- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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I’ll do by my best to answer your questions, although my answers may not always be what you want to hear.
But I do aim to be honest.
With that, let’s see what’s in the SEC mailbag this week:
Keith in Maryland writes: Since Georgia and South Carolina really haven’t played any formidable foes yet, what kind of game do you expect between them? A high-octane or a defensive struggle?
Chris Low: I’d say Georgia has been tested a little more than South Carolina. The Bulldogs had to play at Missouri the second week of the season in a tough atmosphere. Remember, that was Missouri’s first-ever SEC game, and the place was rocking. Also, Tennessee is the real deal on offense and going to score points on a lot of people this season, so that wasn’t a picnic last week against the Vols. The Gamecocks just haven’t run up against any offenses this season capable of testing them. Nonetheless, I still think South Carolina is excellent on defense and will prevent Georgia from making a lot of the big plays it’s been torching teams with this season. I really don’t see a shootout in this game. I know it was a 45-42 game last season, and I know the Bulldogs gave up 44 points last week to Tennessee. But the Bulldogs will be better this second game with all of their players back (Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo). I also think both defensive lines are good enough to get off the field in key situations. To me, it comes down to which offensive line plays the best, and I bet you’ll see the Gamecocks do a few new things with quarterback Connor Shaw.
Josh in Altoona, Pa., writes: Hey, love the blog. I had two questions, both dealing with scheduling. My first is whether the SEC is going to reconfigure the schedules next year to make room for Arkansas and South Carolina changing inter-divisional rivals or if they'll just shoehorn the replacements into the place of the old game? In that case, do I just switch the home-away schedule of a team this year to get an approximation of next year's schedule? My second question is about the possibility of the SEC moving to a nine game schedule at some point in the future, which I hear is inevitable.
Chris Low: This year’s schedule was just a one-time deal. The plan was to start the new rotation next year, although it’s not a given that will happen. But going forward, some of the teams will have new cross-divisional rivals (South Carolina-Texas A&M and Arkansas-Missouri). The details are still being worked out as to when all this will go into effect. It does look like a few teams will be making return road trips again next season to play cross-divisional games similar to Mississippi State playing at Kentucky this season for the second straight year. My take on a nine-game league schedule has changed. I used to think there was no way it would happen. But with the national playoff coming in 2014 and strength of schedule being more important than ever before, there’s some momentum in the SEC to explore the idea of playing nine conference games. The hard part will be convincing teams like Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky to go along with it. All three have in-state rivals they play every year out of conference. However it shakes out, let’s hope the elite teams in the league continue to go out and play marquee nonconference games similar to Alabama-Michigan this season and LSU-Oregon last season.
Nick in San Antonio, Texas, writes: Why are there no props given to the Aggie defense? We are giving up an average of 4.6 yards per game. Alabama’s at 4.4 and South Carolina at 4.3. We’re No. 1 in the SEC in third-down defense, No.1 in red-zone defense and No. 3 in scoring defense. You can call it bend don’t break all you want, but the defense’s job is prevent points and get off the field on third down. Texas A&M is accomplishing that with the best of them.
Chris Low: My first thought would be because Texas A&M has been so explosive on offense and that the Aggies’ offense has sort of stolen the show with “Johnny Football” running around and making plays. That said, I had a chance to see Texas A&M’s defense in person against Florida, and I was very impressed with the front seven and the way the Aggies get after the passer. Damontre Moore has been my Breakout Player of the Year in the SEC to this point. They’ve also held their own in the secondary, which was a concern coming in. But bigger tests await down the road. All in all, I’m a believer and think this is a much more complete football team than anybody (including me) gave the Aggies credit for back in August.
Christian in Hattiesburg, Miss., writes: The SEC has five teams in the top10. The last remaining hopes for the country are Notre Dame, Florida State, West Virginia and Oregon. If those teams go down, which is a big possibility, and a team like LSU or South Carolina loses only one game to someone like Alabama or Georgia, is it possible to see another SEC national championship game?
Chris Low: I wouldn’t count out a one-loss USC team climbing back into the national title picture, either, even though the Trojans looked shaky in the early part of that Utah game on Thursday. If all the teams you mentioned do lose a game, it’s certainly possible that we could have another all-SEC title game. I wouldn’t call it a probability, though, not after all the grumbling about seeing two SEC teams in the final last season. One potential scenario could be an unbeaten Alabama team meeting an unbeaten Florida, Georgia or South Carolina team in the SEC championship game. Would the loser of that game, especially if it’s a close loss, be able to hang on and claim the No. 2 spot in the final BCS standings? I just don’t see an Eastern Division team getting to the SEC championship game unbeaten. Georgia probably has the best chance, particularly if the Bulldogs can win this weekend at South Carolina. I don’t think you count out LSU, either. We’ll find out a lot more about the Tigers this weekend in the Swamp. But if they win there and can find some firepower on offense, it could really get interesting. It always is in this league.
BeardoMSU in Starkville, Miss., writes: How do you like our chances to finally get to 10 wins this year? Also, what’s with all the Dee Milliner love from ESPN? He’s a “poor man’s” Johnthan Banks, at best.
Chris Low: If the Bulldogs are 7-0 going into that Alabama game, I’m predicting nine wins in the regular season with a chance at 10 wins in the bowl game. It’s still hard for me to see that far ahead with the Bulldogs because I want to see them be more consistent and not just squeak by lesser opponents. The Tennessee game on Oct. 13 will be a pivotal contest. Maybe this is simply a team that plays best in the big games. Mississippi State’s most impressive performance this season was the win over Auburn in Week 2. You don’t need to sell me on Banks. He’s a super player who’s been making plays ever since he was a freshman. He has great instincts, great ball skills and will be a terrific pro. But if you’ve watched Milliner play this season, then you know how good he is, too. Mel Kiper Jr. has Milliner listed as the top cornerback on his latest Big Board of the top NFL draft prospects and No. 15 overall.
Dan in Rock Hill, S.C., writes: Cool that your blog bio mentions Rock Hill, and why shouldn't it? Typical of the Southeast, that little town is a place where football talent is nurtured.
Chris Low: You’re right about that, and I was blessed to receive my own nurturing in what was once a little town, but not so little anymore. Over and above all the great football players who’ve come out of there -- Chris Hope, Ben Watson, Jeff Burris, Gerald Dixon, Johnathan Joseph, Rick Sanford, Jadeveon Clowney, Stephon Gilmore, Ko Simpson, Jonathan Hefney, Derek Ross, Tim Jones, Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Worley -- there are tons of wonderful people in Rock Hill. I’m eternally grateful for all the folks there who had such a profound impact on my life. Two stand above all the rest … my parents, Ted and Beulah Low.
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