Story lines for SEC football

By Josh Kendall/(The Columbia, S.C.) State

In a few days, SEC commissioner Mike Slive will step to a podium in the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., and start patting his league on the back.

Slive will open the conference’s annual Football Media Days as he does every year, with a laundry list of the SEC’s accomplishments. He again won’t have to look far for some staggering numbers, the most impressive of those being five.

Conference schools have won the past five BCS national titles, a record, and the quest for a sixth starts unofficially with media days.

“That’s been impressive, certainly,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said of the national title run. “Our guys have played very well in the big games and have won all the close ones, too.”

Four teams — Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU — have accounted for the five titles. There will be lots of talk about a possible sixth this week in Hoover, and here are five other topics that are likely to be discussed.

1. Where are the quarterbacks?

Two quarterbacks in the conference — South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia and Georgia’s Aaron Murray — passed for more than 2,100 yards a year ago. In fact, Garcia and Murray are the only two quarterbacks in the conference who are even close to proven commodities. By season’s end, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Florida’s John Brantley and whoever starts at Alabama could be household names, but there is less star power at the position entering this season than any in recent memory.

2. Who’s the Heisman contender?

The SEC has produced three of the past four Heisman Trophy winners, but none of this year’s preseason favorites plays in the conference. Of course, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t considered much of a candidate at this time last year. South Carolina could have the most legitimate Heisman candidate in the SEC: running back Marcus Lattimore. South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray also could make some noise.

3. What will Auburn do?

The Tigers have to prove they are not a one-hit wonder. No one expects a second consecutive BCS title, but simply keeping this team near the top of the conference standings all season would say something about Gene Chizik and his coaching staff. Auburn lost more than Newton. Defensive lineman Nick Fairley and seven other defensive starters are gone, as are four starting offensive linemen. There’s no clear-cut heir for Newton, either. Projected starter Barrett Trotter is unproven. A first-to-worst season in the SEC West is not out of the question.

4. Where will the Gamecocks be picked?

It will be interesting to see where the assembled media believes South Carolina will finish. The Gamecocks, who won their first SEC East championship last year, have never been picked to win their division in the preseason. They probably will be this year, and for good reason. South Carolina has the most proven talent returning, and everyone else in the East has at least one major question mark.

5. Could another NCAA shoe drop?

The people who run college football, and almost everyone else who follows the sport, is hoping the start of the season will mean the end of a negative headline wave that has engulfed the sport this offseason. The games will push all that to the back burner, but is it realistic to think we’ve heard the last scandal story in college football?

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