Sapakoff: Clowney, Manziel, Saban — No big top big enough for SEC Media Days
Clowney. Johnny Football. Saban, Inc.
The HBC, The Hatter and four new head coaches.
A.J. McCarron (but probably not the Alabama quarterback’s girlfriend Brent Musburger made famous during the telecast of the Crimson Tide’s rout of Notre Dame in the BCS national championship game).
SEC Media Days starts Tuesday in Hoover, Ala. To project a circus is an insult to the seriousness of clown car acts, trapeze artists and elephant riders everywhere. The annual three-day frenzy will include 14 head coaches, 42 players, over 1,000 media representatives and more intrigue and irrationality than ever.
Marquee acts in the main Wynfrey Hotel ballroom will include Bama Nation (three national titles in four years), SEC pride (seven national championships in a row), a flamboyant Heisman Trophy winner going into his sophomore season (Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel) and perhaps the most talked about defensive player in SEC history (South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney).
The top storylines, in 2012 order of finish:
Georgia — Quietly, Aaron Murray is about to become the leading passer in Bulldogs history. A bigger story at an SEC Media Days of yesteryear.
Florida — Again, Coach Muschamp, can you explain how Louisville got that 33-10 lead in the Sugar Bowl?
South Carolina — Over-under on Steve Spurrier zingers aimed — deliberately or not — at one fellow SEC coach or another: 2. Last year’s best: “It’s easier to win the national championship than the SEC. Ask Nick Saban.”
Vanderbilt — Suddenly, James Franklin’s program has real success (a bowl win) and real problems (campus sexual assault investigation involving four players).
Missouri — Ready for the SEC yet? The Tigers might get off to a 4-0 start, as they don’t open SEC play until Oct. 5 at Vanderbilt. Then they might go 4-8.
Tennessee — Welcome to the gauntlet, Butch Jones. This is the Vols’ third head coach post-Phil Fulmer. Did they finally get it right?
Kentucky — A better baseball school than a football school. Oh, and that other sport.
Alabama — Saban’s annual address before the assembled media is appointment viewing in Alabama, even if Saban isn’t crazy about the bombardment of questions. “It’s great to see everyone,” he said last year upon SEC Media Days introduction. “Great to be here. You know how excited I am looking forward to this event. The fact they moved it up a week really made me have a great summer.”
LSU — Did quarterback Zach Mettenberger improve enough in the second half of the season to calm Louisiana nerves from Cut Off to Plain Dealing? Hey, Les “The Hatter” Miles, how about those (Clemson) Tigers?
Texas A&M — Johnny Football? Or Johnny Foot-In-Mouth?
Mississippi State — Are the Bulldogs ready for a much tougher early schedule this year than the pastry that helped produce a 7-0 start in 2012?
Mississippi — Hugh Freeze is red hot: Rivalry win over Mississippi State, bowl win over Pittsburgh, top 10 recruiting class. Sustainable?
Arkansas — The biscuit and grits crowd will fully expect head coach Bret Bielema to slam the Big Ten in general, and Ohio State in particular.
Auburn — Let’s discuss Gus. This time around on The Plains, Mr. Malzahn doesn’t have Cam Newton around. But Auburn might be the most improved program in the conference.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff.