Sapakoff: Big Ten nags SEC as Saban fixes Alabama

Alabama coach Nick Saban speaks to the media at the SEC media days on Wednesday.

H Just to rub it in, a few interlopers showed up in the lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel on Wednesday within a Crimson tidal wave welcoming Alabama head coach Nick Saban to SEC Media Days.

Oh, those smart-aleck Ohio State fans.

They are aware that while Alabama and the rest of the SEC plotting revenge against the Big Ten is a recent thing, the tone is as serious as Saban’s glare.

“Guys aren’t scared to play us anymore,” Alabama senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said Wednesday. “We have to get that back.”

Alabama’s semifinal College Football Playoff loss to the eventual national champion Buckeyes in January came one year after Florida State snapped the SEC’s streak of seven straight years atop the sport.

That’s not all.

Lowly Indiana (4-8) beat SEC East champ Missouri last season.

Auburn lost an Outback Bowl game to Wisconsin.

And the SEC has an ongoing argument with the Big Ten over the concept of satellite camps. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh launched a 10-city “Summer Swarm” national tour of guest appearances that included a stop in Prattville, Ala.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and ACC Commissioner John Swofford have argued that satellite camps are against the spirit of NCAA recruiting rules.

You know Harbaugh touched a nerve when Alabama and Auburn unite in disgust.

“The chances of a team up north coming into our state and getting a player that us or Alabama wants are slim to none,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn scoffed Monday.

Penn State head coach James Franklin, the former Vanderbilt head coach, had his own satellite camp tour, including stops in Atlanta and Charlotte.

The Big Ten didn’t invent the idea; Oklahoma State has done satellite camps in Texas and Mike Riley tried to help Oregon State gain a foothold in other states with camps before moving on to Nebraska.

“It’s always been my America,” Harbaugh said during a June appearance at a football academy in Michigan. “You’re allowed to cross the border. There are no restrictions crossing state borders.”

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier has said SEC schools might need to get into the satellite camp biz “to keep up with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, the northern schools that are coming into the South.”

But SEC schools already have a solid presence in the South and the whole point of “northern schools” coming into SEC territory is that’s where the good players live.

SEC coaches holding camps in Grand Rapids and Scranton might not be as productive as working from home.

If you think last year was a downer for the SEC, consider the possibility that no SEC will make the four-team playoff this season. Scenario A: Ohio State, Florida State, a Pac-10 champion and either TCU or Baylor prosper while the SEC West chews on itself.

“I can make a legitimate argument for all seven teams in the West for how they can win our side of the league,” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said.

Even if that’s a slight stretch, it’s doesn’t bode well for any team hoping to get to Atlanta, where the SEC West representative has won the SEC Championship Game six years in a row.

Any chatter about SEC slippage is such a touchy subject across the conference, particularly in Alabama.

“I think the SEC as a league is still one of the — top to bottom — one of the best leagues,” Saban said, “and that includes the East and the West.”

Saban also said, “It’s gong to be a challenge for our team to re-establish the identity that we would like to play with.”

Ah, yes. Alabama means having to apologize for a 12-2 record after winning three national titles in four years from 2009-2012. Saban’s adjustment plan includes finding ways to build endurance into a no-huddle offense that added fatigue down the stretch last year.

Saban, holding court Wednesday between an abbreviated Big Ten schedule, gets a shot at Wisconsin on Sept. 5 in Dallas.

Expect a decent number of Ohio State fans to attend, decked out in full national championship gear.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff