I remember the first time more than 500 members of the press showed up for the circus (and I mean that affectionately) that is SEC Football Media Days. I don’t remember the year but I do remember thinking: “This is ridiculous. It can’t possibly get bigger than this.”
Again, as usual, I was very, very wrong. Here’s how wrong: On Monday, when SEC Commissioner Mike Slive steps up to the microphone at 12:30 p.m. ET, there will be over 1,000 media members in attendance. Throw in the buzz about the soon-to-be launched SEC Network (August 14), the coming four-team College Football Playoff and all the off-the-field court actions (Ed O’Bannon lawsuit) and you’ll understand why this event, which normally lasts three days, has been stretched to four. It just takes more than 72 hours to get it all in.
There are a million questions to be asked this week. Actually there are only about 10 real questions but they’ll be asked a million different ways. But to kick things off I’ll share my Top Five Burning Questions as SEC Media Days begin:
1—Will Commissioner Slive come out smoking? The hot topic away from the field is whether or not the Big Five conferences (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12) will get the autonomy they seek in an upcoming NCAA vote on Aug. 15. I won’t go into the details, only to say that if the vote does not go the way of the big boys, it could get real messy. The Commissioner normally uses his opening address to the media in Hoover to lay down some markers of stuff he wants done. Just make sure you pay attention to the man who most people believe is the most influential person in college sports.
2—Should Nick Marshall still come to media days? The Auburn quarterback is scheduled to be among the first players to meet with the media on Monday. But recently he was cited (not arrested) for marijuana possession (less than an ounce). It is a misdemeanor so legally there will be no serious repercussions. What happens to Marshall inside the Auburn program is another matter. Needless to say that Auburn wanted to come to these meetings and talk about whether or not it could repeat as SEC champs. Coach Gus Malzahn, who is a very straight shooter, did not want to talk about bad judgment from his quarterback.
So does Auburn leave him at home and bring another player? My vote would be to bring Marshall, knowing that it will be a tough day for him. Part of growing up is learning how to face the music.
3—What will Steve Spurrier say? The Head Ball Coach is entering his 10th (that’s right, 10th) at South Carolina. His teams have won 11 games for three straight seasons and 42 over the past four years. That is an unprecedented string of success for South Carolina. Spurrier knows he’s going to have another good team, maybe good enough to win the SEC East. And when Spurrier has a good team he’s been known to verbally gig his opponents. He got in a little light-hearted shot at Nick Saban earlier this summer about work ethic and talent.
Here’s guessing the Georgia players double-dipping on expense checks (and the suspensions and dismissals that followed) will come up.
4—Who will the media pick to win the SEC West? Auburn has just about everybody coming back from a team that won the SEC and played for the national championship. Alabama has some questions to answer at quarterback (is FSU transfer Jacob Coker the answer?) and needs for some young players to come through at cornerback. But Auburn also has a schedule that includes road trips to Georgia and Alabama in November. Also, it can be fairly said that Auburn found a way to win all the close ones last season and had one or two good bounces of the ball. I predict the media will pick Alabama and the Auburn folks will not be happy.
5—How much love will the Mississippi schools get this week? The fans at both Ole Miss and Mississippi State are convinced they will be contenders in the SEC West this season. Both return their starting quarterbacks. Mississippi State returns 18 starters overall and 22 of the top 25 players from the No. 4 defense in the SEC a year ago. The members of that great freshman class at Ole Miss are now sophomores. But, in the final analysis, how many members of the media will pick either of the schools ahead of Alabama, Auburn, or LSU? Will they pick them ahead of Texas A&M now that Johnny Manziel has gone to the NFL?
Okay. That should get us started. I’ll be back during the week. Also remember that starting Monday I’ll also be posting a blog “500 Words With Mr. College Football” on AJC.com. It will be quick hits and impressions on what is going at SEC Media Days. I will post there three days a week during the season and will post here on most other days.
Thanks for helping me get the site launched. Many, many thanks to Valerie and Kurt Uhlir for their help, both technical and personal. They really had to hold my hand through a bunch of this stuff. Have a great week.