FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Barker's comeback bid, strongest leagues, SEC Media Days

Justin Rowland, Publisher
Cats Illustrated

In this Sunday edition of the CatsIllustrated.com Football Notebook we're laying out the latest news and commentary with SEC Media Days approaching.

Can Kentucky really compete in the East?

Plus more on Drew Barker's comeback bid, Alabama's supremacy in the SEC, and preseason conference rankings.

It's a great time to go premium at CatsIllustrated.com. Sign up for a new monthly or annual subscription and you'll get lots of free time added to your account.

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BOUNCING BACK

ESPN's Edward Aschoff continues with his preview of the upcoming college football season and this week he created a list of ten SEC players who are making comeback bids in 2017 following injuries.

Drew Barker made the list.

"Barker's start to the 2016 season drew mixed reviews," Aschoff wrote on ESPN.com. "The team was 0-2 before a back injury ended Barker's season one series into the third game of the year. Barker's absence helped put Stephen Johnson firmly into the starting spot, which he held onto this spring. If Barker returns to full health, he should be good insurance in case Johnson struggles or gets injured."

Including Barker on the list seems fair, but it's worth noting that Mark Stoops has said he wants a real quarterback competition, so he might take issue with Aschoff making Barker out to be an insurance policy or a backup option, at least for now.

You can read Aschoff's full story here.

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EXPANSION IMPACT

Five years ago Texas A&M and Missouri joined the Southeastern Conference. AL.com has a story this morning exploring the five-year impact of SEC expansion.

There were some apparent pros and cons to expansion, but some say five years later there have been no substantial drawbacks. John Talty concludes, "The SEC's decision guaranteed that it would be a leader -- and not fall behind -- in revenue. Five years later, there is no buyer's remorse for the SEC's most significant decision in decades."

Read the full story here.

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CAN ANYONE CATCH ALABAMA?

The SEC isn't too far removed from the best run of any conference in the history of the sport, and in spite of (arguably) being dethroned as the top conference last year, even if only for a single year, the big question going into 2017 is whether anyone can match up with Alabama.

The Crimson Tide will be the heavy favorite to win the SEC in 2017 and they may be the frontrunner nationally as well. Alabama has won four of the last five SEC championship games and Josh Kendall of The State points out, "The only time anyone came close to beating the Crimson Tide in the past four championship years was in 2012, when Georgia came within four points. The past three games have been decided by an average of 27 points, the worst being last year when Alabama thumped Florida, 54-16."

So, can anyone catch Alabama?

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MEDIA DAYS 2017

If it seems like the SEC has been home to some eccentric coaching personalities of late, that's because that has been true. Les Miles is gone. Steve Spurrier has been gone. But there are still some interesting personalities and some fascinating dynamics that should make Media Days 2017 as exciting as ever.

Adam Sparks of the USA Today Network says one of the big questions going into 2017 is whether Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina or Vanderbilt could really contend in the East.

He points out, "Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt each can make a case that they are on the uptick, but is there an East contender among them? Their coaches undoubtedly will be asked, but it’s debatable if anyone believes in that possibility. Notably, Vanderbilt went 2-1 against the power trio last season while the other three teams posted a combined 1-8 record against Florida, Georgia and Tennessee."

READ MORE: Expect crazy fans, outspoken coaches, football talk (The Tennessean)

CONFERENCE POWER RANKINGS

College football guru Phil Steele has gone on record as saying the SEC lost its long-standing stranglehold on the title of "nation's best conference" in 2016.

Last week, Athlon Sports gave their preseason rankings for the nation's strongest conferences going into the 2017 season. Surprise of surprises: The SEC rebounds.

"Moving forward, the league should reclaim its spot as the unquestioned king of the sport, thanks to the continued dominance of Alabama and the expected re-emergence of Auburn and LSU in 2017," the publication asserts.

Notably their basis for the SEC's reassertion of its strength rests entirely on the West.

READ MORE: Athlon Sports ranks the nation's toughest conferences

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