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Friday, April 16, 2010
SEC mailbag: Tweaking the league schedule

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

All but two of the SEC teams will have their spring games in the books following Saturday. Arkansas and Kentucky will finish up next week. So let’s empty out the SEC mailbag:

Bullet Hand in Benton, Ala., writes: The problem is solved regarding open dates prior to Alabama’s SEC games in 2010: 1. Move Arkansas at South Carolina to Oct. 2. Both are open that day; 2. Move Kentucky at Mississippi State back one week to Nov. 6. Both are open that day; 3. Move Georgia at Auburn back to Nov. 20. Both are open that day … and three of Alabama’s six SEC games following opponents' open dates are eliminated with very small “tweaks.” I did this in five minutes. Surely, the SEC office can do it.

Chris Low: You’ve missed your calling. I bet Mike Slive will be on the phone within seconds after reading this. Actually, Kentucky doesn't have an open date on Nov. 6. The Wildcats play a nonconference game against Charleston Southern, but I still think you could be onto something. As it stands now, Kentucky has to play 11 straight weeks to open the season and probably wouldn't mind breaking up that gauntlet with a bye. The SEC says it hopes to have the schedule “tweaked” by the end of this month. I don’t know that anybody is lining up to move their game just to help Alabama. But, then, nobody wants to be in a position where they’re having to play six SEC teams in a season coming off byes. That’s something the SEC will certainly be more cognizant of as we go forward. But, hey, I don’t blame Alabama in the least bit for notifying the league office, because it looks like the Crimson Tide are going to get some relief.


S. Hickman in Lake Wales, Fla., writes: Who in your opinion is a better quarterback, John Brantley or Aaron Murray? Who has more raw talent in your humble opinion?

Chris Low: I don’t know about my humble opinion. But my honest opinion is that Brantley is a much more polished passer right now who’s at least played some in the SEC. If you were going to pick between one of those two to win a game right now, I’d take Brantley in a heartbeat. But Murray also throws the ball well and is more versatile when it comes to pulling the ball down and running. Give Murray a season in the SEC, and I may feel differently. And to be fair, Brantley hasn’t taken any meaningful snaps in this league. But he throws as pretty a pass as you’ll see and also has an NFL-like release.


Kevin in Newport Beach, Calif., writes: Hey, Chris, just a note of thanks for all the fine work you are doing keeping us "sons of the south" up to speed on SEC and my long suffering Gamecocks. As you know, USC stands for something entirely different out here in LaLa Land so reading your "fair and balanced" assessments are very refreshing and much appreciated. As a sidebar, I was a member of the Carolina broadcast team when George Rogers won the Heisman, so to say I have been the eternal optimist (along with thousands more) goes without saying. It’s almost a badge (albeit bloody) of honor for those of us who continue to endure. We'll see how it goes this year. As the saying goes around South Carolina, ".... it's too bad we can't play our games on paper because we ALWAYS look good on paper.”

Chris Low: Having grown up in South Carolina, I know from experience how eternally optimistic the Gamecocks’ fans truly are. And as a sidebar of my own, I can still remember sitting in class as a sophomore at Rock Hill High School (home of the Bearcats) in 1980 and having one of the school administrators come over the P.A. system at the school to announce that Rogers had just won the Heisman Trophy. That was a huge deal for the entire state, and it’s hard to believe that was almost 30 years ago.


Burt in Little Rock, Ark., writes: Some people seem to be picking LSU over Arkansas in the West this year. I don't see it. LSU is 1-2 against the Hogs the past three years with an officials-aided home win at night in overtime the difference in losing all three. The Razorbacks will be improved, and LSU appears to be the same at best. Add in the fact that Bobby Petrino is no Houston Nutt and Les Miles is no Nick Saban, and how can anyone but a Tiger fan pick LSU to win in Little Rock? Don’t forget that Arkansas has a 158-2 record its last 160 in the Rock!

Chris Low: OK, you’ve sold me. I’m picking Arkansas No. 2 in the West. Actually, I’ve been leaning that way for some time. The Hogs still have to prove to me that they’re going to be better on defense before I’m completely on board, but they’re going to put up crazy numbers on offense. That said, I wouldn’t sleep too much on LSU or Auburn in the West. Somebody’s going to finish fourth in that division and still be a very good football team. And by the way, I think the key game for Arkansas next season is the trip to Georgia the third week of the season.


Patrick in Gainesville, Fla., writes: You said you think John Brantley is one of the top three quarterbacks in the SEC. Obviously, Ryan Mallet is first on your list. Who else do you have in the top three? Thank you.

Chris Low: Going into next season, I would have Alabama’s Greg McElroy in my top three. He was excellent at what they asked him to do last season, didn’t try to do too much, rarely hurt the Crimson Tide and made plays when they were there. The other guy I would consider is South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia, although he’s really in Steve Spurrier’s doghouse right now. I’ll also be interested to see how Cameron Newton plays at Auburn next season. The bottom line is that there once again is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position in the SEC, and this is at least the third straight year you could say that.