In today’s opinion offering, I examine how MSU’s football team thrives on the demands put forth by strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis, and how a little August heat shouldn’t phase them too much. Preseason camp gets under way today, of course, with a 6 p.m. practice that’s open to the public.
Let’s quickly review the upcoming practice schedule:
• Today, 6 p.m.
• Friday, 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. (split)
• Saturday, 8:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. (split)
• Monday, 10 a.m. (closed to public)
Also, coach Dan Mullen will hold his formal preseason press conference Monday at 2 p.m.
But back to this heat. The forecasted high for Starkville today is 102 degrees. Yeah, so come prepared if you plan on attending practice. Don’t be afraid to carry an umbrella out there with you to provide shade. People might point and laugh, but take heart, they’ll soon be passed out.
The heat is something teams across the South must deal with, more so than schools in other conferences. Some projected highs today around the region: Tuscaloosa, 100; Fayetteville 105; Baton Rouge 97; Athens 98.
If you’re not in the SEC, it might not be so bad: Columbus, Ohio, 82; State College, Pa., 79; Eugene, Ore., 82.
I don’t know, maybe having to work in the heat all August – and playing in it through September – gives SEC teams a little extra edge. Of course, Florida State and Texas and other non-SEC schools are having to deal with this. And Oregon nearly won a title last year despite its area’s nice climate (not to mention its plush Nike accommodations).
OK, let’s move on to more importantt things.
• Mississippi State’s basketball team picked up a verbal commitment Wednesday: Josh Gray, a 6-foot-1 guard from Lake Charles, La. According to the MSU Rivals.com site, Gray visited campus yesterday and chose State over schools like Tennessee and Texas A&M.
Gray, who has a three-star rating from Rivals, is the fourth MSU commit of the 2012 class. He joins guard Craig Sword (Montgomery, Ala., Carver), guard Fred Thomas (Jackson Jim Hill) and forward/center Gavin Ware (Starkville).
• The USA Today preseason coaches poll came out this morning, and MSU checks in at No. 20. The Bulldogs finished the 2010 season ranked 17th in this poll.
Oklahoma is No. 1, but check this out: Eight SEC teams are ranked, including five of the six Western Division teams. Defending BCS champ Auburn is ranked 19th, which raises an eyebrow, because while I think the Tigers will be decent this year, I don’t know that they’re top-25 worthy.
But hey, it’s a preseason ranking, something I think I oughta be done away with. And there’s more coming, with the Associated Press poll due out Aug. 20.