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SEC mailbag: National title run over?

You inquire, and I do my best to answer. It’s time for the weekly SEC mailbag:

James in Niceville, Fla., writes: I’m starting to think that the SEC’s national championship run is going to end this season. When do the BCS standings come out, and how far back will the SEC teams be?

Chris Low: The first BCS standings will be released this Sunday on ESPN at 8:15 p.m. ET. Based on projections by ESPN’s Brad Edwards, who crunched the numbers, the SEC isn’t likely to have a team in the top 5. But I wouldn’t get too caught up in these first BCS standings. If either Auburn or LSU stays unbeaten and wins the SEC championship, I think it’s a lock that team would be in the BCS National Championship Game. If everybody in the league ends up having one loss, I think Alabama is in the best shape. For one, the Crimson Tide lost early enough and still have a chance to move up in the polls with big games remaining against LSU (Nov. 6) and Auburn (Nov. 26). A one-loss SEC champion would need at least two unbeaten teams ahead of it to lose. Say Ohio State and Oregon, or Nebraska and Ohio State. I feel like a one-loss SEC champion would (and should) pass an unbeaten Boise State in the final BCS standings.

Jeramy in Highland Lake, Ala., writes: How does Ryan Pugh not make at least the honorable mention list of the top offensive linemen? He’s a four-year starter who hardly ever misses a block on Auburn's offensive line. He's been much better this year and last than Isom and is the anchor of the entire thing. He's possibly more valuable than Ziemba. The guy doesn't get many flags, doesn't get beaten often, is a great leader and makes all the calls to get the line where it needs to be.

Chris Low: The truth is that Auburn has several guys on that offensive line who deserve to be among the top 10 linemen in this league. As a unit, they’ve played very well together. But to this point, Isom is a guy who’s really stood out, according to several people at Auburn and others around the league I trust. That doesn’t diminish Pugh’s value to that team or the way he’s played. Plus, this is just a midseason list. We’ll see how it shakes out at the end of the season. But like you, I think Pugh is an excellent linemen. But so are Georgia’s Ben Jones and Cordy Glenn, Alabama’s James Carpenter and Chance Warmack, South Carolina’s Garrett Chisolm, Florida’s Carl Johnson and Kentucky’s Stuart Hines, and none of those guys made the list. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Somebody’s going to be left off when you have so many great players in one league. Again, the list that counts is the one at the end of the season.

Patrick in Murfreesboro, Tenn., writes: Rank the quarterbacks in the SEC.

Chris Low: I actually did that this week in conjunction with a SportsNation poll asking fans to rank the SEC starting quarterbacks. This is the way I ranked them: 1. Newton, 2. Mallett, 3. McElroy, 4. Murray, 5. Garcia, 6. Masoli, 7. Hartline, 8. Brantley, 9. Relf, 10. Simms, 11. Lee, 12. Smith, 13. Jefferson. The fans’ vote looked a little different. This is the way they voted: 1. Mallett, 2. Newton, 3. Garcia, 4. McElroy, 5. Lee, 6. Murray, 7. Hartline, 8. Brantley, 9. Masoli, 10. Jefferson, 11. Relf, 12. Simms, 13. Smith.

Jason in Hershey, Pa., writes: Chris, have you heard if Tennessee will break out the black jerseys and orange pants for the Alabama game on Oct. 23? They did look really good last year.

Chris Low: Geez, I hope not. I have to disagree with you, Jason, on the black-on-orange look. I realize it was Halloween and all, but those uniforms were hideous they wore against South Carolina last season. I’ll admit that I’m a traditionalist and think it’s silly when teams are always tweaking their uniforms and wearing different colors. Now, the apparel companies love it so they can market different jerseys to sell. But in Tennessee’s case, the Vols have a lot more to worry about than breaking out the black jerseys, and I think Derek Dooley would tell you the same thing.

Evan in Little Rock, Ark., writes: Do you think x is good enough to go to the NFL? If he is, what round would you say?

Chris Low: Yes, I absolutely think D.J. has an NFL future. He’s improved his blocking at Arkansas and is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the country. I had the pleasure of getting to know D.J. and his family for a story I did on them last year, and I can tell you that his character is another thing that will weigh in his favor at the next level. Everybody who’s a legitimate NFL prospect is talented, but more and more NFL executives are putting a higher premium on character. D.J. has it all and is outstanding when it comes to getting open, catching the ball and making something after the catch. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper rates D.J. as the third best senior tight end prospect in the draft, so I would think he has a good chance to go in the top three rounds.

Brannon in Baton Rouge, La., writes: I was looking at the running back polls ESPN is doing and am curious why Stevan Ridley isn't in that group of running backs. He’s second in the SEC in rushing on a team that’s lucky to be 6-0, but nevertheless they are undefeated. He’s also on a team that everyone knows is going to run the ball, yet he still averages 106 yards a game. Care to share your thoughts on this?

Chris Low: Part of it might be that Ridley wasn’t on a lot of people’s radar coming into the season. I was impressed with him and knew he was capable. The little bit we got to see of him in that Alabama game last season, I felt like he had a bright future. He’s big, runs with great power and faster than you think. So, basically, you’re preaching to the choir. He’s extremely underrated, and you also hit on a good point. He’s been able to get his yards without the benefit of a passing game. He has 640 rushing yards in six games, and he’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry. The Tigers better be glad they have him, because Ridley at times has been their only offense.

Matt in Middlesboro, Ky., writes: If you could pick three players in the SEC that you would most want to see play, who would they be?

Chris Low: Great question, although you’re putting me on the spot. Let’s keep it to this season, which means I’m making my choices purely on what they’ve done in the first half of this season. The three I would pick right now would be Kentucky’s Randall Cobb, LSU’s Patrick Peterson and Auburn’s Cameron Newton. They all have one thing in common. They’re so dynamic and so explosive that you don’t want to miss a single play when they’re on the field. I get the feeling that all three could line up just about anywhere and still be a star. Of course, Cobb already does that every week.

Derek in Caddo Gap, Ark., writes: Another week and still no love for the Hogs. When will you learn? If you want to get your percentage up, pick up on the Hogs. Auburn' s best coach is from Arkansas.

Chris Low: I know. I went back and forth on the game this week. A tough call, for sure. I just like Auburn better in the fourth quarter of games, and I see this being a fourth-quarter game. I hope you guys will let me back into the state of Arkansas again.