“Talkin’ Season” – Steve Spurrier’s should-have-been patented term – applies from Columbia to Columbia, Chestnut Hill to Coral Gables. It’s as much an annual rite of summer as a beach moon or Braves swoon. It projects as extra-nutty this year.
SEC Media Days features 14 head coaches and some of their players gathered in Hoover, Ala., to gab about the upcoming college football season (and other pop culture subjects) over four days beginning Monday. ACC Football Kickoff is more of the similar, packed into two days starting Thursday in Charlotte.
A “Talkin’ Season” first: South Carolina and Clemson podium times on the same day.
Alas, Mega-Thursday has not been declared an official Palmetto State holiday. But hopefully this Top 10 topics list will help you prepare for the SEC/ACC media frenzy:
1. Hot seat coaches. Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M) leads a real or perceived list that also includes Bret Bielema (Arkansas), Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss), Butch Jones (Tennessee), Steve Addazio (Boston College) and Dave Doeren (N.C. State).
2. Is the Florida State-Alabama game on Sept. 2 at Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium a preview of the national championship game set for Jan. 8 in the same building? And will Mercedes-Benz Stadium last 20 years before being replaced by a dome in Sandy Springs?
3. How will Dabo Swinney and his Clemson Tigers handle the royalty bullseye that comes with a national title? Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Florida State – in chronological schedule order – can’t wait to find out.
Guice vs. Chubb
4. Has Florida finally found a capable quarterback? And if so, who is it? Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, the heir apparent after spring practice? Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire? Former starter Luke Del Rio? Redshirt freshman Kyle Trask? And is it any coincidence that the year Tim Tebow starts playing pro baseball the Gators win their first College World Series?
5. Chubb or Guice? By definition, the best running back in the SEC is a Heisman Trophy candidate but Georgia senior Nick Chubb and LSU junior Derrius Guice need blocking and decent quarterback play, too. Chubb (1,130 yards last season while bouncing back from knee surgery) will split time in the backfield and at SEC Media Days with Sony Michel. Guice, after a breakthrough sophomore season (1,387 yards, 15 TDs), says goodbye to backfield mate Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville’s first-round draft pick) and hello to new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, architect of Pittsburgh’s 43-42 upset win at Clemson.
6. Jalen Hurts, Act II. If not for a certain game-winning touchdown drive led by Deshaun Watson, an Alabama freshman quarterback would have been the toast of Tampa. How will Hurts – and Nick Saban – mesh with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, late of the New England Patriots?
Jake Bentley, Auburn, Miami
7. Is quarterback Jarrett Stidham good enough to make Auburn an SEC title contender going into the Iron Bowl? The Baylor transfer threw for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman, and wowed ‘em at Auburn’s spring game. First big test: Sept. 9 vs. Clemson’s NFL-ready defensive line.
8. Has Louisville fixed its offensive line? Enough to make Lamar Jackson a Heisman Trophy candidate again? Jackson as a sophomore last season was sacked an ACC-high 46 times.
9. Welcome to the spotlight, Jake Bentley. It’s rare for a sophomore quarterback to get an SEC Media Days invite, and are for a Gamecock freshman to complete 65 percent of his passes over seven starts (4-3 record).
10. Is Miami finally ready for an ACC Championship Game appearance? When Miami came into the ACC in 2004 as a five-time national champion it would have been inconceivable to think the conference would stage 12 title games without an appearance by the Hurricanes. The streak lives, even as eight other programs have participated. If this isn’t the year, Mark Richt has Miami headed in the right direction.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff