Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 2:44 PM
OK, it’s been a week now since SEC Media Days closed its doors and enough time has passed to take a second look at what it all proved.
These are far too important of matters for definitive predictions this early but it wouldn’t hurt, with some reflection now available, to revisit the scene.
Anyway, with time now to let it settle in here’s a quick tour around both divisions and the knee-jerk generalfeeling you’d get about each team if you’d had the luxury of attending media skull sessions in the hotel lobby.
Sort of like word association.
Alabama rules the world and is in danger of lapping the rest of the greatest football conference ever known to man or beast. And it can’t all be the sweetheart schedule. The best hope for the rest of the league is that the media picked the Tide overwhelmingly to win the whole thing again — and the media’s track record is awful, having been right only four times in the last 21 years.
Auburn won’t be down much longer and new head coach Gus Malzahn has fans gulping down the up-tempo, no-huddle Kool-Aid. But any team expecting to rely on its offense has a problem when, as Malzahn said, he isn’t sure which contestant among four hopefuls — four! — will be his starting quarterback. More than a tight battle, a situation like that usually means a lot of mediocrity.
Arkansas also has a new coach, and Brett Bielema was a breath of fresh air yacking away on the podium, maybe a worthy runner-up to perennial podium best of show Steve Spurrier. He’s not a fan of the hurry-up offense, all but equating it to communism. He should have been at Arkansas a year earlier when the Hogs still had a lot of good players.
LSU is the great unknown in the SEC race, and not only because it takes more than a mere week to decipher and translate exactly what Les Miles says at these affairs. The Tigers are promising more offense, but will probably still live by defense. That could be a problem. But even with most of last year’s defense headed to NFL training camps, nobody really trusts the Tigers to disappear or even have an “off” year. Les working with less has all kinds of exciting possibilities, and not just for the Australian language.
Ole Miss was probably the SEC’s most improved team last year, which is not as impressive as it sounds when you consider how historically inept, how biblically flat the Rebels were the season before. The quarterback is there in Bo Wallace, with plenty of toys to play with. The question is can Ole Miss, which really came on in the second half of last season, do it without sneaking up on anybody this time.
Mississippi State keeps talking about this rejuvenation under head coach Dan Mullen, now going on five years. But this “miracle” turn-around, for all its’ thrilling conquests of the Middle Tennessee States and Kentuckys of the world, still hasn’t really produced a signature victory over one of the SEC’s big boys or a truly contending season that got anywhere near Atlanta.
Texas A&M did not get asked this year how it might fit in with the SEC. The big debate was the Johnny Manziel party train factor and whether the Heisman winner’s active social calendar will allow him enough time to concentrate enough to recreate the season he had a year ago. The scuttlebutt seemed to be split on whether he can pull it off. But everybody was absolutely convinced that, either way, Alabama is just going to dismember and gut the Aggies in College Station in the third week of the season.
Florida could easily be better and probably will be this season. But the Gators left media days without even sufficiently explaining how it was, exactly, that they went 11-2 last season with such a train wreck for an offense. So the consensus is that, while better — maybe even much better — Florida could easily have a worse record. Crazy as it sounds, it does happen from time to time.
Georgia coach Mark Richt continues to be the nicest guy in the mean SEC and did you know the Dawgs were one play and five yards from beating Alabama in the SEC Championship game last season? Those five frustrating yards only came up about 23,000 times during Georgia’s visit.
Kentucky is threatening again to at least try to be relevant, even has accumulated a few recent recruiting scalps to back it up. Let’s just say the jury is awaiting more tests. New coach Mark Stoops recited an almost-reasonable scenario that could at least get the Cats bowl-eligible. Nobody is holding their breath.
Missouri is a better program than what it showed during its first year in the SEC. The Tigers did a lot less big talking this year in Hoover and might be primed to let their play speak for them.
South Carolina was basically sending out advance warnings that offenses will set foot on the same field with man-beast defensive end Jadeveon Clowney at their own risk, and that the Gamecocks can’t be responsible for any collateral damage incurred. The season really needs to start before this legend grows any scarier. He is pretty good.
Tennessee will join the up-tempo madness, even if for all the wrong reasons. New coach Butch Jones is a defensive guy, but said it could be a great equalizer (against superior talent), which isn’t the kind of charity offense the Vols tradition was built on. But you do what you have to do.
Vanderbilt really, really wants to be taken seriously, and head coach James Franklin brought along paper work proving the Commodores have been to back-to-back bowls and — for the first time since 1915 — won nine games. He has a point. And we’re all trying. Really. But this is going to take some more getting used to.
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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org