Let’s not waste time with small talk…
What’s new this year in the SEC
- SEC signs record deal with ESPN
The conference signed a 15 yr deal with the sports cable giant for a reported $2 billion. This has to be considered good news for SEC fans, as almost all games involving an SEC team will now be televised. In past years Auburn‘s opener vs La Tech would cost ~$40 on pay-per-view. With the new deal, the game will be broadcast live on ESPNU HD. More details on the deal can be found here.
- 3 SEC schools will start the season with new head coaches
At Mississippi State, new coach Dan Mullen gives optimism to the Bulldog fan base that suffered through the Sly Croom experiment. The former offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer will try to bring the spread offense to Starkville. There doesn’t appear to be any way Mullen lasts more than 3 years in Starkville. Either he will turn the program around and bolt for a better job, or he will suffer the same fate as his predecessor.
The most controversial coaching change of the off-season occured on the plains of Auburn. Tuberville “resigned” as head coach of the Tigers after a decade long tenure where he guided Auburn to 2 division titles and a 2004 SEC Championship. The 2004 squad did everything it could to play for a national title, but was denied when USC and Oklahoma finished 1/2 in the BCS standings. A portion of AU’s fan base had become tired of Tuberville and thought his entire staff had become lazy recruiters. It’s impossible to know if the unhappy portion of the fan base had Gene Chizik in mind as a replacement, but it can be assumed AU supporters had their sights set a little higher than the former Iowa State HC. The firing of Tuberville and subsequent hiring of a HC with a career record of 5-19 was derided last December. Since that time, Chizik has put together a staff that has a better reputation on the recruiting front than Tuberville’s old regime. Auburn fans’ sentiment towards Chizik has definitely changed in the last 8 months. He must now win on the field.
Easily the most talked about new hire is University of Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffen. He incorrectly accused Urban Meyer of recruiting violations on National Signing Day. Kiffen allegedly told a recruit (who ended up signing with South Carolina) that if he went to South Carolina the recruit would end up pumping gas like all the rest of the players who had gone to South Carolina. It became clear before Kiffen admitted as much that he subscribes to the theory that there is no such thing as bad publicity. All publicity surrounding the program has not been controversial. Kiffen has assembled a good staff, including former Ole Miss Head coach Ed Orgeron. Known as a great recruiter, Orgeron will give Tennessee a much needed recruiting boost. Kiffen’s most lauded hire was his dad, Monte Kiffen. The former Tampa Bay Bucs defensive coordinator brings years of NFL experience and a sterling reputation to Knoxville. While there’s little doubt that Kiffen has assembled a solid staff, doubt remains about his ability as a head coach. The pressure will be on Kiffen, as this team is only 2 years removed from playing in the SEC Championship game.
Week 1 Top Games:
- (#14) Oregon (+4) @ (#16) Boise St (Tonight 9:15PM ESPN)
This out of conference matchup highlights Thursday’s schedule. Oregon brings a new coach and a high powered offense to play on the blue turf in Boise. This game is probably the biggest game ever played in Boise. With a win, the Broncos have a clear path to an almost certain BCS berth.
- (#13) Georgia (+5.5) at (#11) Oklahoma State (Sept 5 2:30PM ABC)
After watching last year’s starting QB and RB get selected in the 1st round of this spring’s NFL Draft, Georgia will bring a new backfield into Stillwater to face the Cowboys. Mark Richt will have to depend on his offensive line to control game and keep the ball away from Oklahoma State’s high octane offense. This game will be a talking point in what figures to be a year long SEC vs Big 12 debate.
- (#5) Alabama (-6.5) vs (#7) Virginia Tech (Sept 5 7:00PM ABC)
The only game of the opening week to feature top 10 opponents will take place at the Georgia Dome Saturday night. Both teams would catapult themselves into the national championship debate with a win. Virginia Tech will come into the game shorthanded. Darren Evans, the all conference RB, will miss the entire season with a torn ACL. Nick Saban has had to prepare uncertain about who would be available to take the field for the Crimson Tide. Only late yesterday were standout freshman performers Julio Jones and Mark Ingram cleared by the NCAA to play after an off-season fishing trip that was deemed an NCAA violation. Starting DE Brandon Deaderick is not expected to play after being shot Monday night as a victim of an apparent robbery attempt.
Let’s kick it off!