Here’s wishing everybody a happy July 4 weekend. But before we hit the beach, pool or neighbor’s house for a barbecue, let’s see what’s cooking in the SEC mailbag:
Jamie from Anniston, Ala., writes: How can you not have Greg McElroy as one of your top 25 players in the SEC?
Chris Low: First off, there’s still one selection to go. But, seriously, I’ve had tons of e-mails and questions just like yours … all about different players. In a conference as talent-laden as the SEC, you’re always going to leave off deserving players when you limit it to 25 in a countdown of the top players. I have a tremendous amount of respect for McElroy and what he meant to Alabama’s team a year ago. But as I put this list together, I just didn’t think he was one of the best 25 players in the league. That’s not a knock against him as much as it is a reminder to everyone just how deep this league is with great football players.
Andrew in Louisville, Ky., writes: In response to your post about the SEC championships, you said Kentucky had seven, all in basketball. However, this is not true. At the end of the 1950-1951 college football season, Kentucky played Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Kentucky won 13-7 under the coaching of Bear Bryant. You can read about the game at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1951_Sugar_Bowl. You may also notice that even though the AP awarded the national championship to Oklahoma, which had been 10-0 previous to the Sugar Bowl and had won 31 consecutive games, the NCAA credited the championship to Kentucky. Also that year, the Sagarin ratings considered Kentucky the best team in the country as well. I just thought I should make you aware of this mistake both so you could correct it and so could tell the SEC office where you got your information.
Chris Low: I’ll be the first to admit that it gets a little sticky when you start talking about who was the true national champion in football back in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. But as I stated in my original post, the national champions I listed were the ones supplied to me by the SEC. Moreover, the NCAA recognizes Oklahoma as the national champion in 1950, even though Kentucky beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. In those days, the national champion was selected by the wire services prior to the bowl games. Several schools claim national championships by other polls and rankings, but the Sagarin ratings are not one of the sources recognized by the NCAA in determining the national champion in football. Of course, none of this diminishes the fact that the 1950 Kentucky team was a great one.
Will in Parts Unknown writes: Love the blog, Chris. Just wanted to point out something, though. Auburn doesn’t “HAVE” to play 11 weeks in a row. Auburn “CHOOSES” to play 11 consecutive weeks in order to get a bye before Alabama. They could take the bye a week earlier in the season if they wanted to. I guess that just shows how much beating Alabama means to Auburn. Alabama chooses to take its bye at an earlier date.
Chris Low: Thanks for the note. In the future, I’ll be more conscious of my usage of “have to” and “choose to.” It’s also a reminder that the Iron Bowl rivalry between Alabama and Auburn fans never sleeps, which is what makes it the best rivalry in college football.
Jonathan in Nashville, Tenn., writes: Chris, I doubt you will respond or even read this, but I first I want to say that I think you do a great job covering the SEC as a whole. But I don't understand your comments about Tennessee and how you think we will be a total non-factor for a few years to come. I do know we have a rebuilding project on the hill, but the East is wide open this year. No one knows how the Gators are going to respond to losing Tebow and the Urban flip-flop. Georgia has just as much of an unproven team as the Vols, and USC-E will flop. So the Vols will be a factor in the East if you look at it as a whole. I know this is a crazy comparison. But in 1998, everyone thought Tennessee would be a non-factor and we won the national championship. In 1999, we returned everyone but one or two players and we flopped. This will be the first year in the history since the recruiting ratings that we have landed two Top 10 classes in a row, and we (almost) beat Bama and played with Florida last year. So please explain to me again how we will not be a factor for years to come?
Chris Low: Well, I’ll start by clarifying that what I said was that the Vols wouldn’t be a factor in the SEC championship race the next two years, and I honestly don’t believe they will be. I think six wins (maybe seven) sounds about right this season, and the schedule only gets tougher in 2011. Derek Dooley is going to need some time to re-stock the roster. Where a recruiting class is ranked right now doesn’t mean much. Look at Lane Kiffin’s only recruiting class at Tennessee. A couple of the so-called gems in that highly rated class are no longer around (Bryce Brown and Nu’Keese Richardson), and losing one of the most promising offensive line prospects in the program (Aaron Douglas) didn’t help, either. As for comparisons to the 1998 team, have you looked lately at how many players from that team went on to play in the NFL? There’s nowhere close to that kind of talent on this team. In short, it’s not going to be a quick fix. I like the way Dooley is taking the necessary steps to shape the program the way he wants to shape it. These first steps will be the hardest. But Tennessee fans need to accept the fact that the job Dooley walked into is the biggest rebuilding job this program has faced since John Majors returned to his alma mater in 1977.
Marcus in New Orleans, La., writes: If you could pick three players you would pay to see play in the SEC, who would they be?
Chris Low: One of the best parts about my job is that I don’t have to pay. I’m reminded all the time by friends that I need to get a real job and that getting paid to go watch the best college football in the land is hardly a job at all. I sort of agree. But as for your question, I hope it’s OK if I pick five. I’m already in hot enough water with fans all over the league for leaving off some of their favorites on the countdown of the Top 25 players. But here goes, in no particular order: LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, Kentucky receiver/quarterback Randall Cobb, Georgia receiver A.J. Green, Vanderbilt linebacker Chris Marve and Alabama running back Mark Ingram.