2018 SEC Kickoff means football is around the corner

SEC Football Media Days or “2018 SEC Kickoff” begins today in Atlanta, Ga., which means the college football season is within smelling distance.

The SEC Network will televise 45 hours of live content today through Thursday so football fans like us can soak it up and wallow in the information until real football news actually begins being generated with preseason camp.

Media Days Coverage

The SEC Network’s coverage of Media Days begins at 11:30 a.m. today (July 17). See the full detailed lineup at SECSports.com.

Monday, July 16
Texas A&M

Tuesday, July 17
Ole Miss

Wednesday, July 18
Mississippi State

Thursday, July 19
South Carolina

The Arkansas Razorbacks report for camp on Aug. 2 and begin the first preseason under Chad Morris on Aug. 3. The Hogs open the season on Sept. 1 against Eastern Illinois at Razorbacks Stadium.

It’s all coming quickly. Just think about it, two months from today, Arkansas will have already played three games and will be a day into their preparation for their SEC opener at Auburn on Sept. 22.

We are in the downhill sprint to the start of the season, but the older I get the time without football seems to get longer and longer, while the actual season seems to get shorter and shorter.

This summer, however, seems like it has been a bit shorter, thanks to Dave Van Horn and his Arkansas baseball squad giving us something to cheer about through most of the month of June.

I have to admit the Razorbacks losing the title to an excellent and deep Oregon State squad did a leave a bruise, but it was great fun watching the Razorbacks fight and give their all throughout the NCAA Tournament to final game of the College World Series.

One hopes that Morris will have the Razorbacks in position one day to be a major player in the upper tier bowls if not the College Football Playoff. As impossible as that may sound at the moment, that is the dream for all Hog fans and the aspiration for every Razorback coach and player.

Morris has guided the Razorbacks through his first round of spring practices and most of the summer. His appearance Tuesday at SEC Media Days will be another first, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the spotlight.

The Hogs won’t be a major story for the majority of the SEC media, but it will be interesting to read and hear the thoughts about Morris and the Hogs this week.

From what we’ve seen of Morris, he’s not as comfortable on the podium as previous Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. Bielema was somewhat of a star at SEC Media Days because of his humor, candor, and ease in front of the mic.

Maybe it’s all the Red Bull, but Morris seems a bit antsy while fielding questions from the media, but that’s O.K.

How he talks on the podium or how well he is perceived by the media has no bearing on his ability to coach the Razorbacks and have success at Arkansas. We know that from experiencing Bobby Petrino’s tenure at Arkansas.

Morris has none of Petrio’s toxicity, but he is well respected for his innovative and high-scoring approach to offensive football.

Morris won’t be the darling of SEC Media Days like Bielema, but one hopes as his program grows at Arkansas, the respect he garners will come from the play of the Razorbacks on the football field.

Unfortunately for Morris, he will likely be asked about the arrest of freshman receiver Mike Woods for misdemeanor driving under the influence, minor in possession of alcohol, and improper lane usage just before midnight last Friday.

Arkansas head coach Chad Morris / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com

Morris issued a statement in a press release that basically said nothing, so he will likely be asked about Woods by the Arkansas media. It might or might not be on the podium. If it is on the podium, you can bet he’ll be asked about his philosophy of disciplining players when they do run afoul of the law.

Morris probably won’t speak candidly about Woods, but he should be ready for the question and not let it him throw him off the message he’s attempting to shape as the Razorbacks’ head football coach.

As for the Razorbacks, don’t expect them to get much love from the media this week in terms of projections and predictions. I fully expect the Hogs to be picked last in the SEC West because of their poor finish last season and for all the unknowns going into this season.

With the quarterback position unsettled at Arkansas, very few are going to give the Razorbacks the benefit of the doubt. While Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis commands respect in various corner of the SEC, with the way the Hogs have defended the past three seasons, many reporters are going to wonder if there is enough talent for the The Chief to get it done in his first year On the Hill.

While coordinators do not get podium time at SEC Media Days, Arkansas ought to include Chavis in its official party to Atlanta. He is definitely a figure media members would want to interview to in Atlanta, and it might yield a positive story or two.

My guess for how the preseason voting for how teams will finish in the SEC West is:

  1. Alabama
  2. Auburn
  3. LSU
  4. Mississippi State
  5. Texas A&M
  6. Ole Miss
  7. Arkansas

My personal vote would have Mississippi State at No. 3 and Arkansas at No. 6. I’d also be tempted to put the Hogs at No. 5 above the Aggies.

I think the voting for the SEC East will be:

  1. Georgia
  2. South Carolina
  3. Florida
  4. Missouri
  5. Tennessee
  6. Kentucky
  7. Vanderbilt

While I might not be bold enough to vote Florida first in the preseason, Dan Mullen is an excellent coach and should do even better with Florida’s talent than he did at Mississippi State. I don’t know why the Gators didn’t hire Mullen in 2011 when they hired Will Muschamp or 2015 when they hired Jim McElwain. Better late than never, I guess.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn on The Paul Finebaum Show

There is always talk about which coach is on the hot seat. The truth is every coach is on the hot seat. Remember how analysts were saying that the game had passed Nick Saban by when Ole Miss lucked out and beat the Crimson Tide in 2014?

My guesses for which coaches are truly at threat of losing their job going into the season:

  1. Ed Ogeron at LSU. It’s about style points at LSU. Even if his Tigers finish third in the SEC West as most are predicting, he may not get another year.
  2. Derek Mason at Vanderbilt. Mason is a good coach in a very tough situation. Vandy isn’t the most demanding job in the SEC, but it is the most difficult.
  3. Gus Malzahn at Auburn. Call me crazy, but Tigers fans are expecting an SEC title. Anything less will be a disappointment. If Auburn were to somehow dip to 8-4, there would be unrest On the Plains.
  4. Mark Stoops at Kentucky. Very similar to Mason’s situation at Vanderbilt. At some point Kentucky fans will want a change. It could be this year.
  5. Barry Odom at Missouri. After a very tough first half of the season last year with the Tigers going 1-5, Missouri bounced back to win six consecutive games before losing to Texas in the Texas Bowl. Some have Missouri as their dark horse team in the East, but the question is can Odom’s Tigers overperform and not dig such an early season hole.