Chat with Chris Low
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com's SEC blogger Chris Low stops by to chat about the 2009 season.
Low joined ESPN.com in 2007 after 10 years with The (Nashville) Tennessean covering the University of Tennessee and SEC. The Rock Hill, S.C., native lives with his wife in Knoxville and has three sons.
Send your questions now and join Low Monday at 4 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (4:00 PM)
Chris is here!
Chris Low (4:02 PM)
Let's talk some SEC West today. It should be one of the most wide open races in years.
Paul (Destin, FL)
Hey Chris. Any chance Auburn is a surprise team in the SEC West? They seem to always perform better in the underdog role.
Chris Low (4:03 PM)
For the Tigers to have any chance to be a factor, I think they've got to start off 5-0, which would mean winning those first four games at home and then beating Tennessee at Knoxville. They are just so thin in so many different positions that I don't think it's realistic to expect them to be a contender in Gene Chizik's first year.
Dr. J (Oxford, MS)
Why are people giving LSU and Alabama so much love in the West when they have young inexperienced QB's? Ole Miss has Jevan Snead and a great D-Line, a winning combo in the SEC.
Chris Low (4:05 PM)
Ole Miss is my pick to win the West because of Snead and the DL depth. However, I could certainly understand how someone could pick LSU or Alabama because both of those teams should have terrific defenses. LSU's schedule works against it, when you consider the Tigers are the only one of the top three contenders who have to play Florida.
Andrew (New Orleans)
Hey Chris, love the work. How much do the freshmen defensive tackles have to step up for LSU? It seems like LSU's not nearly as deep at that position as they usually seem to be.
Chris Low (4:06 PM)
LSU has been spoiled over the years with its depth and defensive line. This will be a good defensive line but not a dominant defensive line like LSU has had in the past. The good news is that Charles Alexander is healthy and Al Woods is finally playing up to his potential. The best of the bunch will be Drake Nevis.
Aaron J (Little Rock)
How interesting could the SEC West get if Arkansas has a convincing win over Georgia on Sept. 19?
Chris Low (4:08 PM)
That's the swing game for the Hogs. In fact, for them to be a factor in the West, it's a game they have to win at home, early in the season. Really just to make a statement. It's still hard for me to see them winning the West when you look at their road schedule. But I do think they will have a say in who wins the division.
Robbie (Acworth, Ga)
3rd saturday in October, Im looking forward to this game this year think it is going to be one of the Tides big test this year, do you think the Tide will leave with a win this yearRoll Tide Roll
Chris Low (4:10 PM)
The third Saturday in October has traditionally been reserved for the Tennessee game. That game will actually be on the fourth Saturday this year. Alabama has had its way with the Vols the last two years. I'd be surprised if Nick Saban doesn't make it three in a row over Tennessee.
Do you see the Alabama vs Ole Miss game as being the pivotal game to decide the SEC west? LSU is scary, but has a more difficult conference schedule IMO.
Chris Low (4:12 PM)
I think October 10 is a date that will separate the contenders from the pretenders in the West race. On that day Alabama travels to Ole Miss and Florida travels to LSU. I think we know after those two games who the front runner in the West will be.
Brian (Houston, TX)
Which team in the SEC will have the most chance of changing the preseason predictions if it addresses all of its problem areas?
Chris Low (4:13 PM)
I go with Georgia in the East because I think the offense will be as good as any team in the league on the offensive line. In the West, I think Arkansas is probably your best sleeper, even though the Hogs have to play much better on defense than they played last year.
Chris! Tell me Bobby Petrino won't have one foot out of Fayetteville towards the end of the season. I think he's building up a quality program that should compete yearlt for the West, don't you?
Chris Low (4:15 PM)
Until Petrino is at Arkansas for 4-5 years, it's only natural that people are going to worry that he may built for somewhere else. But he assures me that Arkansas is where he wants to be and he also realizes that his image would take a catostrophic hit if he jumps ship again.
Chris Low (4:15 PM)
Keep in mind that Petrino is making almost $3 million a year. There aren't a lot of schools out there that will pay more than that.
Chris (Memphis, Tenn.)
I know it will take Dan Mullen several years to build Mississippi State's talent level, but what do you think is a reasonable expectation for wins this year? I think five wins would we considered progress. But I'm less concerned with how many wins MSU gets; I'm focused on how many games we remain competitive in.
Chris Low (4:16 PM)
Mississippi State fans want to see that offense make the kinds of strides to where the Bulldogs are going to have a realistic chance in most games. Five games would be an OK season. Six seasons, which would put them potentially in a bowl game, would be a very good season in this first season for Coach Mullen.
If Ole Miss stays healthy, what chances do you see them running the table?
Chris Low (4:18 PM)
Slim and none. As good as Florida was last year, they didn't run the table. The reason there hasn't been an unbeaten national champion from the SEC. Ole Miss will be a good team with a chance to play for the SEC championship, but getting through the entire season unscathed would be a huge long shot.
Jim (Richmond, VA)
If the SEC West Champion, be it Alabama, Ole Miss, or LSU, beats Florida in the SEC Championship game are they automatically in the National Title Game? Even if they have 1 loss? What if they have 2?
Chris Low (4:19 PM)
History says that a one-loss SEC champion or even a two-loss SEC champion, in LSU's case in 2007, has an excellent chance to be one of those teams in the BCS national championship game. The key is losing early and then being dominant down the stretch and getting a little help with some upsets in other conferences.
brett (moss point,ms)
hi chris! do you think ole miss got the deepest running backs and receivers in the sec?
Chris Low (4:21 PM)
I think it's a close race between Ole Miss and Arkansas. Arkansas has that one marquee RB in Michael Smith. But the depth of playmakers on Ole Miss's roster starting with Dexter McCluster is really impressive.
Ray (College Park, MD)
I think by the end of the year, Ryan Mallet is the 3rd best QB in the league. What do you think?
Chris Low (4:23 PM)
A lot of people think he's the third best QB right now. If it's not him, then it might be Florida backup John Brantley. Mattet in Petrino's system should be outstanding, but it his first tour through the SEC and as good as Jevan Snead was last year for Ole Miss, it took him about half the season before he really settled into a groove.
how many wins do you think Alabama will have this year?
Chris Low (4:24 PM)
The interesting statistic, not that it really means a whole lot, is that Nick Saban has never won 10 or more games in back-to-back seasons. I think that pattern will be broken this year, but I still don't see this team getting to 12 wins again this year. 10 wins, including the bowl sounds about right.
Tim (Southaven, MS)
Do you see Pat Patterson for Ole Miss have a breakout season as did Julio Jones last year?
Chris Low (4:26 PM)
I don't know that Patterson will be that dynamic right out of the gate. But I had a chance to watch him scrimmage last week and he looks SEC ready right now, physically. He can really go get the football. I expect him to be a big part of their WR rotation this year, but I don't expect his numbers to be as good as Jones' numbers last year.
who has the best D in the conference this year in your opinion?
Chris Low (4:28 PM)
Florida, because of depth. Deepest secondary in the country. When you start talking about guys with NFL type talent like Carlos Dunlap and Brandon Spikes, this has a chance to be one of the better defenses we've seen in a long time. That said, I wouldn't be surprised to see Alabama's defense near the top of the NCAA rankings again. The talent on that defense is starting to look like the talent Nick Saban brought to LSU.
Richard (Memphis, TN)
Is Auburn's offense going to be better this year?
Chris Low (4:29 PM)
It can't be much worse. The most important thing with the Tigers this year is that everybody is on the same page. Everybody believes in this offense, from the coaches to the players. There is not a QB controversy. Chris Todd is the guy. But putting in a new system in a staff's first year is always difficult. Auburn will be better, certainly but we still won't have a good feel for this offense for another year or two when they will really have a chance to recruit to it.
John (St. Louis)
If you are in the national championship game, and you have a round a month to prepare, which SEC west coach do you pick to guide your team.
Chris Low (4:31 PM)
Nick Saban. He's already won one national championship. He got to the doorstep last year. He would be my pick right now in the West.
John (Shreveport, LA)
LSU plays Vandy in week two after the trip to Washington. How dangerous will Vandy be this year?
Chris Low (4:32 PM)
Vanderbilt was a trap game for a lot of teams last year. They'll be better on OL this season. They'll be just as good on defense. Bobby Johnson and his staff do as good a job as any in the league. I think that will be a very dangerous game for the Tigers.
If State has a good year 5 to 6 wins. Do you see them having a better recruiting class then last year?
Chris Low (4:33 PM)
Success on the field always helps recruiting. I was impressed with what Dan Mullen and his staff did on the recruiting trail this year, reeling in 4-5 of the top players in the state of Mississippi. Mullen will tell you himself if he is going to succeed he has to get the majority of the best prospects in that state.
Chris Low (4:34 PM)
Keep an eye on freshman Chad Bumphis this season. He's an exciting player at the WR position.
Rob Kosky (Knoxville, TN)
Chris,Who's offense will be more improved this year?Auburn's or Tennesee's?
Chris Low (4:35 PM)
Anybody who watched the Auburn-Tennessee game last year would tell you that game set back offensive football 40 years. I think it really comes down to QB play. Whichever team can get consistent QB play will improve the most. So ask me in mid-October.
What game other then Fla. do you see Ole Miss having a hard time in?
Chris Low (4:37 PM)
The one that really stands out to me is the one in Columbia, SC against the Gamecocks on Sept. 24, a Thursday night game. That's a tough environment to play in. South Carolina will be ready at home to knock off the Rebels. Plus, there is going to be so many people talking about that game in a couple of weeks with Alabama, that the Rebels are really going to have to be focused and not get ahead of themselves.
Jim (Richmond, VA)
If you had to guess right now, who do you think will be the freshman of the year in the SEC. Also, which freshmen will be the most exciting to watch.
Chris Low (4:40 PM)
Let me give you three or four top candidates. I know that's a cop out, but I'm not ready to pick just one right now. I'll start with Stephon Gilmore at South Carolina. Bryce Brown at Tennessee. Russell Shepard at LSU. Trent Richardson at Alabama. And my dark horse is QB Tyrik Rollison at Auburn.
Chris, what are Bama's chances of beating VT the first week?
Chris Low (4:41 PM)
It may be the toughest game on Alabama's schedule to have to go against that kind of defense right off the bat when you're breaking in a new QB and revamping your offensive line. Alabama better not get behind early in that game, because then it's an uphill battle.
Aaron J (Little Rock, Ark.)
What impact do you think the Hogs can have on the SEC West if they happen to knock off Georgia in their Fayetteville opener on Sept. 19? And what do you expect to happen in that game?
Chris Low (4:43 PM)
I think Arkansas right now, if I were picking, would probably be favored to win that game. Winning a game like that early not only gives Arkansas a lot of momentum going into the teeth of that schedule, it also serves notice to the rest of the West that the Hogs are legit.
Assuming FL takes the East, who from the West would Gators would LEAST want to meet in the SEC Championship Game? And what weaknesses (if any) could that team expose?
Chris Low (4:44 PM)
Alabama played them to the last few minutes last year, but this will be a much different Alabama team without some of those offensive linemen. I'd have to go with the only team that beat Florida last year - Ole Miss and a defensive line that's athletic enough and deep enough that gave the Gators fits.
Chris, the Big XII stole headlines from the SEC during the regular season last year due to the success of their marquee QBs. Which young QBs in the SEC will step up this year to close the gap behind Tebow and Snead and put SEC offenses on the map?
Chris Low (4:46 PM)
That's a good question, because for the second year in a row, you sort of have a big two in the SEC at QB and then everyone else. The two younger guys I think will emerge this season are Ryan Mallet at Arkansas and Jordan Jefferson at LSU. He's not a young guy, but I also think 5th year season Joe Cox will have a solid year for Georgia.
Is there any talk of changing SEC scheduling to eliminate situations like this year when Ole Miss and Alabama miss UF and UGA but LSU plays them both?
Chris Low (4:47 PM)
That's just the luck of the draw. The way the rotating games against non-division teams fall. LSU's every year opponent out of the West is Florida, just like Tennessee's every opponent out of the East is Alabama. So, no, I don't see any changing up of the every year opponents outside of your division.
What are the chances for a three way tie in the SEC West and what is the tiebraker?
Chris Low (4:49 PM)
I would be shocked to see three teams in the West to finish with two losses if they all beat up on each other and Arkansas plays a role. If you get in the realm of a three-team tie, depending on who beats whom you'll probably get all the way down to the last tiebreak of who finishes highest in the BCS standings.
If LSU goes 8-4 this year (not impossible with their schedule) is Les Miles on the Hot Seat. Especially if OSU where he left is ahead of LSU at the end of the year.
Chris Low (4:50 PM)
I'll give you my stock coach on the hot seat answer in the SEC - no coach is never too far from the hot seat in this league. Tommy Tubervile and Phil Fulmer last year. But to be talking about Les Miles on the hot seat a few years removed from the Tigers winning a national championship is a bit premature even in the upside down world of the SEC.
Mike (Lakeland, FL)
Offenseive lines can make a decent running back look good and a give a young QB time to make his reads. Which SEC West team has the best O-line?
Chris Low (4:51 PM)
A really close call between Ole Miss and LSU. I'm going with LSU based on two factors - Ciron Black is the best LT in the league. Ole Miss is having to replace it's all-American LT.
Chris Low (4:52 PM)
As always, I appreciate the questions. Really good stuff today. The West is going to be one of those races where it could go down to the last week or two this year.