I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas. Here’s an SEC mailbag to tide you over until next Monday:
Rachel in Nashville, Tenn., writes: All I want for Christmas … You guys may not understand what you’re doing, so I will give you a heads-up: You are ruining the national championship game. An obvious Bama fan, I don’t feel like I did when I first found out we’d be playing for another championship. Why? Because no one can mention the game without feeling the need to include “rematch” or “playing again.” Trust me, everyone knows these teams met in the regular season! There’s no need to “preface” the national championship game! The team doesn’t deserve it, and the fan base and city of Tuscaloosa don’t, either. As the SEC bloggers, please stop before it’s too late. At the very least, ease up.
Chris Low: I can’t promise you I will never use “rematch” again when writing or talking about the Allstate BCS National Championship Game. After all, it is the first time ever that we’ve had a “do-over” in the national title game, so it’s certainly unique. But I will write myself a mental note that some Alabama fans are sensitive about the fact that the Crimson Tide are catching heat because they’re getting another shot at LSU after losing the first time on their home field. But, hey, facts are facts. It doesn’t diminish the title game, in my mind. If anything, it underscores the respect the SEC now receives nationally. It didn’t used to always be that way. I’ve said over and over again that the two best teams in college football are playing on Jan. 9 for the national title, and that’s the way it should be. There aren’t any rules in the BCS preventing “do-overs.” There also aren’t any rules saying you have to win your conference championship to be eligible. We could argue all day about whether there should be. At the end of the day, things fell just right for the Crimson Tide this season, and now, Alabama gets to prove in the Big Easy that it’s the best team in the country. My advice is to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Josh in Greenville, S.C., writes: After seeing what happened with Ohio State, what do you guess the NCAA will do to the Gamecocks in February? Do you see them being as harsh as they were with Ohio State?
Chris Low: One thing I've learned is to never guess when it comes to the NCAA. Every case is different, and there’s not a lot of consistency when you look back over the different penalties that have been handed out over the years. That said, I would be very surprised if South Carolina received a postseason ban. The Gamecocks have already self-imposed six scholarship cuts over three years. My guess (and I’m breaking my own rule) is that the NCAA will accept those cuts and the probationary period South Carolina has proposed. Keep in mind that former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel was a prominent part of the Buckeyes’ case, which is the reason he’s no longer there. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was not linked to any of the Gamecocks’ wrongdoing.
Randy in Gainesville, Fla., writes: Fantastic article on Coach Richt. Great guy. So great that our church in GAINESVILLE, FLA. (yes, Gator Country) has invited him to speak. We hope with great anticipation that he accepts.
Chris Low: Thanks, Randy. Coach Richt is indeed a class act and a credit to his profession. Maybe he will accept if his schedule allows. He never really gets to visit Gainesville with the Florida-Georgia game being played in Jacksonville every year.
David in Jacksonville, N.C., writes: Will there be no East/West realignment? Will the East have the current six and the new West have eight?
Chris Low: No, Missouri will play in the East, and Texas A&M will play in the West, giving each division seven teams. There’s still going to be just eight conference games, and SEC commissioner Mike Slive says there’s been no discussion about going to nine conference games. What that means is that teams will play all six teams in their own division and then two more from the other division. You’ll continue to see traditional rivalry games between teams from different divisions played on an annual basis. For example, the Alabama –Tennessee game and Auburn-Georgia game will still be played every year. The other thing to keep in mind is that the 2012 schedule that comes out next week is just a one-year deal.
James in Dallas, Texas writes: You left out Courtney Gardner, who signed with Arkansas. He’s the top junior college wide receiver in the country.
Chris Low: I didn’t have him on my list of SEC junior college signees earlier this week for a couple of reasons. At this point, he’s only committed and has yet to sign. He also said when he committed to the Hogs that he planned on taking at least one more visit and maybe two more. He said he would take his scheduled visit to Florida State on Jan. 13 and could also end up visiting Florida. The 6-2, 215-pound Gardner would be a big catch for the Hogs, who are going to need to replenish their receiving corps. They’re also in it for Dorial Green-Beckham, who’s rated by ESPN as the country’s top high school receiving prospect.
Connie in Mobile, Ala., writes: Chris, what were your favorite moments this season in the SEC, the plays, the players and the memories that will stick out?
Chris Low: You’ve given me a whole column idea. Right there at the top would be the play LSU’s Eric Reid made on the goal line where he took the ball away from Alabama tight end Michael Williams for an interception. There’s no doubt in my mind that Alabama wins that game if Reid doesn’t wrestle the ball away from Williams in midair. My saddest moment was hearing of the passing of legendary Georgia broadcaster Larry Munson. The best way I can explain his greatness is that it was as much fun to be driving down the road and listening to his call on the radio as it was to be watching the game live. The funniest moment was hearing LSU coach Les Miles describe how he was run over by fullback J.C. Copeland as the Tigers came stampeding onto the field for the Alabama game. I don’t know which punt return was better – Joe Adams’ 60-yard return for a touchdown against Tennessee or Tyrann Mathieu’s 47-yard return against Georgia in the SEC championship game to set up a touchdown. Between them, they made about 15 defenders miss. And, finally, my proudest moment was getting to the Florida-Georgia game without hitting any traffic. The secret is simple – leave your hotel at least five hours before kickoff.