by Pat Dooley
One of the biggest reasons I find the SEC Media Days invaluable (despite inane questions from pseudo-media members) is simple — you can read all the preseason magazines you want but spending three days eyeballing players, listening to coaches and getting a feel for confidence levels gives you a better idea of what to expect each season.
It’s hardly an infallible method. I’ve been sucked into believing in a team at this event in the past two decades only to see it win three games.
But I do know that I often leave Hoover with a different feeling about a team than I had driving up I-65 to get there.
So here we go:
Going in: Even with all of the players lost to the NFL, Alabama is the team to beat in the SEC because of Nick Saban.
Coming out: If the Tide can get past Michigan in the opener and Arkansas in week three, the Nov. 3 game at LSU may be bigger than last year’s.
Going in: Arkansas is a mess because of the Bobby Petrino scandal and has no chance to have a special season.
Coming out: John L. Smith may sound like your crazy uncle but the 63-year old coach has instilled his players with a level of confidence that was surprising.
Going in: Gene Chizik captured lightning in a bottle two years ago and will have another pedestrian season.
Coming out: Auburn’s game against Mississippi State early in the season is huge for both teams and a win could propel the Tigers to a nice year.
Going in: The Gators will be better but I’m still not sure about the quarterback play.
Coming out: Because we deal with this team all the time, not much changed in Hoover. The national media came away thinking Florida might be pretty good this year.
Going in: Georgia has a tough team and a soft schedule and might be a national championship contender.
Coming out: Mark Richt has that look like he knows he has a special team but also knows that it’s college football and anything can happen.
Going in: It’s going to be another long year for Joker Phillips.
Coming out: When does basketball season start?
Going in: Can the Tigers get over the massive hangover that has been a black cloud this offseason?
Coming out: LSU is the team to beat in the league. If Zach Mettenberger is as good as everyone says he is, the Tigers might be unstoppable.
Going in: Is Mississippi still in the league?
Coming out: Hugh Freeze talked about trying to lead this program out of the wilderness. It’s going to take awhile.
Going in: Dan Mullen needs a big year in Starkville.
Coming out: His comment that his team wasn’t that far away from a national title last year made me laugh out loud.
Going in: The Tigers aren’t ready for what the SEC has in store for them.
Coming out: Oh, yes they are and they’re tired of hearing about it.
Going in: Steve Spurrier has it going and the Gamecocks could win the East.
Coming out: The ball coach has changed the culture in Columbia and is back to being the Steve Spurrier Gator fans used to love and everyone else couldn’t stand.
Going in: Derek Dooley is in trouble.
Coming out: The Vols are going to be much better than some people think and if they are watch out for Tennessee in the next couple of years.
Going in: Aggies will be a tough second-week opponent for Florida.
Coming out: Kevin Sumlin is as laid-back as the Aggie fans are intense. I’m not sure I’d pick Florida to win that game.
Going in: The Commodores are trending in the right direction, which is a rare thing indeed.
Coming out: Vandy may be the surprise team in the league.