SEC mailbag: Can Georgia win the East?


I’m here for you, to answer all of your questions and weigh in on whatever is on your mind in this week’s SEC mailbag:

Wayne in Leesburg, Ga., writes: Chris, what do you think are Georgia's chances of winning the SEC East in 2011? I know they had a down year last year (ifs and buts), but they could have just as easily finished 10-3. If they can weather the storm early against Boise State and South Carolina, they could be 7-0 heading to Jacksonville against the Gators. I know there’s no A.J. Green, but they look to me on paper to be deeper next year. Your thoughts?

Chris Low: I was one of those predicting big things for the Bulldogs this past season, so forgive me if I’m a little gun shy about stepping out there too far in 2011. I agree that the talent is in place to make a run, and the East should be pretty open again. I’m still not sure if the right personnel is in place to effectively run a 3-4 defense, although landing 340-pound junior college nose guard John Jenkins helps. Aaron Murray is exactly the kind of quarterback I’d like to build around if I were a coach, and it sounds like Isaiah Crowell won’t have to wait long for his first carry. The Bulldogs need better play from their offensive line next season and need to tackle more consistently. And, yes, if they get past Boise State and South Carolina (both games being playing in the state of Georgia), I like their chances to be right there in the East race. They just need to come out on the plus side of those ifs and buts.

Patrick in Winson-Salem, N.C., writes: I know you probably don't even care any more when people say that you hate on Auburn because I’m sure you get tons of mail about it. I’m not sure if you do since I did like some of the blogs on Auburn earlier this season, but it is getting old with the constant reminder of whether or not the national championship will get taken away because of Cecil Newton. Every time I think we have gotten past that, at least until more "evidence" comes around, which I don't believe it will, some righteous writer posts a story about it from either Sports Illustrated or ESPN. You (writers in general) don’t seem to want to talk about the good and all the players that had nothing to do with this or the reasons why it might not be true. As Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes said, "You guys don't want to hear the truth." Lets start reporting on facts, like how Auburn beat Oregon 22-19 for the national championship and not on speculation. THANKS WDE!

Chris Low: I can assure you I don’t hate or hate on Auburn. The Tigers’ officials and players were a classy bunch out in Arizona, and it was a blast dealing with them leading up to their national championship. I can also assure you that I’ve gone out of my way to accentuate the positive with their program, and there was a lot of positive to accentuate this season. The Cam Newton story is simply the one most of the Auburn fans remember, and that’s just part of the business. I get that. I also understand how Auburn fans are sick and tired of hearing about what might happen in the future. The reality is that none of us know, and I have my doubts (like you) whether anything will come of the NCAA’s investigation. At the same time, until the NCAA notifies Auburn that it’s a closed matter, my advice to Auburn fans is to enjoy what was a magical ride in 2010 and don’t get caught up in what might or might not happen down the road.

Danny at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., writes: Chris, I wrote you yesterday about the 2009 college football season during my deployment to Afghanistan. I have some pretty fun pictures that I made and would love to share, but don't know how I could send them to you. My girlfriend (now my wife) sent me an Alabama flag, and I built a flagpole out of 2 x 4's. We did a "raising of the flag" reminiscent of the Marines’ Iwo Jima flag raising. The picture is great and sits on my desk. Anyway, thought I'd share. If you'd like to see them, let me know how I could send them to you.

Chris Low: Danny, great story, and I’d love to see the pictures. You can email me at espnclow@aol.com. Most of all, thanks from the bottom of my heart for your service to our country.

James in Walnut, Miss., writes: I got a question. Please tell me how you can’t have Mississippi State ranked in the top 15 and second in the SEC West?

Chris Low: My first thought would be because the West will be loaded again next season, and while I think Mississippi State will be a very good football team, I’m not ready to slide the Bulldogs ahead of Alabama, LSU and Arkansas (in that order). Not that it matters for 2011, but Mississippi State did lose to all three of those teams this past season. In fact, the only West team Mississippi State beat was Ole Miss. Still, I think the Bulldogs will be a tough out for everybody they play again next season and will be knocking on the door of nine wins again. In my early 2011 SEC power rankings, I had Mississippi State No. 5 overall, and I think that’s more than fair. In fact, I’ve heard from a few Auburn, Florida and Georgia fans wanting to know how I could have Mississippi State ranked ahead of their teams. Hey, that’s life in the SEC.

Wmob in Atlanta writes: I take it from your lack of mention that you believe Jacoby Brissett doesn't have a chance in the Gators’ quarterback equation next year.

Chris Low: I wouldn’t go that far. I was mostly breaking down battles this spring and weighing in on those guys who would be around for spring ball. With a new offense and new offensive coordinator, I wouldn’t rule out anybody at Florida. I do, however, believe it would be a real long shot to think that Brissett could win the job despite not having the benefit of spring practice and not arriving on campus until this summer. That almost never happens in this league with a true freshman at the quarterback position. Could he play his way into some snaps as the season progresses? Absolutely. But if he’s playing early for the Gators next season, that’s probably not a very good sign, because it would mean that John Brantley and freshman Jeff Driskel didn’t wow anybody over this spring and were even less impressive during preseason practice.

Jose in Aiken, S.C., writes: If Connor Shaw beats out Stephen Garcia, could there be a chance Garcia transfers?

Chris Low: I don't see it. Garcia will be a senior, and he’s already used up his redshirt season. Even if Shaw wins the job, we’ve seen with Steve Spurrier that he’s almost always going to experiment a little and play two quarterbacks. Garcia had his best season a year ago. He just didn’t finish that well with the five interceptions in his last two games. It ought to be an interesting spring, because I think the Head Ball Coach is serious about giving Shaw a legitimate chance to win the job.

Kelly in Nashville, Tenn., writes: What do you think about the Gerald Jones story at Tennessee?

Chris Low: You’re obviously talking about the chatter out there that Jones supposedly helped Auburn assistant coach Trooper Taylor steer some prospects to Auburn and away from Tennessee. First of all, Jones’ eligibility is up, and he’s hardly the first player that has gone to bat for a former coach of his on the recruiting trail, even if that coach does happen to be at another school now. Where I would have a problem with it is if Jones bashed Tennessee. You simply don’t do that to your teammates and coaches. Be honest and be truthful, but don’t engage in tearing down the school that just paid for your education. I don’t know that he did that, but you can bet that he and Tennessee coach Derek Dooley have had a few conversations in the past couple of days. The reality is that players build up relationships with certain assistant coaches and those relationships endure no matter where that coach goes.