Phillip in Little Rock, Ark., writes: Every year we hear how the gap between the SEC and the rest is narrowing and every year that prophecy proves incorrect. The SEC always has seven or more teams in the Top 15 in recruiting every year. What is your take on this? Do you think the gap is narrowing, and if not how much longer can it go on?
GABA: The deck is certainly stacked in favor of the SEC continuing to be very, very good if not necessarily the best conference in college football. Geography should, barring unforeseen climate and/or socioeconomic change, continue to give the SEC schools the inside track for reeling in excellent recruiting classes. And, between Texas A&M, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, it contains a high percentage of major college football's largest alumni/donor bases, so resources will never be an issue.
Where other conferences could potentially catch the SEC lies in how intelligently their athletic departments allocate the substantial but limited resources at their disposal. It seems like the main things an athletic director needs to do is to raise money, build facilities, and hire coaches. The first two shouldn't be a problem, but the third is where other conferences have an opportunity to gain ground.
One area where the SEC has lagged a bit behind other conferences is in coaching philosophy. While the stereotype of the SEC team running a boring, low-tempo, pro-style offense is no longer applicable now that almost every team in the conference has adopted and heavily features spread offense principles in their attack, it has been slower than other to incorporate these concepts. And, even now, you're not seeing any SEC offense running the spread with the same Heisenbergian purity that Art Briles is cooking with over in Waco.
And with historic runs like this, you often don't see the cracks in the foundation until everything you've built is already in ruin.
dropkicked meeko in Atlanta writes: In regards to your recent future power rankings, how far will UK rise if they have two top 10 classes back to back, and do you think they can keep these guys from switching commitments to other SEC powers?
GABA: The problem with this question is that the post on which it is based should never have been published. Notice anything about those power rankings? Like, how it closely resembles what a present-day SEC power ranking would look like? It puts way too much stock in what has happened in the last 365 days and cannot possibly account for the unexpected obstacles that inevitably sink every dynasty, from Southern Cal to Ohio State to Miami to Florida State to Nebraska to Penn State and down the line.
With that out of the way, let's all calm the hell down about what Kentucky and Tennessee are doing on the recruiting trail. Yes, it's impressive what Mark Stoops and Butch Jones have been able to do this offseason, but getting worked into a lather over six months of recruiting is a bad idea.
Caleb in Big Rock/TN writes: Do you think Tennessee can sustain the recuiting success they are having this season over the next couple of years?
GABA: Can they? Of course. Will they? That's the better question. Tennessee does not have the in-state talent native to Alabama, Georgia, or even South Carolina. The Volunteers will have to continue to raid border states with the same success that they've had with the 2014 class (75% of their current commits are from non-Tennessee states/districts), and their ability to do that will ebb and flow with the strength of their neighbors' recruiting efforts.
Tennessee has the resources and the willingness to commit those resources to winning, but recruiting will always be an uphill battle for them, even in the best of times. Butch Jones will need to restore the Vols' image as a national brand. Can he do it? He certainly appears to be up for the challenge, but so does every school's new football coach.
Bruce in Osceola, Mo., writes: Do you think Missouri will be bowl eligible this year? When do you think Missouri will be competitive in the SEC?
GABA: The willingness of the garden variety SEC fan to write off Missouri's chances of ever being competitive is unsurprising but baffling nonetheless. I have no shame in admitting that I am typically in favor of SEC solidarity and chanting the conference's initials when our foes lie lifeless at our feet, but our occasional insistence upon dismissing an opponent's worth simply because they run the girly-girl Big Tweeeelve offense is an aspect of SEC culture to which I will never relate.
The Tigers from the other Columbia lost 3 games by a touchdown or less en route to a 5-7 record in their SEC debut, so it's not like they weren't "competitive in the SEC" in 2012. Had Missouri not been devastated by injury, the narrative entering their second year could be a much different one.
With James Franklin coming back for his senior season and a nice complement of weapons surrounding him, the Tigers have a decent shot at rebounding and returning to a bowl in 2013. They have 4 very winnable out-of-conference games vs. Murray State, vs. Toledo, @ Indiana, and vs. Arkansas State, likely putting Gary Pinkel's squad in a position where two wins among games @ Vanderbilt, vs. Tennessee, @ Kentucky, and @ Ole Miss puts them in postseason play.
Dave in Belton, Texas, writes: The August date for the Aggies and Tide in College Station is interesting to me. Both are working in new-but-good offensive lines, and both are retooling defensive lines. D-Line wasn't necessarily the strength for either team last year, and now it's an open question for both. Is it going to be harder for the Aggies' new D-Line to stop the Bama power game, or for the new Bama D-Line to keep their contain on Manziel? Which team would benefit the most from moving this game to November?
GABA: Honestly, the Alabama defensive line doesn't concern me very much right now. Sure, the Tide lose Damian Square, Jesse Williams, and Quinton Dial, but Jeoffrey Pagan and Brandon Ivory saw plenty of game action and were quite effective when they got on the field. It's not as if Nick Saban is starting from scratch here. The Aggies, on the other hand, have much less in the tank to replace the likes of Jonathan Stewart, Damontre Moore, and Spencer Nealy.
Whether it's November or September, advantage Alabama.