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Well, SEC Media Days is winding down. I, for one, think that went by way too fast, but as long as that trend continues, the college football season will be here before we know it. The week isn’t officially over yet though.
There are still three teams left, who all have something in common. All three head coaches will be making their first ever appearance at SEC Media Days. Yes, Eli Drinkwitz and Sam Pittman are both heading into Year 2, but COVID wiped out the media events in 2020.
The third coach, Bryan Harsin, recently left one school with blue and orange colors for another.
Below are some of the top storylines to look out for on Thursday. Most of them are team specific, of course, but that OU/Texas bombshell that was dropped late on Wednesday will continue to be the main talking point for the rest of Media Days. Let’s get started, shall we?
Where: Hyatt Regency – The Winfrey Hotel (Hoover, Ala.)
When: Thursday, July 22
Coverage Starts: 9 a.m. ET (8 a.m. CT)
TV Channel: SEC Network
Streaming: ESPN app, SEC Network+
Lineup (Day 4): Missouri (Eli Drinkwitz); Arkansas (Sam Pittman); Auburn (Bryan Harsin)
Top Storylines for Day 4
1. Oklahoma, Texas fishing for an invite to the SEC party
I still can’t believe I’m typing this statement. The two biggest programs in the Big 12, Oklahoma and Texas, are looking to jump ship and join the SEC. That little tidbit of information has turned the rest of the offseason upside down as everyone scrambles to break down what that means.
Considering the rich history between the Big 12 and two of the final three schools taking the podium on Thursday, we should have some interesting discussions about the possible move. Missouri was part of the last wave of schools to make the jump from the Big 12 to the SEC, and Arkansas has a storied rivalry with Texas dating back to the Southwest Conference days. They also play each other in 2021.
If we really want to take a deep dive on connections, Harsin was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Boise State back in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl when the Broncos pulled off two of the best trick plays of all time to upset Oklahoma 43-42. He also held the same roles at Texas for back in 2011-12.
Like I said, there’s about to be some great dialogue happening on Thursday.
2. Is Missouri a surprise team in Year 2 of Drinkwitz?
Sure, we’ll get some “what are your thoughts about Oklahoma and Texas” type of questions for Drinkwitz, but he wasn’t even a thought for the Tigers back when Missouri was in the Big 12. I’ll be curious to hear his answers, but I’m more curious to hear what he’ll say about his own team.
This squad lost several noteworthy players in 2020, including Nick Bolton, Larry Rountree III, Larry Borom, Tyree Gillespie and Joshua Bledsoe. For Missouri, that’s significant, but there is still plenty to like in Columbia. In fact, they could be a surprise team in the East this season.
A lot of that will be dictated by the continued growth of star quarterback Connor Bazelak, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Tigers pushed Florida for the third spot in that division (I have Georgia as the clear-cut No. 1 team with Kentucky finishing No. 2).
Personally, I still think Missouri finishes in that fourth spot, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like them. This is a program on the rise under their second-year head coach.
3. Arkansas might be the best bottom barrel SEC team of all time
I have the SEC West in tiers right now. In Tier 1, it’s Alabama, Texas A&M and maybe LSU. If LSU doesn’t qualify for Tier 1, they certainly check in with Ole Miss in Tier 2. As for Tier 3, I’m having a hard time trying to decide how to rank Auburn, Mississippi State and Arkansas.
If I did rank them, however, I would probably do so in that order, which means the Razorbacks would finish last in the division. But that doesn’t put them in the same range as a Vanderbilt, South Carolina or maybe even a Tennessee over in the East. Not even close.
If Arkansas finishes as a sub-500 football team, they might be one of the best sub-500 football teams of all time. Here’s why it could happen:
- Georgia Southern
- Texas A&M
- at Georgia
- at Ole Miss
- Arkansas Pine-Bluff
- Mississippi State
- at LSU
- at Alabama
Who do we expect the five best teams to be in the SEC this season? Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss. Arkansas has to play every single one of them, four of them on the road. Auburn, Mississippi State and Missouri will be more manageable, but still difficult.
I’ll be very curious to see how the Razorbacks stack up against Texas in Week 2, but I think four or five wins might be the most realistic outlook. Six wins would be a best-case scenario, which is unfortunate because I love where Pittman has this program heading.
4. The light finally has to come on for Bo Nix
Folks, Bo Nix has to become the quarterback Auburn recruited him to be when he was a five-star prospect coming out of Pinson Valley in Alabama back in 2019. He’s had his moments, including a few incredible throws against Alabama in the 2019 Iron Bowl, but he’s been wildly inconsistent.
If the Tigers want to be competitive this season, Nix — or TJ Finley, if all else fails — has to step up. Sure, the focal point of the offense will be Tank Bigsby, Shaun Shivers and the run game, but a complementary passing game is a must.
Should Nix finally take that next step, Auburn could be better than any of us are expecting. If he doesn’t, this team might barely make a bowl game.
As far as final regular season record, I’m predicting somewhere around 7-5, with those five losses coming from some combination of Penn State, LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Alabama. If they can snag just a couple of those and avoid unexpected losses to Arkansas, Mississippi State and South Carolina, eight wins is possible.
Let’s see how confident Harsin sounds in his SEC Media Days debut.
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Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.