Tuesday Tweetbag: SEC strength, Arkansas' next coach, Miami's resurgence

By Bryan Fischer | Blogger
T.J. Yeldon and Alabama are carrying the SEC banner but it's a strong year for the Big 12 and Pac-12. (US Presswire)

Week 5 is over, so it's time to fire up the Tuesday Tweetbag and tackle the burning topics that are being talked about in the college football sphere. I'm here to answer questions tweeted to me so make sure you follow me on Twitter at @BryanDFischer. Without further ado, let the smorgasbord of questions commence.

"Is the SEC overrated this year, or is the Big 12 and Pac-12 simply coming on strong?" - Alex Ferguson (@viewfromamerica)

It seems as though every time the topic of how strong the SEC is comes up, there's a line in the sand among college football fans. Those with a team in the conference, including two newcomers in Texas A&M and Missouri, will not listen to a single shred of evidence that they're not the greatest in the land. It's easy for them to dismiss a lot of counter-arguments by simply pointing to the crystal football the league has collected the past few years and there's no dismissing that fact. The best football in the country is played in the SEC, but that doesn't mean the conference is the best overall year-in and year-out.

There may not be a deeper league than the Big 12, which tops the Sagarin conference ratings. (US Presswire)

I don't think the conference is overrated this year because we've seen some teams look much stronger than previously thought, such as Georgia and Florida. South Carolina has all the pieces and an improved quarterback in Connor Shaw to go toe-to-toe with anybody. With Johnny Manziel looking sharp leading the Aggies, one of the new schools might cause more trouble than we thought and even Ole Miss, while not good, is at least improved from last year. The problem with the SEC is that Arkansas has fallen off the map (they were talking national title during the offseason), Mississippi State is untested, Missouri is struggling, Auburn is not great in any one area and Kentucky is down to a quarterback they were planning on redshirting. The bottom half of the conference is dragging to say the least. Is the SEC overrated? Maybe just a tad but it's still the toughest place to play in college football.

Now, there's no question that both the Big 12 and Pac-12 are much, much better than we anticipated. Thanks to unparalleled depth, the Big 12 is atop Jeff Sagarin's conference ratings and with good reason -- a great non-conference record combined with the fact that any one of about seven or eight teams can win the championship. I've been at two league games the past two weeks and in both places I've gotten the same message from administrators and coaches: nobody knows who will survive and advance to the BCS. With West Virginia's offense looking nearly unstoppable, Texas figuring out things at quarterback, Oklahoma State not falling off as much as previously thought and plenty of chances for teams like TCU, it's a tough, tough conference.

The Pac-12 may not have has many elite teams with USC's loss to Stanford but this is an equally deep league that currently has six ranked teams for the first time in a decade. Oregon State is the surprise of the early slate and even schools like Arizona and Arizona State appear to be solid despite having new coaches with new systems. It's going to be tough to derail an Oregon/USC championship game but it should be a fun ride to figure it out.

So to answer the question, it's the latter much, much more than the former.

"Any ideas on Arkansas' next coach?" - Jonathan Sumners (@jonathansumners)
Not to rain on Louisville's parade, but Arkansas AD Jeff Long's first call should be to Charlie Strong. (US Presswire)

I talked a bit about this on our College Football 360 show (10 AM ET right here on CBSSports.com) but I think Charlie Strong should be athletic director Jeff Long's first call. He knows the league well from his time at Florida, is an Arkansas native, knows defense and how to play in the league and could bring his connections from South Florida to a program that should naturally be able to recruit Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. I know a number of people who think he wouldn't leave what he's built at Louisville but the situation in the Big East has to be concerning (it will be used against him more and more) and the Razorbacks have money, facilities and an eager fan base. On top of all that, I don't think there would be too much media pressure on him at a program like Arkansas versus one like Auburn, Florida or Tennessee.

Outside of Strong, I would think Sonny Dykes would get a look. He's done a great job turning around Louisiana Tech and has a similar high-flying offense that the program has gotten used to the past few years. He knows the area and has the pedigree to take on a job like this. Gus Malzahn, Kirby Smart and even somebody like Butch Jones might get a look.

"How many points would 2011 Baylor O put up on 2012 Baylor D?" - @Bitterwhiteguy

I would say right about what West Virginia hung on them. Maybe more when you consider Baylor's 2011 offense had a better running game than West Virginia.

"Will recent injuries derail Alabama?" - Daniel Monk (@dflava76)

The total number of players who have been taken out by major injuries is up to five after the school confirmed that receiver DeAndrew White and running back Dee Hart will both be out for the year after undergoing knee surgery. I don't think either is major enough to derail the Crimson Tide from taking home the title but they definitely hurt depth. White is the bigger blow because the already young receiving corps loses another guy with experience, putting yet more pressure on frosh sensation Amari Cooper. Hart, who is going on his second knee surgery in as many years, is a luxury player who would have contributed a few carries per game and helped on special teams.

The emergence of T.J. Yeldon behind Eddie Lacy and Kenyan Drake gives the program a solid rotation at tailback and there's a chance Brent Calloway could be thrown into the mix as well. I think the biggest injury is not to White or Hart but Jalston Fowler, who was a fullback/H-Back type who added a lot of versatility to what Alabama could do offensively. Because of the recruiting Nick Saban has done, there's plenty of depth for the program and these won't do much at all from preventing a third national title in four years in Tuscaloosa.

Miami's Stephen Morris will help make things more interesting with Notre Dame. (US Presswire)
"Could Miami continue their unlikely fireworks show for a fourth week and upset a much better Notre Dame team? - Josh Tetzlaff (@joshtetzlaff)

I have to admit, Miami has impressed so far this season and although I'm not surprised that freshman Duke Johnson has burst onto the scene, the improvement of quarterback Stephen Morris is notable. Ever since the third quarter of the Georgia Tech game, Morris has been a different guy and threw for an ACC record 566 yards Saturday against NC State, including a game-winning touchdown that made his coach curse like a sailor.

Things are different as the Hurricanes head to Chicago for what is a much more intriguing game than it was a few weeks ago. To start with, the Notre Dame defense has really come alive and is forcing turnovers and playing sound football. This will be the best front seven Miami has faced, and keep in mind this is still a very young team. I think Morris can get the ball outside and pick on the Irish secondary a bit but I think an upset will be tough to pull off. Notre Dame is coming off a bye and I'm betting Brian Kelly will have tweaked his offense enough so that Everett Golson/Tommy Rees will be more productive and focused this weekend. I wouldn't be surprised if this is a close game but will go with the green and gold in this one.

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