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SEC mailbag: Tide will miss Mosley

9/30/2011

Anybody out there have any strong opinions on anything regarding SEC football?

Any probing questions?

I’m here for you in this week’s mailbag:

Kris in Huntsville, Ala., writes: How much will not having C.J. Mosley hurt Alabama against Florida with the Gators so good at getting the ball to Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps out of the backfield?

Chris Low: It’s a major blow for the Alabama defense. Mosley was the Crimson Tide’s best coverage linebacker and had the speed and cover skills to stick with fast guys. When he got hurt last week in the Arkansas game, Alabama used a couple of different players to fill Mosley’s various roles, including Dont’a Hightower. The Crimson Tide would prefer to have Hightower rushing on third down, so junior Nico Johnson will fill in for Mosley this week. True freshman Trey DePriest and redshirt freshman Adrian Hubbard were also pressed into action last week against the Hogs. Containing Rainey and Demps out of the backfield will be a key for Alabama, and you can bet that Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has a few things up his sleeve to try and create some mismatches for both players. If the Gators are going to win this game, they’re going to need to hit a couple of big plays. The Crimson Tide are simply too good defensively to take the ball and drive it on them for 10, 11 and 12 plays for touchdowns. Of course, as soon as you say that, you look at the stats and realize that Alabama has only given up four plays this season of 20 yards or longer, and all four were passes. The Crimson Tide are one of eight FBS teams that hasn’t allowed a rushing play of 20 yards or longer this season. And in 104 attempts, Alabama has allowed only three rushes of 10 yards or longer, which leads the country. In other words, the Crimson Tide don’t give up many big plays, either. So we’ll see what, if anything, gives Saturday night in the Swamp.


Michael in Yigo, Guam writes: Why can’t Mississippi State be consistent with anything?

Chris Low: First of all, Michael, what’s the time difference in Guam? Hope all is well in your part of the world. As for the Bulldogs, their main problem right now is that they’re playing in the Western Division, which is without question the toughest division in all of college football. Alabama and LSU are both top 3 teams. Arkansas still has a chance to be a top 10 team, and Auburn is the defending national champion. I know it’s frustrating Mississippi State hasn’t been able to break through in the West, but I thought last season’s 9-4 finish was an excellent showing for the program. There were big expectations for this season, which makes the two early SEC losses to Auburn and LSU even more disappointing. The Bulldogs are hurting right now in their offensive line, and that’s been a problem. It’s hurt their consistency. Still, let’s see how Saturday’s game at Georgia plays out, and really, the whole season plays out before we kick this one to the curb. Given the current landscape in the West, there’s no shame in winning eight or nine games again.


Chad in Ridgeland, Miss., writes: Chris, lots of discussion about a 14th member. Why do you think there is no discussion about expanding into Florida, UCF or USF, or even in Texas with TCU. I like West Virginia and Louisville. But I'm still wondering why Florida is so protected. Even Georgia Tech should be an option. I guess it depends on who wants it the most and who is the best option. What do you think?

Chris Low: I think cold, hard cash is the driving force behind all this expansion. That’s what I think, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The SEC jumped at the opportunity to add Texas A&M because of all those households and all those potential television viewers in the state of Texas, a nice bargaining chip when the television contracts are renegotiated. Plus, you’re taking your brand to an entirely different part of the country and bringing in a whole different group of fans. With Florida, the SEC already has a strong foothold in the state of Florida. I don’t see that South Florida or Central Florida would help you any. Obviously, Florida State would, but I still think it’s doubtful any of the ACC schools are going to leave. Now, if a Florida State or Virginia Tech reached out to the SEC, you can bet that the SEC would be very interested. To me, Virginia Tech makes the most sense. Once again, you’re broadening your horizons as a conference with a new state, new group of fans and you’re also getting a perennial top 20 football school that’s not too far away from a major television market -– Washington, D.C. I wouldn’t rule out TCU, and I still think West Virginia is in play. I also think Missouri will stay put in the Big 12.


Steve in Bixby, Okla., writes: Why isn't the SEC interested in Oklahoma to join its conference? OU would be a great addition to help solidify the power of the SEC. Texas A&M is going to be the Iowa State of the SEC, not bringing much in the way of tough competition.

Chris Low: Steve, I think it’s the other way around. The question is: Why isn’t Oklahoma interested in joining the SEC? The SEC would love to have the Sooners and made a play for them last year when it looked like the Big 12 might not survive. Also, you’re being a little harsh on the Aggies, aren’t you? Something says they’ll offer a little more to the SEC than the Cyclones have to the Big 12, at least in football.


Kevin in Columbia, S.C., writes: I understand the Gamecocks haven’t blown out opponents by 50 points like people expected with offensive weapons like Jeffery and Lattimore. However, they are still 4-0 and 2-0 in the SEC and getting no respect from the media. We beat Georgia on the road. Florida hasn't seen a difficult opponent yet, and all of sudden, you guys are right back on the bandwagon. You guys said how good Vanderbilt was coming into Columbia. But when we beat them 21-3, that wasn't enough. I know it's still Vandy, but you were the guys hyping them up ... not us. I just find it frustrating how the media glorifies Florida, Texas, Georgia, etc., even when they don't deserve it.

Chris Low: Actually, I have a ton of respect for what Steve Spurrier and that staff have done in Columbia, raising the talent level and raising expectations to the point where simply getting by against lesser talented teams isn’t enough. South Carolina hasn’t played its best football yet, and I can assure you that the Head Ball Coach isn’t real thrilled by the way his team is playing right now. He sees the bigger picture and knows the Gamecocks will have to be better in all phases if they’re going to get back to the SEC championship game and have a chance to win it. The frustrating thing with this team is that it hasn’t played up to its talent level yet, but there is something to be said for finding ways to win games. And the Gamecocks have done that this season. Maybe this week is when they turn it on. As for the respect factor, they’re going to get plenty of chances to move up in the SEC power rankings. But to this point, they simply haven’t played like they’re one of the top four teams in the league.


Boyd in Montgomery, Ala., writes: Since Jordan Jefferson has been reinstated, do you think it might be wise and better for the team in the long run if Miles asked Jordan to take a redshirt year to allow Jordan an opportunity to fully deal with his off-the-field problems and cut down on team distractions?

Chris Low: The thing about redshirting a player is that you don’t have to make that decision until the end of the season. I’d say the first thing that will happen is that LSU coach Les Miles and the strength and conditioning staff will assess what kind of football shape Jefferson is in. Keep in mind that he hasn’t been practicing with the team during his suspension. Four weeks is a long time to be away, especially when you’re a quarterback and so much of what makes a successful passing game go is timing. Jefferson is also more of a running threat than Jarrett Lee, so it could be that the Tigers use Jefferson situationally these next few weeks. To me, if LSU has made it this far dealing with everything it had to deal with to start the season, then the Tigers aren’t going to be fazed by Jefferson’s return to the team. Both Lee and Jefferson are seniors, and they both know what's at stake this season. I’d be surprised if either one of them let anything get in the way of team goals at this point. I also think the Tigers will need them both somewhere along the way if they’re going to win a national title.


Forrest in Joplin, Mo., writes: If Auburn's Barrett Trotter's performance against South Carolina is terrible, what are the chances we'll get to see Kiehl Frazier take over at quarterback? If he's the future of Auburn football, would it hurt to have him at least share the role?

Chris Low: Honestly, Trotter has been the least of Auburn’s worries to this point. He doesn’t play defense, hasn’t missed any tackles and hasn’t been beaten on any long passes. Trotter is fourth in the SEC in pass efficiency and has thrown eight touchdowns passes and only three interceptions. He’s also averaging just under 200 passing yards per game. He’s played solid football for the Tigers, although I think they’re still searching for what their identity is offensively. All that said, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is committed to getting Frazier into the game more and expanding his role on offense. I think you’re going to start seeing more of him and not just in the Wildcat formation.