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Wednesday, April 11, 2012
SEC mailbag: Let's hear from the champ

By Edward Aschoff

Our bracket challenge champion has been crowned and it’s time to officially hear from our winner.

Jnhatcher0405 took home the imaginary trophy with his “Rammer Jammer” bracket, which crushed the competition with 1,660 points.

We told him he could have his 15 minutes of fame, so here is your champion:

Jnhatcher0405: I, Josh Hatcher, am truly honored to be named the SEC Blog Challenge winner and am grateful to Ed and Chris for acknowledging my incredible bracket selecting abilities. I would like to say Thank You to those who made it possible: 1. Kentucky 2. Kansas 3. Ohio State 4. Loovul 5. Ed 6. Chris I would also like to thank Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and Nick Saban for bringing The University of Alabama Crimson Tide fourteen - yes, fourteen - NCAA National Championships. I am a bit embarrassed as I was under the impression that the winner received lifetime tickets to all home, away and neutral Alabama games. (Mr. Saban, if you're reading this, I would settle for sideline access to the 2012 Iron Bowl…Sir.) Since, evidently, that is not the case, I would like to introduce a couple of recommendations. Firstly, as the inaugural winner of this award, I see no reason why it should not be forever known as "The Josh Hatcher Award". All future winners should have their name engraved on a plaque bearing my likeness. I would be more than willing to supply a photo. Secondly, as evidenced by the scores below, it is obvious that I should be included as a featured bracket next year. Josh Hatcher: 1660 Big 12 Blog Challenge Winner: 1600 Nick Lachey: 1290 Dexter Fowler: 1270 Jay Bilas: 1260 Colin Cowherd: 1260 Rajon Rondo: 1250 Tony Reali: 1240 Andy Katz: 1180 Lebron James: 1160 Jim Furyk: 1110 Mike Hill: 1100 Mark Schlereth: 1090 President Obama: 1020 Dick Vitale: 1010 Pau Gasol: 1010 LaMarr Woodley: 820 Phil Hellmuth: 530 Michelle Beadle: 460. ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!"

Now, on to the questions:

Knowles in Atlanta writes: What is the likelihood of Arkansas pursuing Gus Malzahn as their new head coach? Would he not be a perfect fit (knowing the program, state, recruiting, etc.)? Thanks.

Edward Aschoff: I definitely think that he’s an option because of all of the reasons you just stated. Now, would he be willing to leave Arkansas State after just getting there? I’m not sure, but there’s no question that Arkansas is a better job and is the type of job that Malzahn is no doubt looking to get to. He’d owe just $700,000 of buyout money, but how much would his conscience owe? It’s a moral issue for Malzahn at this point. It wouldn’t be the best PR move if he decided to leave after only a couple of months on the job, but would many really blame him for heading to a much better and more prestigious job? One that he would be very familiar with? One that he could win at and recruit at? At first, his image would take a hit, but I think that a lot of people would sit back and say they’d do the same thing in his shoes. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit if Malzahn’s name is brought up a lot when talking about the Arkansas opening. I also think that Jeff Long has a really tough decision to make. The players are clamoring for him to stay in-house, and that would work short term, but you have to think long term with this job. Don’t go for the quick fix. This is a good program and you have to look at the best options. Maybe it’s someone with no ties to Arkansas. This position can’t be filled on emotions. Some real thought has to be put into it.


Ramón in Ecuador, South America writes: Housekeeping question: Why don't TAMU and Mizzou logos and links appear in the SEC blog page and continue to appear in the B12 page?

Edward Aschoff: I’m actually glad this showed up in the mailbag this week because my Twitter has been overrun with this question. Since not every sport at either school has made the move to the SEC we’re holding off until everyone officially has. That happens on July 1, so save the date!


Terry in Las Vegas writes: Is there any word coming out of Tuscaloosa about Duron Carter?

Edward Aschoff: It sounds like he’s still struggling to get things taken care of off the field. He’s been out at practice, but still isn’t participating. He teased on Twitter that he’d be back, but hasn’t really been back. I think this is something that is truly frustrating coach Nick Saban. Carter has the ability to be a real deep threat and playmaker for the Crimson Tide, but I don’t know if quarterback AJ McCarron will ever really know. It’s more than football when it comes to Carter and he can’t seem to get things taken care of. The longer this takes, the less I think we’ll see him be that star people expected him to be.


AC in Fulton, Mo., writes: Where would you rank the Mizzou linebacking core in the SEC and who do you think has the best linebacking core in the SEC?

Edward Aschoff: I think it has to be pretty high up. Georgia might have the best, while Mississippi State, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina have pretty talented units as well. Alabama is Alabama, so that linebacker group will be tough to face. But Missouri returns three players --Andrew Wilson, Zaviar Gooden and Will Ebner -- who have combined for 484 career tackles. Ebner was out last season and was granted a fifth year. All of them are talented and experienced. I think you have to put Missouri’s linebacker unit up there with the top ones in the SEC. Don’t judge by the former conference, these are good players.


Jared in Mississippi writes: Is State going to beat anyone in the West besides Ole Miss this year? We used to get an upset or two back in our 3-9 years, but it seems now that people know we'll put up a fight, we can't get over the hump.

Edward Aschoff: I absolutely think Mississippi State will be more competitive this year. Injuries to the offensive line wrecked that offense last season, so a healthy line will go a long way for a team that returns a host of weapons. The receivers have to step up, quarterback Tyler Russell has to get more comfortable and running backs LaDarius Perkins and Nick Griffin have to pick up where Vick Ballard left off. The defense should be pretty good and improved, even without Fletcher Cox. With that said, having Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee and Texas A&M at home will help. Those are all winnable games for the Bulldogs, especially with Arkansas’ current coaching situation. Add Kentucky to the list of games the Dawgs can win as well. Four or more wins wouldn’t be a surprise at all.


Robert in Decatur, Ill., writes: Getting ready to leave for deployment for National Guard. If I can only record 2 game of Missouri's to have sent to me, which would you choose and why? If possible could you tell me what Mizzou has to do to win the East and what are their chances? Thank you guys for the welcome to your great conference and I look forward to following your blog while overseas!

Edward Aschoff: Thanks for everything you’ve done! We really appreciate it and you. As for Mizzou, I would say the SEC opener against Georgia on Sept. 8 because it’s going to be absolutely electric. Those Tigers fans are going to be bouncing off the walls at Faurot Field. Plus, Georgia will be down some defenders, especially in the secondary, so that will be an advantage for Missouri’s high-flying spread offense. The second game would have to be at home against Alabama. It’s the defending champs! It’ll be a very tough game for the Tigers, but expect another great atmosphere in Columbia. Missouri has to stay healthy this year. The offensive line brings back some good experience, but it and the defensive line were both banged up this spring and that can’t happen this fall. I think the spread can work in this league because of the skill weapons Mizzou has, but making sure the lines are secure is the top objective.