Conference media days begin in a few days, so let us take a look at five of the biggest storylines going into the SEC, ACC and Conference USA gatherings.
SEC, begins July 21, Hoover, Ala.
1. Can Alabama repeat?
All Nick Saban needs to do to is ask Urban Meyer how hard it is to repeat. Since the AP poll began in 1950, only 10 preseason No. 1 teams ended up No. 1 at the end of the season. Since 1991, it has happened three times: FSU in 1993 and 1999, and USC in 2004. Alabama is the favorite to be preseason No. 1.
2. Where is Tim Tebow?
Last year, Tebow garnered all the attention at SEC media days. No Tebow-mania this year. Instead, the questions will be directed at Florida’s John Brantley, a junior with a strong arm who is a relative unknown to folks outside of Gainesville.
3. Where is Lane Kiffin?
SEC coaches won’t have Kiffin to kick around this season. Instead, the buttoned-up Derek Dooley comes in at Tennessee and isn’t expected to cause much of a stir.
4. The SEC West is stacked.
LSU is expected to have a top-notch defense, while many are picking Arkansas and Auburn to make a run at Alabama. The question for the Hogs and Tigers is not about offense, but whether their defenses will be good enough.
5. Is this the year of the Gamecock?
Many have been waiting for South Carolina to stake its claim to the SEC East under Steve Spurrier. This is his best chance to do it. South Carolina had one of the best defenses in the league last year. If Stephen Garcia can figure out how to run the offense, the Gamecocks will finally have their chance.
ACC, begins July 25, Greensboro, N.C.
1. Is Miami really, truly back?
Once again, the Hurricanes have a brutal stretch to open the season. After the home opener against Florida A&M, Miami plays at Ohio State, at Pittsburgh, at Clemson then home to Florida State. If Jacory Harris can cut down on his mistakes, Miami could be in the ACC title game.
2. Jimbo Fisher takes over for Bobby Bowden.
There are high expectations for the Seminoles now that Fisher is in charge. They have Heisman Trophy candidate Christian Ponder and a loaded offense, but the defense still has some questions.
3. Is North Carolina going to be as good as everyone thinks?
Butch Davis has 19 returning starters. But the offense has got to show improvement, and there already are questions about whether freshman Bryn Renner will take over the starting QB job from T.J. Yates.
4. Will Kyle Parker stay at Clemson?
The Tigers are still waiting to hear whether their starting QB will return or go play baseball. Without him, this could be a major rebuilding year, considering C.J. Spiller is also gone.
5. Is anybody good enough to get into the BCS title game?
FSU is the only ACC team to have played for a BCS national championship. The last time that happened was 2000. Since 2002, no ACC team has finished ranked in the top 5 of the final AP poll.
Conference USA, July 25, Memphis
1. Can Houston’s Case Keenum make a run at the Heisman?
He did last year, but lost momentum when his team lost momentum. Still, the chances for a non-BCS player to win the Heisman are slim. Brigham Young QB Ty Detmer was the last from outside the power conferences to win it in 1990.
2. Is UCF going to win the East?
Some are predicting UCF will have a good season, but it all hinges on the development of Rob Calabrese.
3. Any BCS busters this year?
Houston will get some preseason love. Watch out for SMU, too.
4. Is the Bob Toledo watch on at Tulane?
Toledo is 9-27 at Tulane and the Green Wave haven’t had a winning season since 2002. There’s been bad luck with injuries, but Toledo has got to start winning.
5. Welcome three new coaches to the East: Larry Porter at Memphis, Ruffin McNeill at East Carolina and Doc Holliday at Marshall.
Of them all, McNeill faces the most pressure to keep on winning, as the Pirates have won two straight C-USA conference crowns.
More bad behavior
The last two weeks have featured too much of the police blotter. First, Georgia athletic director Damon Evans was arrested for DUI and subsequently resigned. Then, several Tennessee players were involved in a melee at a bar that left an off-duty officer unconscious on the street with a head injury. S Darren Myles Jr. and WR Da’Rick Rogers were arrested. Myles has been kicked off the team, while DT Marlon Walls and LB Greg King have been suspended. Meanwhile, back in Athens, RB Dontavius Jackson and WR Tavarres King were jailed on alcohol-related charges. Guess they learned nothing from what happened to Evans.
Also, Southern Miss players DeAndre Brown, Johdrick Morris and Martez Smith were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Iowa starting DE Broderick Binns was arrested and charged with drunk driving.
On the rough side
Lane Kiffin had a pretty terrible week at USC. He lost DE Malik Jackson as a transfer to Tennessee; lost two other players to transfer; released highly prized OL Seantrel Henderson from his letter of intent only to see him decide to attend Miami; got turned down by Tennessee for a neutral-site game in 2011; saw his athletic director apologize to five schools for falsely accusing them of tampering with a player; found out USC will be ineligible for the coaches’ poll in 2010.
So if you’re scoring at home, that’s 4 players lost, 1 apology and no poll in the span of seven days.
Andrea Adelson/The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)