Big 12 newcomers meeting SEC media

Big 12 newcomers meeting SEC media

July 15th, 2012 by David Paschall in Sports - College

SEC Southeastern Conference

Missouri and Texas A&M are about to participate in their first Southeastern Conference extravaganza since officially joining the league earlier this month.

Tigers and Aggies representatives will take the stage Tuesday at SEC media days, which continue through Thursday in Hoover, Ala. They arrive from the Big 12 Conference, which also held a preseason gathering but not to the tune of more than 900 media members and corporate sponsors.

Tuesday's lineup will contain the two newcomers but won't have a completely new feel. South Carolina also is scheduled to appear, and this will be coach Steve Spurrier's 20th SEC media days and his 20th opportunity to let loose some zingers.

Six schools will take the stage Wednesday, but fans of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee will have to wait until Thursday's concluding session.

With the start of the first football season in a 14-team SEC not far away, here are five questions certain to be asked this week:

1. How will the new guys fit in?

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin have been peppered with queries about their new frontier since January, but this will be their largest question-and-answer venue yet.

"Transition is tough for everybody," Sumlin said in late April. "For me, this is all new, and the experiences that we are going to have are new to everybody - to our administration, to our fans and to me.

"In a way, it is kind of an advantage, because the other [SEC] schools don't know what's coming, either. There is a lot of excitement."

The Tigers and Aggies are expected to be pegged in the middle of their respective divisions when the media predictions are released Thursday. Missouri likely will be tabbed behind Georgia, South Carolina and Florida in the East, while Texas A&M will be behind LSU, Alabama and Arkansas in the West -- and possibly Auburn, too.

2. Will Saban tire of title-repeat questions?

There are far worse questions to have to answer than if your team is ready to handle the challenges of defending a national championship.

Alabama coach Nick Saban was in this same position two years ago and wound up frustrated by that team's chemistry. The 2010 Crimson Tide won 10 games and throttled Michigan State 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl, but that easily has been the most disappointing Alabama team during the 48-6 run of the past four seasons.

Games against Michigan, Arkansas, Missouri and LSU this year will take place away from Tuscaloosa, and there will be a multitude of new defensive players, albeit former four- and five-star recruits. While a repeat of 2010 is not out of the question, Saban has been happier with this bunch so far compared to the squad from two years ago.

Expect a lot of "this year's team hasn't accomplished anything" from Saban this week, followed by his never-ending ability to make "all right" a one-syllable word.

3. Is LSU still irked about its BCS collapse?

It was a rather unusual spring spectacle at LSU, as the Tigers were honored after their March game for winning the 2011 SEC championship.

That title, although plenty significant considering LSU posted its first 12-0 regular season ever and routed Georgia 42-10 in the Georgia Dome, was overshadowed when the Tigers fell flat in their 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game. Coach Les Miles already has handled his share of questions about the collapse in New Orleans that soured an otherwise sensational season.

"We had the best record in college," Miles said after spring drills. "We were 13-1. We won the conference, and we won the Western Division, and we frankly beat the national champions in their home stadium.

"I think there is a real hunger and want to start the season, and any time you finish the season on a negative note, you turn to the opener with some anxiousness, and that's very much the case here."

His Tigers likely will be ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the major preseason polls, but expect Miles to have to revisit the January debacle this week. His three player representatives - quarterback Zach Mettenberger (who didn't play in either game last season against Alabama), receiver Odell Beckham and safety Eric Reid - may have to relive the Superdome unpleasantness as well.

4. Will Richt address players gone wild?

At last year's media days, Georgia football coach Mark Richt didn't have to deal with questions concerning offseason arrests. That won't be the case this week.

The Bulldogs have been riddled with problems since last season ended with a triple-overtime loss to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl. Senior cornerback Sanders Commings was arrested on charges of simple battery and domestic violence in January and has been suspended for two games, and safety Bacarri Rambo and cornerback Branden Smith also could be facing suspensions following marijuana-related incidents this spring.

Throw in the recent dismissal of tailback Isaiah Crowell following his arrest on felony weapons charges, and Richt may have to spend a lot more time talking about topics he would just as soon forget. This will be his first media opportunity in which to address Crowell's departure.

Even the lofty expectations - Georgia has the talent and a favorable schedule for a banner year - might be welcome discussion for Richt.

5. How about a little AC, please?

Kentucky's Joker Phillips and Tennessee's Derek Dooley are the two most likely coaches to hear the dreaded "hot seat" questions. Each has an 11-14 record through two seasons at his respective school, and a third consecutive losing record for either coach probably would result in a dismissal, especially in the case of Dooley.

The league's other head coaches are relatively safe or very safe, though Florida's Will Muschamp knows that another 7-6 season would not be well received and might result in a shorter stint in Gainesville than Ron Zook's three turbulent years.