10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after a week at SEC Media Days
ATLANTA — SEC Media Days came and went, concluding with the ultra-shocking prediction that Alabama would beat Georgia again in Atlanta, this time for the SEC Championship.
Benny Snell bold, we are.
I’m not going to overreact to that because that’s exactly what is going to happen. After all, we are never wrong about these things.
But there were 10 things that happened in Atlanta worthy of an overreaction, so let’s get started while I try to figure out how somebody picked Missouri to win the SEC Championship Game without winning the East …
10. You’re crazy if you don’t think the SEC has the best QBs in the country
For years, we’ve heard about how bad SEC quarterback play has been.
Not any more.
We selected record-breaker Drew Lock to repeat as first-team All-SEC, but I’m not going to take issue with anybody who picked Jarrett Stidham (second team), Nick Fitzgerald (third team), Jake Fromm (third team) or even Jake Bentley, Jordan Ta’amu or either Alabama guy.
I voted for Stidham. I think he’ll win in part because I don’t think Lock matches his record 44 TDs, and anything shy of 35 will be labeled a “slump” or “off year.” But if Tua Tagovailoa starts, the only thing that will stop him from throwing 30-plus TDs for an Alabama team chasing perfection is Nick Saban’s kind heart and mercy rule.
The SEC has had years recently where I struggled to find three worthy QB candidates. This year I could make the case for six. Easily. There’s no conference in America that stacks up with this one at the game’s most important position. When was the last time we could genuinely believe that?
9. Enough with this 9-game conference schedule junk, a’ight?
Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn want to play 9 SEC games. Of course they do. I joked that every SEC West coach wants another shot at the East.
But 9 is way too many conference games. We already play too many. Every time you play another SEC game, you lose the opportunity to play another conference.
This isn’t 1970 or 2000 or even 2013.
Everything we do now is for one purpose: to identify the four best teams in the country. You don’t do that by giving Alabama an extra SEC trip to Kentucky. You do that by having Alabama play an ACC team, a Big 12 team, a Big Ten team and a Pac-12 team.
The more these Power 5 leagues interact, the more they separate. It’s so simple. Let the games determine who gets left out of the Playoff, not some arbitrary comparison of what might happen if these leagues actually clashed.
Every Power 5 league should play 7 conference games, 4 vs. the other four Power 5s and 1 vs. a cupcake or Group of 5.
What about lost revenue from home games, the angry masses asked? The SEC is cutting annual checks north of $40 million, money that didn’t exist 5, 10 years ago. That more than covers the loss of a home game. And think about how much more the SEC’s brand would grow with trips to Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Boston, New York, etc., etc. Every league’s profile would increase dramatically, and so would the TV contracts.
As for fans who would miss out on an extra home game? Do you think Tom Brady gets to play 12 home games every year? No. Everybody in the NFL, MLB, NHL, etc., plays the exact same number of home games and away games.
I never, ever, ever want to hear anybody propose a 9-game conference game schedule again.
8. Mr. Hancock, have a minute?
Bill Hancock is the nicest man in America. I’ve been a college editor about as long as he’s been the spokesperson for the BCS and now the Playoff. We’ve been in the same room at various events for years. He’s the perfect messenger. When he worked for the BCS, over and over he said the BCS was perfect, even though it wasn’t. Now he’s saying the same thing about the 4-team Playoff, how it’s perfect and there is neither a good reason nor support to expand to 8.
He’s so nice, yet so, so wrong.
We all know we’re going to expand to 8 teams. It’s simply a money matter of when. We all know we can’t go to 16 because of player safety, time commitments, impact on other bowls, etc., etc. But we all know we’re going to end up with 8 teams.
Why? Because 8 is the perfect number. It guarantees every team in America the opportunity to open camp in August with a path to the Playoff.
Mike Gundy said he prefers an 8-team @CFBPlayoff (Power 5 conference champs, 2 wildcards & G5 team): “If you’re at a smaller (Group of 5) school you essentially have no chance to win a national championship because you’ll never get in & I don’t think that’s fair.”
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) July 17, 2018
Mr. Hancock politely side-stepped the UCF questions at Media Days, insisting that there is no agenda against Group of 5 teams and that everybody who plays a good schedule has a chance to be rewarded.
That’s utter nonsense, of course. UCF can’t play a “good schedule” because UCF can’t play 8 games against Power 5 teams. It’s a monopoly, pure and simple.
Yes, there is absolute truth to the grind and attrition that takes place when you play 8, 9 or 10 games against Power 5 competition. The schedules aren’t remotely close to being fair when compared to the relative comfort of the AAC or MAC, etc., and that’s why you can’t reward a Group of 5 team in the 4-team format. But that doesn’t mean a Group of 5 team can’t beat a Power 5. It just means they’ll never get the opportunity to in the Playoff.
So we must expand to 8. All 5 Power 5 champions, 2 at-large bids and 1 guaranteed spot to the highest-ranked Group of 5 team. Once that happens, Mr. Hancock will throw his full support behind that, too.
7. Hoover provided a better atmosphere than Atlanta
The SEC tried Atlanta. It might try Dallas soon. It’s a mistake. This event belongs in a college town.
The College Football Hall of Fame was a nice twist, but overall Media Days got lost in the hustle and bustle of downtown Atlanta. The layout was awkward and robbed us of some of the entertaining exchanges between players and fans. There were crowds, most notably on Alabama’s day, but it couldn’t match Hoover Hysteria. The lobby in Hoover provides energy, and the players carried those smiles up the escalator and into the interviews. There was a vibe. Atlanta’s setup felt more like the post-game press conferences after a 15-minute cooling off period.
One of more appealing parts of Hoover’s layout is Radio Row, which you have to pass on your way to the attached mall. Fans gather on either end and cheer for their favorite coach or former player as they make their way through the gauntlet. In Atlanta, there was no Radio Row. It was a Radio Room, separate and closed off from the Hall of Fame area where fans gathered behind ropes for a glimpse.
If it returns to Atlanta, maybe they should hold it at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and allow fans to watch, maybe even participate at a designated booth. That would be unique, interactive and yet intimate.
As it was, this felt like we could have been in Chicago or New York and absolutely nothing would have been different, except the accents and quality of grits.
6. However … wherever it goes, there has to be a Hattie Bs
I’m a tad bit obsessed with fried chicken, and particularly Nashville hot chicken. My favorite is Hattie Bs. (We asked the Vandy guys about their favorite, but they wouldn’t bite. Derek Mason just said: “Both.” It’s a hot debate, Hattie Bs vs. Prince’s — and there’s no reason to unnecessarily create tension in your hometown by choosing sides, even though I’m fairly certain the flavors are different enough that they do have a favorite.)
In three days in the ATL, I had Hattie Bs twice, Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken once (wildly overrated, sorry) and Chick-fil-A once. And I still managed to lose 2 pounds. How? I might not be All-SEC material, but I’m definitely All-South, y’all. I’ve been training for Atlanta’s trio of heat/humidity/fried chicken all my life. (Playing 4 hours of tennis and walking everywhere, up and down steps, didn’t hurt, either.)
— Chris Wright (@FilmRoomEditor) July 15, 2018
So while my stated preference is to keep this thing in a smaller town, the only real requirement is that wherever it goes after Hoover next year, that city must have a Hattie Bs.
Birmingham has a Hattie Bs, so Hoover is golden. Nashville, where the growing chain originated, has four locations (and Prince’s). Memphis opened its location just weeks before Atlanta. Las Vegas is next.
SEC. Las Vegas. Hattie Bs. That wouldn’t even be work.
6. Larry Fedora, put down the Red Bull, man
The UNC coach, regionally famous for his daily consumption of the hype juice, said some dangerous stuff at ACC Media Days, essentially denying a scientifically-established link between football and CTE.
SEC coaches responded the next day. Nobody called out Fedora — the media did that in spades — but they made sure to deliver the message that their institutions were doing everything possible to keep their kids safe.
5. Reporters, please … prepare yourself
The week started with somebody asking Kirby Smart about a talented quarterback room that included “Eason, Fromm and Fields.” Smart smiled, then reminded the reporter that Jacob Eason transferred … in January.
SEC Media Days are a special, special place where Kirby Smart gets asked questions about Jacob Eason’s spot in UGA’s QB battle, even though Eason transferred 161 days ago pic.twitter.com/LsVRj81ihw
— Jack McGuire (@JackMacCFB) July 17, 2018
The week ended with one reporter picking Missouri to win the SEC Championship, but not the SEC East.
Yep, pretty much. Good grief, guys.
4. Most likely to succeed Greg Sankey as SEC commish: Damien Harris
A highlight every year is watching these kids represent their university through their words, actions, attire and personality. I haven’t been disappointed yet.
Everybody on this year’s guest list was impressive, but there can only be one winner of the annual Most Likely To Succeed Greg Sankey As SEC Commish award, and this year that goes to Alabama running back Damien Harris.
Forget football. Everything about the kid is impressive. The demeanor, the presence, the polished leadership qualities. We all saw it. You have to be confident in your place in the organization to crack on Nick Saban, and Harris’ recollection of being stranded on the boat with Saban was gold.
He said it was “horrible.” But then he quickly described how much he enjoyed watching Saban get all worked up about something other than football.
3. I’m still mad about giving up a flag-football TD in 1993, and Georgia’s over 2nd-and-26? OK …
It’s true. I was no Stephen Garcia on the flag football circuit, but I was the QB on a Wilmington (N.C.) team that won back-to-back city championships. I know, you’re impressed. I also gave up a game-winning TD on the final play of a regular-season game. Should have broken up the pass. Didn’t. We bounced back. Repeated as champs. Whatever. I’m still pissed and probably think about that stupid play twice a week. It’s only been 25 years. I’ll get over it. Eventually.
Fast-forward to Tuesday, when Georgia insisted that it’s already long over giving up a national championship-winning touchdown pass on 2nd-and-26.
Saban was asked to describe Alabama’s 2017 season and, without smiling, responded: “Pretty good, successful season.”
Damien Harris said he’s still mad that Alabama lost the Iron Bowl.
Georgia? The happy-go-lucky Dawgs insisted they already are on to 2018.
That’s fine. Just don’t waste a failure.
Shameless plug, but we’re really excited about this addition to our weekly content lineup. These are the kinds of fun stories we like to tell. Hopefully, you will enjoy reading #ItMightMeanTooMuch each week.
It’s all part of another exciting, revamped venture: The SDS Pod. If you haven’t listened, give it a try. Connor O’Gara and Chris Marler make a perfectly quirky pair. They crushed it all week in Atlanta, mixing humor and insight. And a special thanks to all of the outstanding guests who participated.
— SDS Podcast (@TheSDSPod) July 19, 2018
1. I wish Lewis Grizzard could have explained his South to Joe Moorhead
One of the better moments came when our own Northern transplant asked Joe Moorhead about his Welcome to the South moment.
I asked Joe Moorhead what his "Welcome to the South" moment was.
He said waking up and getting smacked in the face with humidity every day…and that everything is wrapped in bacon.
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) July 18, 2018
Moorhead, who was an English major at Fordham, later said he is a fan of language and, in particular, is enjoying learning new Southern expressions. “Fixin’ to” isn’t something those guys say in New York or Happy Valley.
Nobody would have been better than Grizzard to ask a follow-up question.
I imagine the conversation would have sounded an awful lot like this:
Mental note: Next time I get to Atlanta, I’m driving the 50 miles down to Grizzard’s hometown of Moreland. Pay tribute to my boyhood hero and great American. Might even take the backroads through Newnan. After stopping at Hattie Bs, of course.