We’re talking about practice, not games, man

Football tackle practice equipmentstock

Rumor has it that college football starts this week, which of course is pure balderdash.

Football “practice” starts this week, which should never be confused with the real animal.

But that first practice does send some sort of subliminal signal that, well, mainly that it’s way too hot for anything resembling real football right now.

But they will practice away anyway, with tumbleweed and mosquitoes for all.

Little of it will mean much to the untrained eye, most of it will be overanalyzed and, once the season really does start, most of what we thought we knew in the summer will seem sillier than soccer.

But anyway, in the dog days of summer, here’s what we know about the SEC right now:

Alabama: The rest of the SEC is playing for second place, some more than others. But we all know that Nick Saban and the Tide will stumble and lose a game at some point. Given the user-friendly Bama schedule, it’s hard to pinpoint which one could possibly be a loss and, if recent history means anything, it won’t be at LSU. And it won’t matter. That one unexplainable loss will only anger the Tide and Bama will win another national title. At least that’s the word on the streets.

Auburn: When Alabama doesn’t win the SEC West, Auburn usually does these days. Not that it helps the Tigers much. Problem for Auburn is that high expectations — like this year — usually spell trouble brewing. Auburn seems to be more dangerous when off the radar, safely in the Tide’s shadow. We’ll see how this one plays out. 

Mississippi State: Let me see if I’ve got this straight. The Bulldogs lost the coach who’s now going to turn around Florida, and replaced him with a coach, Joe Moorhead, who’s never been a head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision, let alone the SEC. And yet this doesn’t seem to be any kind of a question mark at all. The expectations for Mississippi State have never been higher. And, well, there is a lot of talent there.

LSU: It’s almost like all the prognosticators this summer finally grew weary of overrating LSU every preseason and vowed that this was the year to put a stop to it. The Tigers are a popular pick to fall off the face of the Earth. Maybe the Tigers will handle the downsized expectations better than they have the over inflated ones for years. Meanwhile, the knee-jerk, hand-wringing question — Can they find a quarterback? — diverts attention away from the real problem of finding a dadgum running back, of all things.

Texas A&M: Hard to argue that Jimbo Fisher is the coach the Aggies had been waiting to throw all that money at all along. And he’s good, really good. It has all the fingerprints of when LSU finally got its act together and hired Nick Saban. But Fisher is best known for offense and for developing quarterbacks, neither of which has ever been a problem for A&M since joining the SEC. So what changes?

Ole Miss: Matt Luke is being hailed as one of the nicest guys in coaching while getting rave reviews for how he’s negotiated the troubled waters of the Rebels’ NCAA probation. All of this dances around the issue. At some point, he’s going to have to win some games, too.

Arkansas: For now, the Hogs will be square pegs in the round holes of new coach Chad Morris’ “Pigs Fly” offense. But they’ll be fun to watch. Probably just slapstick funny, at times, but fun nevertheless.

Georgia: It’s hard to argue that the Dawgs have already arrived as Bama’s annual challenger. Certainly everything looks to be in place, with Kirby Smart seemingly following his old boss Saban’s Process letter for letter. But keep in mind, Georgia has had one (1) great year. Don’t we need a larger sample size? Never mind. Forget I said anything. This situation looks too good to screw up.

South Carolina: How can Will Muschamp be so much better of a coach at South Carolina than he was at Florida? Makes no sense. Getting Gamecocks fans’ expectations raised is half the battle, and he seems to be getting there.

Florida: The Gators finally have an offensive coach in Dan Mullen. That’s always dangerous. Pundits caution that it might take a few weeks for the Mullen Effect to kick in. I’m thinking it will be quicker than that.

Tennessee: So here’s the deal: the Tennessee coaching search was so convoluted, mismanaged and disorganized that, hey, it just might have worked when it came up with Jeremy Pruitt as, like, the 22nd choice. That’s the working plan, at least. Hey, run with it.

Missouri: The Tigers have the best quarterback in the SEC, I’m told, and I’ll give his name to you as soon as I can look it up. OK, it turns out to be Drew Lock, who stands as yet more living, breathing proof that Mizzou really is in the SEC.

Kentucky: The Wildcats will win 6-7 games this year (none against Florida) and make it to a bowl game, which will be just fine with all the Big Blue Fans.

Vanderbilt: Derek Mason has the screwball notion that the Commodores can be relevant, and nobody has the heart to tell him any different. Let him go — he’s on a roll. But we all know how it ends.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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