The mailbag is making a return this week. Three weeks in and things are really heating up in the SEC.
Something big is supposedly going down in Tuscaloosa, Ala., this weekend and Columbia, S.C., should have some sort of event that should be pretty fun as well. And Morgantown, W. Va., will be rocking when the Bayou Bengals come to town.
Oh, and expansion has bogged everyone’s mind since, well, the summer. Stay tuned next week and maybe Wisconsin will be interested in joining the SEC West.
We might as well get to the questions now:
Jesse Sewell in Columbia, S.C. writes: Christian Fauria put Marcus Lattimore at the top of his Heisman list. Is this a trend or just a reaction to watching him run over Navy? As the SEC beat writer/blogger do you feel the stage gives Lattimore an undue advantage over potentially better candidates? Kellen Moore it seems is slipping onto the back page now that his team is taking on lesser teams. Landry Jones is in a similar position as he gets into the meat of his schedule. Would like to see you do a Heisman Race update and highlight the games that will make or break the frontrunners. Thanks for all your great work. JS
Edward Aschoff: I think Lattimore deserves to be near, if not at the top of the Heisman list. He leads the nation in rushing attempts (87) and yards (534). He leads the country, averaging 178 yards a game and he also has seven touchdowns. Lattimore certainly showed up in South Carolina’s toughest game when he carried the ball 27 times for 176 yards and had a crucial fourth-quarter touchdown in a nail-biting win against Georgia. Last week against Navy, the Gamecocks might not win without the legs of Lattimore. He carried the ball 37 times for 246 yards and three scores. Right now, it doesn’t look like he can be stopped and you might not think the talent South Carolina has played to this point has been great, but the Gamecocks haven’t really looked like the East frontrunners they entered the season as and without Lattimore, things might not have gone so well through three weeks.
JT Burke Pittsburgh, Pa., writes: Complex problem, simple solution. Could we please end this realignment shenanigans once and for all? Mizzou, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma to the SEC West with LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, and Arkansas. The SEC East would be UGA, Florida, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, South Cackalacky (Carolina), Tennessee, and Alabama. The SEC Championship game could rotate between the Superdome, Georgia Dome, EverBank Field, and Cowboys Stadium. The balance would be fair and rivalries would be kept intact.
Edward Aschoff: Well that was a lot to process. Listen, I would love nothing more than for all of this to end. It really is like an episode of "Jersey Shore." Actually, it might be worse because there aren’t any blowouts. One minute this team is coming here and that team is going there, but nothing is really concrete. Is the Pac-12 really done with expansion? Probably not, but kudos for the people over there deciding on not letting Texas push them around. As for the SEC, I still think Texas A&M makes it over before the 2012 season, but I don’t see the SEC getting Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. First of all, I don’t think OU would really want any part of the SEC and I don’t think the SEC is keen on Oklahoma State. You can’t have one without the other. The Big 12 seems stable now, but it sounds like Missouri hasn’t completely ruled out leaving and having the SEC as a possible destination. Oh, and you aren’t moving the SEC championship game from the Georgia Dome. That place is locked up through the 2017 season.
Dave C. in Columbia, S.C. writes: West Virginia would seem to be a perfect fit with the SEC Eastern Division - both geographically and in play of game. Why aren't they getting any SEC loving? P.S. Plus, Auburn could stay in the West, thus avoiding the awkward possibility of playing twice in a row at the end of the season.
Edward Aschoff: Another expansion question? Will it ever end? This is like the incredibly lame act of planking! I kid, Dave. I kid because I love. The West Virginia talk really heated up during the past two weeks, but reports surfaced recently that the SEC rejected West Virginia. Charles Bloom of the SEC said that Texas A&M remains the only school the conference has reached out to. Honestly, I think the SEC has better options. West Virginia’s football and basketball programs are good and would add to those sports, but I think the SEC wants to stretch out somewhere that will also help the conference outside of just the major sports. You would only get part of the Pittsburgh and Northeast markets with West Virginia. A school like Missouri gives you the St. Louis and Kansas City markets, plus you bring in another AAU member. Even a Virginia Tech (despite the many hurdles the SEC and Virginia Tech would have to go through to join) would be a better option. You’d get the D.C. market and the Virginia recruiting area. If the SEC expands to 14 in the near future, I think West Virginia is on the outside.
Tim in Alexandria, La., writes: Do you think LSU's defense essentially playing two deep at every position has minimized their risk to injury? To my knowledge, outside of cramps, LSU has been fortunate not to have experienced a major injury on that side of the ball that usually has an impact on any teams national championship aspirations.
Edward Aschoff: That team stays fresh out on the field because of the talent in the two-deep. You are right about that. And with the way this team flies around and just crashes into folks, you’d think there would be more injuries. But this team is in tip-top shape and its ability to rotate guys in and out on defense is a major advantage. Just look at true freshman Anthony Johnson. He’s been all over the field and looks like one of the most disruptive young defensive tackles in the league. LSU doesn’t really rebuild on defense, it reloads. Maybe there is something in the grass down there …
Derek in Caddo Gap, Ark., writes: Aschoff say's Hogs gonna lose to Bama. LOL. Had Auburn and Bama down last year with a terrible defense and no running game. Now we have a defense and can run some. What is he thinking? Going on the road is more difficult than home games but man... the players have tuff road games all the time in SEC. Road games are way overrated. Roll HOGS!!!!
Edward Aschoff: I love the confidence. You’re right, Arkansas does have the talent to not only compete but beat Alabama this weekend. I won’t argue about that one bit. However, the running game has to be way more consistent. Not having Knile Davis has really shown through three games. Ronnie Wingo Jr. looked good in the past couple of weeks, but this is his first REAL test of the season. Can that offensive line that is missing three starters from a year ago hold up against Alabama’s linebackers? Remember, Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower said he and the rest of the defense are going to go after freshman tackle Mitch Smothers Saturday. I hope he’s ready. I have to go with defense in this one and while I really like Arkansas’, Alabama’s is just old-school nasty. Plus, that home crowd is going to make a difference and help the Tide.
Jonathan in Atlanta, Ga., writes: I know they lost a lot of talent, but Kentucky seems to have taken a major step backwards when it comes to execution and coaching. They have looked about as bad as any SEC team I have ever seen -- this year's Ole Miss team being close behind. How much patience will the UK administration have with Joker?
Edward Aschoff: I thought Kentucky would struggle without playmakers like Randall Cobb, Mike Hartline, Derek Locke and Chris Matthews, but I didn’t think it would look like this. The Wildcats are 11th in the league in total offense (274.7 yards per game) and are tied for 100th nationally in scoring (19.3). This team has seen injuries hurt its offensive line, but Phillips isn’t using that as an excuse. He has said the execution has been awful so far and I think this team is lucky to be 2-1. Freshman Josh Clemons has been fun to watch at running back, but he needs help. Raymond Sanders came in as the starter, but he’s been average at best so far. And don’t get me started on a passing game riddled with drops and miscommunication. The one bright spot is the defensive improvement, but Kentucky has to get the offense going or the postseason might not happen. If this team doesn’t make it to a bowl game, I think Phillips starts to feel a lot of heat in Lexington.