On Thursday, I got an opportunity to talk with Matt Stinchcomb, an SEC Network analyst, former Georgia Bulldog and a member of the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame. Stinchcomb discussed this weekend's game between the Gators and the Dawgs, the state of the SEC, and his involvement in the 2014 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes 22 football players each year -- 11 from the FBS and 11 from the rest of college football -- for their work to help others off the field. Stinchcomb is on the committee that selects the players who receive the award.
I had planned to bring you a full transcript. Alas, the recording app on my phone didn't work -- but a practiced reporter knows to be ready to take notes in just such an instance. What follows is, by necessity, a heavily condensed look at the highlights of our conversation.
On what might decide the Florida-Georgia game:
"I think there's a real chance it comes down to turnovers," Stinchcomb said. He conceded that turnovers are often something that play a decisive role in football, but highlighted the fact that Georgia forced a combined nine turnovers against Missouri and Arkansas, while Florida gave up two defensive touchdowns in its own infamous game against Mizzou. "Ultimately, [this weekend's game] may come down to something as simple as protecting the football."
On the absence of Todd Gurley due to an autographing controversy:
Stinchcomb noted that the Dawgs appear to be playing well without Gurley, though he made it clear he didn't think Georgia was better off without the onetime Heisman contender. Nick Chubb, Stinchcomb noted, has done a good job. "I'm not going to say that they're a better team without the best player in college football. ... But I think at this point, he's more of a, I don't want to say a luxury, but he's less of a necessity than he was earlier in the year." As for the much-maligned autograph rule, Stinchcomb said it should be reviewed -- but he also noted that, while he dislikes the horse-collar tackle rule and thinks that should be reviewed, that kind of tackle will still draw a flag. "If you sign an autograph and you collect money, that's a violation."
On which SEC teams are in good position for the playoffs:
"I think Alabama's sitting pretty." Stinchcomb also noted that Ole Miss can still win the SEC West and play for the conference title by winning out -- but a one-loss Alabama is going to be in the mix. He also thinks there might be a method to the way the selection committee ranked Auburn at No. 3, Ole Miss at No. 4 and Oregon at No. 5 -- once Auburn and Ole Miss play this week, the winner will likely remain in the Top 4 and the Ducks could slide in as the loser drops out. "I think that the fact that Alabama was No. 6 was strategic as well." He also said the selection committee will could make dramatic changes, especially in the near term. "I'll be surprised if they don't shake it up just because you can justify or make justifications for a bunch of teams, especially with the number of one-loss teams out there."
On whether the Mississippi teams are a surprise:
Stinchcomb said he was high on both teams even before the season. He said he'd had a chance to see Ole Miss a lot recently and liked what he saw. Meanwhile, he said Mississippi State plays physical defense and is fun to watch thanks to Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson. "Those two teams, their emergence, it makes the Western division that much more entertaining."
On his involvement with the Good Works Team:
Stinchcomb said working with the Good Works Team is one of the things surrounding college football that he most enjoys doing. "These are the best kids that are playing college football." The SEC has more athletes on the list than any other conference. Four of the 11 FBS players are from the SEC: Georgia's Chris Conley, Kentucky's Max Godby, Ole Miss' Deterrian Shackelford and Vanderbilt's Andrew East. The SEC's 62 all-time selections are also tops. "It's not just great football, great football players, but it's great kids," Stinchcomb said. He pointed out the negative headlines that the sport often generates. "It is vastly outweighed by the positive stuff that these kids do," Stinchcomb said. There were 182 athletes nominated for the team this year, with nominations coming from sports information directors, head coaches and members of the community. "The focus is on what they're doing off the field and out of the classroom and on behalf of others."