LSU's quarterback situation is all but settled after a day of practice, but that's not going to be the case everywhere this week:
Alabama: Star Jackson vs. Greg McElroy.
Relevant Dynamic(s): Exciting new faces. Jackson, a redshirt freshman, looks the part (6'3", 195) and had a good amount of hype last year coming out of Florida -- unlike McElroy, a decently sized kid with a dramatically better GPA than 40 time who may have benefited as much in recruiting from his status as Chase Daniel's successor at Dallas powerhouse Southlake-Carroll as anything else. McElroy's best offers outside of Alabama were Colorado (under new boss Dan Hawkins) and North Carolina (under clearly doomed John Bunting), and it's a good bet that, were it Nick Saban's staff on the trail instead of Mike Shula's, he wouldn't have made it to Tuscaloosa in the first place.
On the other hand, McElroy -- unlike Jackson -- has actually attempted a handful of college passes, and he's a dead ringer for John Parker Wilson. (Assuming that's a good thing, I mean.)
There are certain benefits to seniority: I'd give McElroy much better than a fighting chance, just because he's been around for two more years. Jackson may be a better athlete across the board, but Alabama quarterbacks are never asked to do much, and even with Julio Jones in tow, this offense figures to be mostly about running with Mark Ingram and/or incoming Trent Richardson. So unless Jackson is leaps and bounds better than McElroy, he may not have many chances to prove it.
Georgia: Logan Gray vs. The Memory of That One Game Against Colorado Three Years Ago.
Relevant Dynamic(s): "Pocket guy" vs. "Athlete"; Exciting new faces. Before there was Matt Stafford, Number One Pick, there was Matt Stafford, Overwhelmed Freshman, who led three scoreless quarters at home against an atrocious Colorado outfit in 2006. It took fellow freshman Joe Cox to come off the bench for a 14-point fourth quarter rally to avoid one of the more humiliating losses in recent Bulldog memory, after which Cox quickly ceded the stage back to his more-hyped rookie teammate and was never heard from again.
Well, until Monday, anyway, when Cox will square off with Gray, a third-year sophomore with no playing time but much better recruiting hype and, allegedly, one unlikely 40 time.
There are certain disadvantages to having only a year to play: Because Cox is a fifth-year senior, he's drawing comparisons to D.J. Shockley, who waited years behind David Greene to lead an SEC title run in 2005. He's probably closer to Joe Tereshinski, who held down the fort before finally ceding the job to Stafford when the season started to come apart at the seams a year later. UGA has no one of even remotely Stafford's caliber in the wings, but Cox's (presumably) limited potential is likely to give way to whatever Gray or incoming Zach Mettenberger can bring to the table eventually.
Vanderbilt: Mackenzi Adams vs. Larry Smith vs. The Vengeance of the Mathematical Integrity of the Universe.
Relevant Dynamic(s): "Pocket guy" vs. "Athlete"; Yes, these guys again. Sorry. Auburn and Tennessee spent their Autumns of Unspeakable Misery lamenting some of the worst quarterback play in schools' storied histories, but by far the lowest-rated tandem in the conference was right here, guiding the best season Vanderbilt's had in decades: Departed Chris Nickson and rising senior Mackenzi Adams were slightly worse last year than they were as a duo in 2007, completing far fewer passes for fewer yards and fewer touchdowns with the same number of interceptions. Smith, a more athletic redshirt freshman of no particular repute out of high school, just held the line as a passer while taking most of the snaps in the last two games.
Last year's edition was the worst Commodore offense of the decade, even amidst its only quasi-triumph as a team. Karmic retribution is coming. (For that, and for Mackenzi Adams' getting by so far despite being a dude with a name ending in 'i').
If it's not broke, just replace one of the parts: Adams seemed to have every opportunity to distance himself from Nickson the last two years and never did; Smith probably made as much of a statement in a little less than two full games as Nickson did in almost three full years. That's not saying much, but if Vandy was comfortable with the sidekick approach already, I don't know why it wouldn't continue. At this point, Smith is probably far more likely to make the job his own than Adams is.
Part Two will look at Auburn, Kentucky and South Carolina. I could have added the situations at Arkansas and Tennessee, which are technically unsettled, but you'll have to convince me Ryan Mallett and Jonathan Crompton (yeah, sorry, Vols) aren't virtual locks for those jobs.