I know not all people agree with me, but I love this part of the college football/NFL calendar. Yes, I prefer when there are games on, but the pre-NFL Draft season is so interesting to me.

This is where it all pays off for these college standouts. Yes, they can make money off NIL rules now, but the real money is in the NFL.

The NFL Combine is the world’s most interesting weeklong job interview. Mock drafts are fun to peruse and disagree with. Pro Days help boost draft stock. Then, the draft itself is compelling television.

Count me in for all the pre-draft stuff over the next few weeks! Now, let’s move on to your questions for this week’s Mailbag:

Jackson:

The Big 12/SEC Challenge is on Saturday. Who do you think wins?

The Big 12/SEC Challenge is always a welcome break from conference play. Last year, the SEC won the event 5-4, with the Kentucky-Texas game canceled due to COVID-19 issues. This year, assuming all 10 games will be able to be played, here’s a look at who I think will win:

SEC wins:

  • No. 1 Auburn over Oklahoma
  • No. 19 LSU over TCU
  • Ole Miss over Kansas State
  • Arkansas over West Virginia
  • Florida over Oklahoma State

Big 12 wins:

  • No. 4 Baylor over Alabama
  • No. 5 Kansas over No. 12 Kentucky
  • No. 13 Texas Tech over Mississippi State
  • No. 23 Iowa State over Mizzou
  • Texas over No. 18 Tennessee

If Kentucky was 100% healthy and the game was in Rupp Arena, I’d definitely pick the Wildcats to upset Kansas. If Tennessee was hosting Texas, I’d pick the Vols. But, this year, the SEC got a tough draw. Still, give me a hard-fought draw this year, with both conferences winning 5 games.

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Online sports betting has come or is coming to a number of SEC states down south. Residents of states where legalized sports betting exists can bet on things like the Heisman race, SEC football games each week and more... all right from their mobile device.

Rob:

Clearly, even after a narrow win at Mizzou, Auburn is the best men’s basketball team in the SEC. Which team is second? Is it Kentucky, even after an OT win over Mississippi State?

That’s a tricky question at this point in the season. I agree Auburn is the class of the league, but let’s not forget Kentucky had a big lead in Auburn Arena last weekend before TyTy Washington went out with an injury and Sahvir Wheeler got crunched by another screen.

You could make the case that Kentucky hasn’t lost an SEC game this year when it has been at full strength. But, arguably the Wildcats’ 2 toughest games (and their 2 SEC losses) – at LSU and at Auburn – were the games they were the most banged up.

By that same token, LSU has been without point guard Xavier Pinson during its recent losing streak. There’s a case to be made for either of those teams as the second-best team in the SEC behind Auburn.

Also, I have to mention, Alabama and Arkansas playing their best basketball are very scary teams. Alabama can beat anyone on any given night. The Tide can also lose to anyone on any given night, as evidenced by losses at Mizzou and at Georgia this year.

If I had to pick the No. 2 team in the SEC right now, I’d say Kentucky. But, it is a close race.

Shane:

Did Jermaine Burton make the right move transferring from Georgia to Alabama?

There’s been plenty of debate about that topic this week, and I get why it makes people upset. You just won a title with a team and now you go to arguably its biggest (current) rival? That’s going to ruffle some feathers.

NFL teams are also going to have some questions for Burton about that decision during his time at the NFL Combine, but I don’t have a problem with it. We’ve had this discussion before and I’m sure it will continue, but coaches can leave programs whenever they want. Players can transfer more freely than ever. If he thinks this will help his career, more power to him.

I definitely agree that Alabama could provide him with the targets he needs to become a star. The Tide are replacing Jameson Williams, John Metchie III, Slade Bolden and Jahleel Billingsley this offseason and need a veteran guy to come in and lead a unit with young, but inconsistent, talent in Agiye Hall, JoJo Earle, Ja’Corey Brooks and more.

Burton fits that bill. Pair him with Heisman-winning QB Bryce Young and big numbers should follow if Burton stays healthy.

@Dobbe8:

What’s the best giveaway at basketball games? T-shirts? Foam fingers? Souvenir cups? Something different?

I’m not a fan of T-shirt giveaways. Unless teams give out specific sizes, it’s always an XL.

My first thought was that I love commemorative small replica basketballs. But, I could understand why schools would be hesitant to give those away. One call in a clutch situation goes against your team and those things are getting hurled at refs.

So I’m going to go with food. Free popcorn? Sign me up. Popcorn is great. It’s cheap for the teams to make, too. I’ll enjoy that a lot more than a way-too-big shirt I’ll wear maybe twice and then stick at the back of my closet for the next 10 years.

Free food (or free beer) is never a bad way to go.

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