don’t understand the hype for Shane Beamer and South Carolina. This is a South Carolina team that finished with the same record as Tennessee in 2021 — and they were throttled by the Volunteers.

The only thing that makes any sense is that ESPN loves the addition of Oklahoma transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler.

Rattler is undoubtedly a talented player (he threw for over 3,000 yards in 11 games as a redshirt freshman in 2020). But he was benched last season in favor of a true freshman.

The Vols have the better quarterback situation with Hendon Hooker returning in 2022. Hooker was objectively better in 2021 than Rattler (Hooker’s pass efficiency rating was 182.0, while Rattler’s was 155.0…plus Rattler lost his job). And now Rattler will be playing in a conference with tougher defenses than what he saw while he was at Oklahoma. It’s probably not wise to think he’ll fare better against tougher defenses.

If ESPN doesn’t want to hype Tennessee that’s fine. They have to prove they’re a top 25 team.

But the South Carolina hype is preposterous. Tennessee already proved on the field that they’re better than the Gamecocks.

I guess they’ll have to prove it again this season before ESPN recognizes the Vols as the better program.

Featured image via Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK