The Florida Gators, the current leaders of the SEC East, took a crushing blow earlier this week when starting quarterback Will Grier was suspended for one calendar year after testing positive for PED use.
“I took an over-the-counter supplement that had something in it,” a tearful Grier said during a Monday news conference, per ESPN’s Edward Aschoff. “I did not check with the medical staff before taking it. I hope that people can learn from this, learn from my mistake. I’m really sorry to everyone, just really sorry.”
Grier came into the season locked in a quarterback battle with returning starter Treon Harris before taking command of the starting job before the beginning of SEC play. Grier, a redshirt freshman, experienced growing pains in his first on-field action, but really looked to be coming into his own before news of the suspension hit. He threw for over 200 yards in each of the Gators last three wins, including a 38-10 blowout over the Ole Miss Rebels.
But without Grier, the future is uncertain for the Gators and so is the status of the SEC East.
After the Gators victory over Missouri on Saturday, it appeared the Florida had tight grip on the pole position in the East division, leading expected contenders Georgia and Tennessee by two games with a win over the Volunteers.
By no means does the loss of Grier eliminate Florida from contention. Harris is a dual-threat quarterback with starting experience and the talent to keep everything afloat in Gainesville. The season very well may be decided in the next three weeks for the Gators, as they travel to Death Valley to face LSU followed by a bye week and matchup against the Georgia Bulldogs. But if the Gators do falter without their signal-caller, then chaos is almost sure to ensue.
At frist glance, Georgia looks like the team that stands to gain the most from Grier’s absence. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Bulldogs, who followed up a pummeling by Alabama by blowing a 21-lead against Tennessee and losing their best player, running back Nick Chubb, for the season in the process.
Many were ready to all but count the Bulldogs out of the race, but now they could realistically make it back to the top of the division just as quickly as they fell. If Florida falls to LSU this weekend, Georgia would need a victory over division rival Missouri to set up a Halloween showdown against the Gators for a chance to pull even.
Tennesse and Missouri aren’t to be counted out either. Tennessee owns the head-to-head tiebreak over the Bulldogs and the Tigers will look to gain the same advantage this weekend. However, both teams are on the wrong end of a tiebreak with the Gators.
The wildcard in all this madness is the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky is sitting in second place in the division right now as the only one-loss team in the East, that one loss coming against Florida. There’s obviously a long way for the Wildcats to stay in that position or even move up. Looking at the remaining schedule, it improbable but not impossible for Kentucky to do so. The Wildcats don’t face another team this season that is currently ranked in the Top 25 and have their two toughest games remaining against Mississippi State and Georgia in Lexington.
It didn’t feel right to have a division race seemingly under control in the SEC. As unfortunate as Grier’s suspension is, it’s just the latest example of how mayhem is always right around the corner in college football and especially in the Southeastern Conference.