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Q&A: S.E.C. Power Poll/BlogPoll Roundtable Responses

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I’m sure that, from the outside, being a BlogPoll voter and an S.E.C. Power Poll voter looks like it’s all glamour. The hefty salary . . . the country club membership . . . the throngs of adoring fans and paparazzi who follow us everywhere we go . . . but don’t be fooled by the luxurious lifestyle and the groupies; the burdens of exercising the college football franchise are real and they are daunting.

For instance, there are all these questions in need of answers, and who, dear reader, is going to answer them? Analysts? Athletes? Common ordinary citizens who spend their free time interacting face-to-face with fellow human beings? I think not; if you want a question answered expertly and insightfully, you need a blogger.

Below are my answers to the most recent roundtables hosted by Doug Gillett for the S.E.C. Power Poll and by Snarky Barking Carnival for the BlogPoll. My advice to you is to put on your sunglasses before reading these answers, lest the unfiltered glare of my illuminating brilliance blind you:

Yes, I’m kidding. Doug gets all the blog groupies.

What's your prediction for the matchup in the SEC championship game, and has that changed at all from what you were predicting in the preseason?

I’m picking half with my head and half with my heart when I say Alabama and Georgia will meet in the Dome in a rematch of the so-called "funeral" to determine whether there is life after death. Obviously, I’m sticking with my preseason pick in selecting the ‘Dawgs, but, in August, I thought Auburn and Louisiana State would finish in front of the Tide. Of course, I didn’t foresee Tommy Tuberville firing Tony Franklin halfway through the season.

Knowing what you now know about your team, how have your expectations for this season changed? What would constitute a successful season in your eyes, and what would be a disappointment?

My expectations haven’t changed in the sense that all of the Bulldogs’ goals (except for an undefeated season, of course) remain intact, but the reality is that Georgia has suffered too many injuries truly to be the team we all anticipated. As much as I wanted (and still do not rule out) a national championship this year, success and disappointment are defined as they always are: an S.E.C. championship would make the season successful; not appearing in Atlanta on the first Saturday in December would make the season a disappointment.

If your team has Vanderbilt coming up at some point on its schedule, are you worried? If not, which team should be the most worried?

I’m actually less worried about the Commodores than usual, and here’s why: Vanderbilt has played several upper echelon S.E.C. squads tough in recent years, most definitely including Georgia. Vandy’s stellar record this autumn ensures that the ‘Dawgs will not overlook the ‘Dores, so I expect a more focused Red and Black effort at homecoming than we ordinarily see.

Other than perhaps Alabama's season-opening win over Clemson, the SEC doesn't really have any marquee non-conference wins thus far, and a couple of traditional powers (Auburn and Tennessee) are struggling in high-profile fashion. Is it too early to call this a "down year" for the conference?

Yes, it is, for three reasons. First of all, many of the league’s best out-of-conference matchups occur late in the season, when Georgia takes on Georgia Tech, Florida faces Florida State, and South Carolina tangles with Clemson. Secondly, the S.E.C. scheduled some marquee non-conference matchups; it’s not our fault that Alabama’s win over Clemson, Georgia’s win over Arizona State, Kentucky’s win over Louisville, and Florida’s win over Miami (Florida) were devalued by the fact that those teams stink. Finally, while it’s fair to say that the conference is having a down year offensively, the league’s defenses generally are acquitting themselves well. What’s wrong with being good at the phase of the game that wins championships rather than at the phase of the game that sells tickets?

Unless, of course, we’re talking about the kind of offense that can win a game with one arm tied behind its back. . . .

Please observe the latest ESPN Heisman Watch. What gridiron presence draws your suspicion and ire?

Graham Harrell. Yeah, he threw six touchdown passes last week; the Red Raiders also threw the ball twice as many times (60) as they ran it (30). The guy’s a system quarterback. How can he be the country’s most outstanding player if he’s doing what literally every one of Mike Leach’s quarterbacks has done?

In World War I, British troops were famously characterized as "Lions Led By Donkeys." What Donkey leading a college football team of Lions is leading his troops into the Somme again this Saturday? Who should replace him after the court martial?

Unquestionably, the answer is Clemson’s Tommy Bowden. Need proof? In the Tigers’ season opener against ‘Bama, James Davis got six carries and C.J. Spiller got two. Yes, I know the Crimson Tide shut down the run, but, when you have that kind of talent in the backfield (recall that Spiller returned the second half kickoff 96 yards for Clemson’s only touchdown), you don’t take the ball completely out of your best playmakers’ hands. Who should replace Tommy when ESPN unveils its three-man "all-Bowden" game crew? I believe the answer to that question . . .

. . . is abundantly clear.

It’s conventional wisdom that it is "good for the game" when certain NFL teams - Dallas, Pittsburgh, Green Bay - or certain NBA teams - LA, Boston, New York - are strong. Others would contend that this is the arrogant self-importance of the traditional elite. With the resurgence of historic programs like Alabama and possibly Notre Dame (now believed to be turning-the-corner in 12 of its last 15 seasons) is it good for college football when certain name programs are strong? If not, why not?

While you wouldn’t want all of the sport’s traditional powers to be downtrodden all at once, I don’t know that there’s anything particularly mission critical about having certain storied programs at the top of the polls. I’m just as content to see Oregon and Missouri making noise in their respective conferences as I am to see Southern California and Nebraska being the dominant league powers, and I certainly was happy to see Boise State beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and Vanderbilt beat Auburn last weekend. The rise of nouveau riche programs like the Sunshine State schools (none of whom had any meaningful national tradition prior to the early 1980s) and the waning of former national powers like the Ivy League teams and the East Coast service academies don’t seem to have done the sport any harm.

A related question: what team with some record of success could fall off of the face of the earth and CFB wouldn’t miss a beat? Who fancies themselves a name brand, but aren’t?

You really could pick any B.C.S. conference team from the state to the south of the one in which I live, but at the top of the list stands Florida. Although many younger fans mistakenly consider the Gators a longstanding power, the fact is that they did not win a conference championship they were permitted to keep until 1991 (50 years after Mississippi State captured its only S.E.C. crown) and they did not win a national title until 1996. The Saurians’ success has been compressed into a remarkably short span of time, which causes many fans to forget that, prior to Steve Spurrier’s return to Gainesville, Florida’s football heritage was one great big Ron Zook era (minus the .667 winning percentage over Georgia, of course). Speaking as someone whose alma mater has had a winning tradition since the early 1890s, I’m pretty sure we could afford to lose a program with a winning tradition since the early 1990s.

Saying Florida was expendable? That wasn’t right. It was a bad deal. And it will forever be in the mind of Urban Meyer and in the mind of his football team. So they’ll handle it. And it’s going to be a big deal.

Texas/OU in Big D. Okie State @ Mizzou. Penn State @ Wiscy. LSU @ Florida. We have Longhorn, Cowboy, Badger, Tiger - which dog is most likely to get it done?

See, this is exactly what I mean. The Bayou Bengals are underdogs? On what planet? As a coach, Les Miles is at least the equal of Urban Meyer, and, since a defensively-driven championship campaign in 2006, the Gators have been much more mediocre than L.S.U. I think Florida goes down and goes down hard this weekend.

What currently unranked team will we be hearing about soon?

Going by the BlogPoll top 25, I’d have to say Cincinnati. Deep, deep down, we’re all still convinced that the Bearcats are a M.A.C. team and that the Big East is dominated by Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida, and West Virginia, but it just ain’t so. Brian Kelly is building a real program and that fact will be given its due recognition eventually.

I am contractually obligated to follow up on all references to Cincinnati with an amazingly dated reference to a ‘70s sitcom about a radio station coincidentally set in that selfsame city.

What ranked team will finish outside of the Top 25?

Again using the BlogPoll, I’m going with current No. 20 Michigan State. The Spartans’ pattern is simply too well established either to ignore or to deny.

That is how it looks to me, but, by all means, please feel free to offer your own responses in the comments below.

Go ‘Dawgs!