For the last two seasons, I have put together previews of the SEC West by position. I have called them "Stack Ups" because, at least for me, this is mostly about trying to figure out where Ole Miss stacks up in comparison to its SEC West brethren. I rank all the teams by position and regularly am berated for my placements. This is the nature of lists; someone has to be last.
I think that the best thing I can do before we begin this season's series is to reflect back on my predictions for last year; exactly how did my Stack Ups end up stacking against reality? Well, I covered that back in December. Some of the rankings proved incorrect based on truly surprising on the field results (Chris Todd is competent?). Others were just wrong, like not giving Ryan Mallet credit for being quite good.
So, I'll start off easy - ranking the quarterbacks.
Ryan Mallet is a phenomenal football player. In Manning fashion, he makes the players around him look better. The standard media line is that Arkansas is a dark horse in the West because they have Mallet and a surrounding cast of dangerous skill players. Truth is, I think that assessment sells short how important the Top Hawg is for this team.
This is an easy second choice, as well. Though he suffered a rough patch that almost cost the Tide a game against Tennessee (it's a testament to pan-SEC Kiffin hatred that I cared about the outcome of that game), Greg McElroy, generally, demonstrated the quiet competence that has been a staple of 'Bama championship teams. While he might not be the worst athlete lining up behind center in the SEC West, he is exactly what Alabama needs in that position. They'd be crazy to trade him for any quarterback in the West, except for Mallet.
After the Pig and Elephant show, there are a lot of Unknown Knowns and Known Unknowns. However, the surest thing in the West is that Gus Malzahn knows what the hell he's doing. I wouldn't bet a bottle of Green Label on Cam Newton alone, but the skills he, allegedly, possesses are more likely to be lethal in the hands of Malzahn than any other quarterback / coordinator tandem in the West.
#4 OLE MISS
What a difference a gay Samoan Jew criminal makes. The question most people aren't asking is whether Masoli will start. If he does, he has the potential to be one of the top quarterbacks in the league. And Oregon fans have come to his defense around the internet pointing out that he came off the bench and learned Chip Kelly's playbook quickly to earn the starting job. But Hootie Dale is crazy and sometimes makes QB choices that baffle the masses (There, I admitted it! Take your moral victory, Hog fans, and hang it on the wall in your trailers).
I have seen Chris Relf play in person once. To hear it from State fans and media-types with a hard-on for Dan Mullen, you'd think the Egg Bowl was the only State game they've ever watched, too. However, I have no doubt that the football gods will give him a miraculous season just to screw with my head.
What gives me hope that Relf might not turn out to be very good is Jordan Jefferson. Jefferson looked like a potential force for LSU in garbage time versus the Rebels in 2008 and, subsequently, against Arkansas. But that never panned out for him in 2009. Without Masoli, this is clearly the spot reserved for the Rebels, though.