Tonight marks the premiere of the second season of NBC's "The Blacklist," one of the most gripping shows currently on television. And because I've spent the last couple of weeks in a furious effort to rewatch the first season of the series and get ready for tonight's episode, it seemed like as good a time as any to present my power poll ballot by comparing the SEC teams to characters from The Blacklist.
Note: If you didn't follow Season 1, very little of this is going to make any sense. (Though, really, the confusion is the least of your problems.) And there are some spoilers here for those who might be thinking about watching it or still catching up on Season 1. (What have you been waiting for?)
1. Alabama Crimson Tide: Raymond "Red" Reddington
Besides the obvious color coordination, Red is one of the best at what he does. And it's usually not anything personal when he kills you -- unless you've messed with something or someone he cares about.
2. Texas A&M Aggies: Alan Fitch
Red might not be scared of Fitch, per se -- he's certainly less scared of the group headed by Fitch than he is of Berlin -- but it's clear that Red is intimidated by the shadowy figure, whose exact place in the puzzle is still a little bit unclear. We know Fitch is high up in some conspiracy, but we're not sure how high.
3. Auburn Tigers: Berlin
This is a criminal that Red is afraid of, and not without reason. Plus, he got away from the FBI with one of the best misdirection plays in the series so far. Which fits with what Gus Malzahn likes to do with his offense.
4. Ole Miss Rebels: The Good Samaritan
A killer know for calling 911 to give his victims a last chance at life before they almost always succumbed. That pretty much fits with how the Rebels beat Boise State.
5. South Carolina Gamecocks: Tom Keen
You thought he was a good guy, and then you thought he was a bad guy, and then you thought he was a good guy again, only to find out that he was at the very least opposed to Red and Lizzie, even if he still considers himself a good guy. If you don't see the parallel in this to South Carolina's season so far, I can't help you.
6. Georgia Bulldogs: Ivan
This criminal had his identity stolen and used by someone who really didn't know what to do with it. Replace "his identity" with "control of the SEC East" and you've got a pretty fair summation of what happened in Columbia a couple of Saturdays ago. Of course, Mark Richt would never be involving things such as hacking, but there's not really any character on the Blacklist who's wholesome enough to be Mark Richt.
7. Mississippi St. Bulldogs: Frederick Barnes
Though his motives ended up being a little different in the end, the original reason for Barnes using a weaponized virus on dozens of people was thought to be an attempt to get attention for his son's medical condition. Mississippi State certainly did something dramatic this weekend to get everyone's attention. Of course, Barnes ends up getting shot by Lizzie, so ...
8. LSU Tigers: The Pavlovich Brothers
These guys didn't quit messing with Red and the FBI while they were ahead and decided to play with fire once again -- only to end up dead. But they did perform one valuable service by grabbing Tom and giving Lizzie an opportunity to interrogate him. We'll look at that as "beating a B1G team like you're supposed to," which is more than can be said for some of the teams on this list.
9. Arkansas Razorbacks: The Man with the Apple
He sure looked ominous and threatening for a while, but ended up being a relatively small villain in a series full of far more intimidating ones.
10. Florida Gators: Anslo Garrick
He depended on the FBI's mistakes to get as far as he did, and he refused to repair the noticeable scar on his face. That pretty much sums up this past weekend's game against Alabama, no?
11. Tennessee Volunteers: Jolene / Lucy Brooks
From the moment she first appeared on screen, you knew Jolene was going to ruin someone's life. You also knew she was probably going to end up dead.
12. Missouri Tigers: Meera Malik
You came to kind of like Meera even if you didn't completely trust her. She didn't join the show until the second episode, but she began feeling like a part of the team. Then, someone snuck up behind her and slit her throat and there was blood everywhere.
13. Kentucky Wildcats: Donald Ressler
He's all goody two-shoes when the series starts out, but by the end Ressler is a little more willing to do things that aren't exactly by the book. And that makes him dangerous.
14. Vanderbilt Commodores: Ranko Zamani
The first criminal on the Blacklist to face the task force, Zamani was one of the weaker villains in the show; the main purpose of the pilot was to introduce us to the characters. He's been scarred by a horrific accident, and in the end he proves capable only of torturing Tom Keen and harming himself.
A few more serious observations on this ballot:
- Basically, I'm confident in the Top 4, after which teams fall into two almost indiscernible clumps: There's a mass of South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi State and LSU in some order, followed by a knot that consists of Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri in some order. Of course, Vanderbilt sits in last place. If you're going to quibble with my order, particularly among the two groups, I'm not going to tell you you're wrong. This was probably the hardest ballot this season.
- Some people are going to say South Carolina is too high. It does feel a bit high to me, but I'm not yet sold enough on Mississippi State to put them ahead of the Gamecocks and the Dawgs. I considered it, but I need to see another game or two before I can go that far. South Carolina and Georgia moved up most because of attrition higher up, not because of anything they did. South Carolina looked bad in Nashville, though it often does, and Georgia demolishing Troy tells me very little, because Troy is an epically bad team this year. The Clemson win looks better. There's still a lot of noise in South Carolina and Georgia's seasons, at least to my ears, and it might take awhile for things to clear up.
- I had a heck of a time figuring out where to put Missouri and Kentucky. It seems like both should be a bit higher, but I just can't pull the trigger on putting them ahead of Florida and Tennessee. I know the other other Tigers are probably better than that, but every time I thought to put them above another team, I always came back to, But they lost at home to Indiana. I finally put them ahead of Kentucky for the moment, because I can see the Wildcats sleepwalking into a loss against the Hoosiers, but it was very, very close.