SEC mailbag: When will Arkansas return?

You ask the questions, and I try my best to deliver a coherent answer.

Let's see how it worked out this week:

Drew in Fayetteville writes: With the shame of Petrino's scandal, the criticism following the John L. Smith hire, and now an all-but-doomed season with injuries to key players piling up, not to mention playing and recruiting in the toughest conference in America, what is it going to take for Arkansas to become a contender, or even relevant again?

Edward Aschoff: This team has to finish the season out with its pride intact. We still don't know if this team will make a bowl game, and while that's the No. 1 goal, showing some sort of pride will help this program in the long run. Recruits are naturally turned off by what they're seeing from the Razorbacks right now, but things will get better. Athletic director Jeff Long has a ton of money to throw at a high-profile coach, and I'm sure he has a long list of top coaches that he's looking at. This is a good job, regardless of how bad things have been this year, and good coaches will be very interested. But this team has to restore its depth. The defense has a ton of depth issues and it's apparent that the offensive line needs more quality bodies for the future. This first recruiting class could be tough for Arkansas' new coach, but a big name will be a good draw. With the depth issues this team has I think the Razorbacks will need another class before they are really back contending in the West. It's the reality after what has happened in Fayetteville this year.

Neal in Orange Park, Fla., writes: Gator alumnus here wondering where you came up with Spurrier being called "HBC?" I was a student when Steve Spurrier came back to coach and he was called the OBC - "Ol' Ball Coach." The other nickname was Evil Genius. Spurrier called himself that in an interview decades ago.

Edward Aschoff: Funny you bring that up. We actually got a few questions about that. When Spurrier met with us for SEC media days, he told us he doesn't like to be called the "Ol' Ball Coach." He prefers "Head Ball Coach." Always has, apparently. He actually corrected one of us when we asked him about it. You always learn something new when it comes to the HBC.

Ed in Louisville writes: Sniffing around Tigerville, I am just not getting a sense that LSU is really concerned about the Gamecocks. Is it me or are these guys thinking that because they have never lost two in a row that it cannot happen?

Edward Aschoff: While I haven't been in Baton Rouge this week, I seriously doubt the Tigers aren't concerned with the No. 3 team in country. LSU has to have this win or the Tigers can kiss the SEC West goodbye. Plus, it's not like the Tigers are close to perfect. That offense is stumbling along, and people just aren't sure what the Tigers can do if an opponent scores 20 or more points. Florida scored 14 and the game was pretty much over well before time expired. Trust me, South Carolina knows a thing or two about defense. This team has way too much to lose this weekend. It can't play like it has in the past few weeks and expect to beat South Carolina.

jj in Tumalo, Ore., writes: Neither Bama nor Oregon has played a top drawer opponent as of yet. In Bama's case it is due to Michigan and Arky not being very good. In OR's case it is due to K-St backing out. OR has defeated two top 25 teams but were they worthy of the ranking? MY QUESTION: If Bama had one week instead of a month plus to game plan, who do you think would win the game on a neutral field today?

Edward Aschoff: Well, I think this would be a great game. You'd see a ton of speed on the field. I really don't think that Nick Saban needs more than a week to really prepare his team for a squad like Oregon. I don't think he needs more than a week to prepare for anyone, really. He just goes about his business making sure his guys get better. He never really brings up opponents in practice. He tries to fix the little things first. I wish I could see this game this weekend, but I'll probably have to wait a few more months. Right now, I'd take Alabama. I still think Oregon's defense is a little suspect, and I just don't know how well the Ducks would match up against Alabama's lines. Plus, that defensive speed Alabama has would present quite the problem for Oregon. This one would be great.

Micah in Orange Park, Fla., writes: I read you every day, or, did until the Dawgs got trashed by SC..!! Here's the thing - I think the fans and the players, deserve some sort of explanation from Richt & company - I expected Murray to fall apart - he just doesn't have the o-line for SC - but where was our defense - one of the top in the country last year, and 10 guys return, and we get this??? I really haven't been a believer in Mark for a few years now, but thought Grantham had breathed some life into the program, boy was I wrong!

Edward Aschoff: That certainly was a mouthful. No, Georgia didn't look good against South Carolina. That team was totally outplayed in Columbia. But the sky isn't falling. This team is better than it looked and I think that with the schedule it has, Georgia could still make it to the SEC championship game and could actually have a shot at more with a win. There is just too much talent, that offense has too many weapons and I think Todd Grantham will get that defense into shape. It's a mental thing with Georgia, and it's time for this team to regain its confidence. This team isn't done.

Larry in Manhattan, Kan., writes: Against the SEC's anemic offenses, ANY defense looks good. See the over-ranking of SEC in the top 10. Some get beat by being unable to score. Big XII schools would ROUTINELY kick their butts because SEC defenses don't know how to defend spread offenses. Better the top SEC teams play each other for top ranking because they would not hang with the prolific offenses of the Big XII. But the bowls would rather see an SEC love-fest. Newsflash: A defense is only as good as the offense it's playing.

Edward Aschoff: Yeah, because Oklahoma (twice) did so well against those soft SEC defenses in the national championship. Texas, too, back in the 2009 national championship. Oh, and the SEC has won eight of the last nine Cotton Bowls against the Big 12,including the past four by a combined score of 138-81. You're right, the Big 12 really has flexed its muscles against the SEC on big stages. And, hey, if the Big 12 wants to play with the big boys then it should get to the title game more often. The SEC's waiting. ... Good thing the two conferences have their own Rose Bowl now. Then, you'll prove me wrong, right?

Terry writes: How come no one mentions how come 60 percent of the sec teams are really bad? It matters since they do have few good games, but they luck out not playing in conference with better teams 5-12. This is the worse SEC conference in a decade. We should be lucky we are afraid to play out of conference. A monkey knows Georgia and LSU are not that good, but ESPN has to say how could are since own the conference financially.

Edward Aschoff: First of all, what is the "SEC conference?" Is it the Southeastern Conference conference? Anyway, your standards must be outrageous if you think this is the worst SEC in a decade because the SEC has seven teams ranked in the AP Top 25. Since 2000, the SEC hasn't finished the season with more than six teams ranked in the AP Top 25. I'm not saying it's going to happen this year, but I think you're overblowing things. Three -- Alabama, Florida and South Carolina -- are ranked in the top four. The West has two legit national title contenders in Bama and LSU (yes, LSU is still in the mix), while the East might have three in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. Plus, Mississippi State could make a West run, and Texas A&M might have the most exciting offense to watch in the SEC. This is certainly not a down year for the SEC.