With a little more than two months to go before toe meets leather for the 2010 college football season, Three & Out returns to give you a periodic look at what's going on this summer in the SEC. In today's edition, we take a look at the 2010 Heisman race, a misguided look at the Georgia Bulldogs and the Ole Miss mascot debate.
WHO'S THE HEISMAN DARK HORSE?
It's that time of the year when odds-makers start releasing odds on who will win the Heisman Trophy. To the surprise of nobody, Alabama running back Mark Ingram (+380) is the favorite to take home the hardware for the second straight season, according to SportBet.com. The only other SEC player on the list is Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, who checks in at No. 4 (+1200).
This time last season, Mark Ingram was barely in consideration for the Heisman Trophy. The general consensus was that Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was the favorite, with Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow not too far behind. So in an effort to cover all of our bases, what dark horse candidates could emerge as a legitimate Heisman contenders out of the SEC in 2010?
Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green is the first name that comes to mind. Green hauled in 53 passes for 808 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2009, doing so in a rather average offense. In 2010, the only question mark in the Bulldog offensive puzzle is the quarterback. Granted, that's a pretty big question mark, but Aaron Murray should be able to work off of his running game to get Green the ball in key spots. Green has the talent, it's just a matter of him getting enough touches.
Don't be surprised to see South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery show up in the Heisman talk in 2010. Jeffery, a first-team All-Freshman receiver in 2009, caught 46 balls for 763 yards and six touchdowns last season. Contrary to Green, Jeffery actually has an established quarterback to get him the ball. Don't be fooled by Steve Spurrier's talk, Stephen Garcia will be just fine in 2010. Garcia nearly threw for 3,000 yards last year, despite getting sacked 37 times -- tied with LSU for the worst mark in the SEC. If the Gamecocks can find a functional offensive line, Jeffery may be the biggest beneficiary of all...and it might get him some Heisman votes.
He may be a newcomer, but Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton is going to put up video game numbers in 2010. At 6-foot-6, 247 pounds, he's an imposing figure that provides the running threat that offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was missing last season. With an underrated receiving corps featuring Darvin Adams and an offensive line that has combined for 111 career starts, Newton has the opportunity to launch himself into Heisman consideration...provided that Auburn can find a defense that will allow them to contend in the SEC West. After all, the Heisman is as much of a team award as it is an individual award.
One name that I'm not ready to put into the "potential dark horse" category just yet is Florida quarterback John Brantley. We've seen Urban Meyer coach a prototypical drop-back passer once in his career as a head coach – Chris Leak in 2006. Even then, Tim Tebow came in early and often to run the spread. Brantley is likely to join this group, but I am going to hold off on putting Brantley into the Heisman discussion until we see how the post-Tebow offense looks in action.
A blog post in the Orlando Sentinel got the Georgia Bulldog fan base up in arms Tuesday – and rightfully so.
In its College Football 2010 Countdown, the newspaper ranked the Georgia Bulldogs No. 64...one spot behind Ole Miss and two spots behind Mississippi State. That puts them among the 25 worst BCS teams in the country.
Georgia is a bit of a mystery this season. They are breaking in a new quarterback, installing a new defensive scheme and replacing six starters on a defense that was dreadful last season. But ranking them at No. 64 is just plain ridiculous. A favorable schedule and an above average running game will get the Bulldogs into the top half of the SEC in 2010, which is a far cry from No. 64.
It's a Florida-based paper, so the rivalry between Florida and Georgia probably plays into the low ranking a bit. But come on...if you're going to poke the rival, at least make it believable.
IS THAT THE BEST YOU CAN DO?
The Ole Miss mascot search has been a disaster from the get-go.
In March, an online poll to determine Colonel Reb's replacement produced Admiral Akbar as not only an option, but the favorite. Who's Admiral Akbar you ask? He's a little known character from Star Wars. Don't worry, I didn't know either.
On Monday, Ole Miss unveiled 11 of its mascot options. The list makes Admiral Akbar look like former Braves mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa (who's generally regarded by me to be the greatest mascot of all time).
Among the characters are Rebel Lion, Rebel The Cardinal and Rebel The Horse (no, I didn't make those up).
If this is the best that Ole Miss can do, go ahead and do the right thing and not have a mascot at all. Any one of these mascots will open the door to endless ridicule.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at
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