We’re going to make some predictions for the Big 12/SEC Challenge later in this Mailbag, but I just want to start today by saying I think that challenge is the best in the country.

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge may get more headlines, but it takes place during nonconference play. I love that the Big 12/SEC Challenge gives us a 1-day break from SEC action to shake things up a bit.

It makes it more interesting, in my opinion, and I hope the ACC/SEC Challenge, which starts next season, also happens in late January. Just my 2 cents on the matter.

Anyway, let’s dive into your questions for this week’s SDS Mailbag!


When national TV audiences tune in to SEC games, they’ll often be bombarded with commercials for Chick-fil-A, Zaxby’s, etc. What are your favorite national food chains with SEC ties?

There are some interesting options for this question, definitely. Here are a few of the biggest chains with ties to SEC towns or SEC alumni (and it is surely an incomplete list, so don’t get mad if I left out your favorite):

  • Florida: Wendy’s, KFC
  • Georgia: Zaxby’s
  • Kentucky: Outback Steakhouse, A&W
  • LSU: Raising Cane’s, Ruth’s Chris Steak House
  • Mizzou: Panda Express, Which Wich

Now I’m partial to Which Wich since I ate there a lot during my college days. But overall, I do like A&W root beer a lot. And the best fast-food chain in the bunch mentioned above that I’ve had is Zaxby’s.

I’ll admit I have never eaten at Raising Cane’s, something I’d love to change in the coming years. I’ve heard good things.


What are your picks for the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday?

Well y’all, pour one out for the Big 12/SEC Challenge. This will be the last year of the annual event. Next year, the SEC will begin a yearly challenge with the ACC.

The Big 12 hasn’t won the challenge since the 2018-19 season. The SEC has won the last 2 events outright and there was a tie during the 2019-20 season. Overall, the Big 12 holds a slight 4-3-2 advantage in the challenge, so with another victory, the SEC could finish the annual event by drawing even with the Big 12 4-4-2.

So, can the SEC do it? Here are my picks for Saturday (in order of tipoff time):

  • No. 15 Auburn over West Virginia
  • No. 2 Alabama over Oklahoma
  • LSU over Texas Tech
  • No. 12 Iowa State over Mizzou
  • No. 11 TCU over Mississippi State
  • No. 17 Baylor over Arkansas
  • No. 4 Tennessee over No. 10 Texas
  • No. 5 Kansas State over Florida
  • Kentucky over No. 9 Kansas
  • Oklahoma State over Ole Miss

If my predictions are accurate (and aren’t they always?), the SEC and Big 12 will … tie. Keep an eye on that Arkansas-Baylor game, though. That could be a swing game for the SEC.


What is your take on what Trent Dilfer is doing at UAB? Evaluate his staff hires and give an opinion about where this program is headed. Including the transfer portal, how will recruiting go?

It was certainly an interesting hire, bringing in someone with no head coaching experience above the high school level. But Dilfer is a very smart guy. It might take him some time to achieve similar results to what Bill Clark accomplished at UAB, but I’m willing to keep an open mind.

I like Dilfer’s hire at offensive coordinator, bringing in Alex Mortensen from Alabama. Mortensen has been on staff at Alabama for 8 years, so he knows what a successful program looks like. Getting someone who has worked that closely with Nick Saban is never a bad idea.

Dilfer’s defensive coordinator is Sione Ta’ufo’ou, who followed Dilfer from Lipscomb Academy in Tennessee to UAB. He, like Dilfer, has no coaching experience above the high school level, so I’m skeptical of that decision.

I’d be more comfortable if Ta’ufo’ou was on staff as the linebackers coach under a defensive coordinator with college experience, but Dilfer clearly trusts Ta’ufo’ou.

Currently, UAB has the No. 102 recruiting class nationally in the 2023 cycle. That’s not good enough. Dilfer has high-school connections, so I expect that to improve. I also trust he’ll be able to find a solid quarterback, whether that player is already on the Blazers’ roster or a transfer portal player to be named later.

It’ll be interesting to see how Year 1 goes under Dilfer, but I think the Blazers could be decent in 2023.


There are a lot of potential SEC angles when it comes to the Super Bowl matchup. Who are you hoping to see in the big game?

Before the playoffs started, I picked the Cincinnati Bengals to meet the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. That is still very much alive, but you might want to fade me and pick a Philadelphia Eagles-Kansas City Chiefs matchup based on some of my recent gambling picks.

Obviously the matchup with the most SEC ties would be Eagles-Bengals, as the Eagles have Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, Landon Dickerson and Josh Jobe from Alabama and the Bengals have Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase from LSU.

The Eagles also have Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean from Georgia, CJ Gardner-Johnson from Florida, AJ Brown from Ole Miss, Fletcher Cox and Darius Slay from Mississippi State and others. Those are some major contributors to Philadelphia from SEC schools.

South Carolina fans love Deebo Samuel, so they might want to cheer for the 49ers. As a Mizzou alum, I wouldn’t mind seeing Nick Bolton get a ring with the Chiefs.

But as far as purely “S-E-C! S-E-C!” storylines go, a Bengals-Eagles Super Bowl would be best.

Have a question for next week’s Mailbag? Tweet at us using #SDSMailbag or email me at Adam.Spencer@XLMedia.com.