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SEC mailbag: Hokies will be ready

12/18/2009

If you don’t have all your Christmas shopping done, you better hurry. We’re a week away.

So before I hit the mall (yikes!), let’s empty out the SEC mailbag:

Jamie in Louisville, Ky., writes: Who in the SEC faces the toughest task in the bowl game, and who has the easiest task?

Chris Low: I think Tennessee is in for a real fight in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Virginia Tech is stout defensively (14th nationally in total defense), has a super freshman running back in Ryan Williams (fifth nationally with 1,538 rushing yards) and is always a load on special teams. The Hokies won their last four games and didn’t give up more than 13 points along the way. Plus, they really want to beat an SEC team after losing their last four games to SEC foes. The other thing that’s a concern for the Vols is that they weren’t the same defense the final month of the season. As for who has the easiest task, I’ll go with Georgia over Texas A&M in the Advocare V100 Independence Bowl. I know the Bulldogs had their struggles on defense this season, but the Aggies gave up an average of 49 points in their six losses. Georgia might win this game something like 52-35.

Robert in Mobile, Ala., writes: Does Alabama and Mark Ingram have anything to worry about with the Heisman jinx? It seems like nobody ever plays well in the bowl game after winning the Heisman. Do you think that will affect the national championship game?

Chris Low: It’s a fact that the last four Heisman Trophy winners and five of the last six have lost in their bowl games, but four of those guys were quarterbacks. Ingram could have a so-so game, and I still think Alabama is balanced enough offensively to win. The Crimson Tide’s performance in the SEC championship game was an offensive clinic, and their line is playing at an extremely high level right now. All that said, I’ll try to ask coach Saban about his take on the Heisman jinx when I’m in Tuscaloosa next week. Then again, maybe I won’t.

Will in Little Rock, Ark., writes: In your blog about SEC bowl records, Alabama has a 3-3 record in bowl games this decade, winning in 01, 05 and 07 and losing in 04, 06 and 08. They didn’t play in 00, 02 and 03. So it’s not a 3-4 record. Thank you.

Chris Low: To clear up any confusion, I counted any game that was played from 2000 on as part of this decade. Alabama lost 35-34 to Michigan in overtime in the 2000 Orange Bowl, which is where the extra loss comes from. I realize that game came at the tail end of the 1999 season, but it was played on Jan. 1, 2000, which is the reason it was included. The same goes for Florida’s 37-34 loss to Michigan State (and Plaxico Burress) in the 2000 Citrus Bowl or Tennessee’s 31-21 loss to Nebraska in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl.

Stan in North Augusta, S.C., writes: Hi Chris. Now that Coach Wolford has left South Carolina for the Youngstown State job, who do you think are the leading candidates for the offensive line job at South Carolina?

Chris Low: For starters, I don’t think coach Spurrier is real thrilled to be in the market for an offensive line coach for the second year in a row. I also don’t think he’s real thrilled with Wolford being one-and-done at South Carolina. The offensive line is the one aspect of that team you still wonder about. But if the Gamecocks can be a little more consistent up front and protect Stephen Garcia better next season, I think they have a chance to have their best season under Spurrier. The pieces seem to be in place everywhere else. The guy I would go get (and the guy Spurrier tried to hire last year) is Vanderbilt assistant head coach/offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell, who’s a heck of a coach and a Pageland, S.C., native. Caldwell may be hard to pry away, though. He’s been with Bobby Johnson for a long time. Another guy to keep an eye on is Syracuse offensive line coach Greg Adkins, who was at Tennessee under Phillip Fulmer. Spurrier may take his time with this hire. He knows how important it is.

John in Lexington, Ky., writes: Why have you left Corey Peters off all of your All-SEC lists?

Chris Low: I wouldn’t take that as an indictment of Peters, who had his best season at Kentucky for sure. It’s just that there are so many quality defensive linemen in this league, and I felt Arkansas’ Malcolm Sheppard and Tennessee’s Dan Williams were a little better this season as interior linemen. If you noticed, I also didn’t have Alabama’s Terrence Cody or Florida’s Carlos Dunlap on my first team. Both guys are great players, but they didn’t necessarily have great seasons.