COLUMBIA -- The unofficial start of the college football season has arrived, with the beginning of the Southeastern Conference's Media Days today in Hoover, Ala.
The league has won the past five BCS national championships. Alabama -- and maybe even South Carolina, as a dark horse -- appear to have a shot to make it six. Then again, no one likely had Auburn pegged as No. 5 this time a year ago.
Here are five stories to watch this week at the Wynfrey Hotel in suburban Birmingham, Ala:
1. East favorite Gamecocks?
Steve Spurrier is trying to downplay expectations for South Carolina, but, really, they've never been higher in the Ball Coach's seven years at the school. Coming off the program's first appearance in the conference title game, and returning as many players as the Gamecocks do, they're set up to, at least, get back to Atlanta.
Watch to see if the media make South Carolina the East favorites when the predictions come out Friday morning. (Granted, only about 150 of the 800 credential attendees actually vote on the poll.)
2. Meeting Marcus
On a related note, today will be Marcus Lattimore's coming-out party in terms of national attention. He turned plenty of heads last season as a freshman, when he became the first South Carolina back in a decade to rush for 1,000 yards.
Now, as one of three player reps for the school (along with receiver Alshon Jeffery and defensive tackle Travian Robertson), he'll get a chance to meet the press. Reporters are sure to be impressed with what they find. The humble, hard worker has privately set a goal to be among the Heisman finalists as a sophomore.
3. Oversigning discussion
The talk about oversigning heated up in June in Destin, Fla., at the league's meetings, but this will be the first chance for the larger audience to digest the modifications set in place for 2012 in terms of roster management.
Will any coach thumb his nose at the changes, including a hard-and-fast restriction of 25 signees for each class? Spurrier, for one, has already declared oversigning necessary because of the academic mediocrity of his state. Will he repeat that? Will others join him?
4. New guys
This week is always interesting in terms of newcomers to the league -- well, at least the event. Florida's Will Muschamp is one of two new head coach, but, then again, he has been at LSU and Auburn and he played at Georgia.
Still, this is his first time to stand in front of hundreds of reporters -- and the country, since the event will be televised on ESPNU -- and declare his mission statement for his new gig coaching the Gators. Every misstep, barb and promise is documented.
Vanderbilt's James Franklin is also a first-timer.
5. Seeking a show-stealer
Someone inevitably always steals the show at Media Days. Two years ago, it was Spurrier and his mysterious All-SEC vote for Jevan Snead over Tim Tebow. Last year, it was Robbie Caldwell's homespun tales from the pig farm.
This year, put your money on Tennessee's Derek Dooley. He was trying the slipper on last fall with his "Where's Rommel?" and "shower rules" bits with the Knoxville, Tenn., media. After a year on the job, perhaps this is where he introduces his wit even more with a broader audience.
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