SEC brings summer relief to football withdrawal pains

Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman speaks during NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Wednesday, July 20, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

SEC Football Media Days is a wonderfully superfluous event that comes at just the right time each summer.

It opens today and runs through Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. with every SEC head football coach making an appearance along with three players selected to represent each of their teams. The SEC Network is broadcasting a record 47 hours of content from the Music City with every talking head that you can imagine giving their take on the season that’s just six weeks away.

Much will be made of the coaches’ attire, their shoe game, and perhaps their shades or even their pocket squares. No doubt SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey will kick off the event with his season-opening address to set the agenda for the new season, and ardent fans like you and me will eat up it with a spoon.

Yes, I have my DVR set to record it all, even though I know I won’t end up watching a quarter of it, if that. As a football starved fan and follower of the Razorbacks specifically and the SEC in general that’s somehow still a comfort to me in the heat of the summer.

FALL and FOOTBALL are coming, and I can’t wait.

So, if I’m that eager for football, why call the SEC proceedings this week in Nashville superfluous?

Mainly because much of the information derived from the event will be old news or changed significantly by the time teams take the practice field sometime before or during the first full week of August, and if the info isn’t stale by then, it certainly will be by the time the season kicks off in late August for Vanderbilt, Missouri, and Florida, and Sept. 2 for the rest of the conference.

New stories — actual stories — will develop as the programs begin practicing. How much access the media will get varies from campus to campus. Some may have open scrimmages, but most probably won’t.
Programs like to control the narrative, even dictate it when they can. It’s smart and safe. It homogenizes the story coming out of preseason camp. When all interviews are basically done as a collective, many of the reports and stories are obviously very much alike. Again smart, safe, and similar.

We can all speculate on how this season will go. Some can even offer great educated opinions. But no reporter could have foreseen the extreme number of injuries the Razorbacks faced last season. Certainly not those who picked the Arkansas to win nine or 10 games.

Since Arkansas “underachieved” last season based on preseason predictions, don’t expect the national or regional media to have much faith in Sam Pittman’s Hogs this season.

When the polling comes out this week from media days, I wouldn’t expect the Hogs to be picked higher than fourth in the West for the final season of divisional play. Actually fifth or sixth is more likely.

But historically, the Razorbacks have done better when they’ve been discounted by the media.

While the Hogs do have some question marks going into preseason workouts offensively, this Razorback team could be potent with what could be a dominating rushing attack, and in Dan Enos’ new offense, the better Arkansas is able to run the football, the more opportunities the Hogs should have in the passing game.

The defense, however, is a big question mark. Outside of a well-stacked defensive front — which admittedly makes everything easier for the linebackers and secondary — there are question marks everywhere else. Defensive coordinator Travis Williams plans to be aggressive. That sounds fun, but unless the Razorbacks play a much improved pass defense to last year, it’s also going to sound fun to most of the Hogs’ opponents.

My heart tells me the Razorbacks will cover better this season, but my brain won’t believe it until my eyes see it.

But I digress.

SEC Media Days may ultimately end up being much to do about nothing by the time teams start practicing, but I’d be lying If I said I wasn’t more than a little bit giddy when I consider all the football talk I’ll get to listen to this week, and I’ll be even more excited once practice begins in August.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2023 Football schedule

Countdown to Kickoff: 46 Days

Sept. 2 – Western Carolina at Little Rock (3 p.m. ESPN+/SEC+)
Sept. 9 – Kent State (3 p.m. SEC Network)
Sept. 16 – BYU (6:30 p.m. ESPN2)
Sept. 23 – at LSU (TBA)
Sept. 30 – Texas AM at Arlington, Texas (TBA)
Oct. 7 – at Ole Miss (TBA)
Oct. 14 – at Alabama (TBA)
Oct. 21 – Mississippi State (TBA)
Nov. 4 – at Florida (TBA)
Nov. 11 – Auburn (TBA)
Nov. 18 – Florida International (TBA)
Nov. 24 – Missouri – (3 p.m. CBS)