ATLANTA – The first kickoff in the SEC this season is not until Aug. 27 when Vanderbilt plays at Hawaii (10:30 p.m. eastern, CBS). The first SEC game on the mainland will be Ball State at Tennessee on Sept. 1 (7 p.m., SEC Network).
But the kickoff to the kickoffs is Monday morning at the College Football Hall of Fame here at The Omni Hotel/CNN Center when SEC commissioner Greg Sankey opens the festivities. The SEC started this in 1985 in Birmingham, Alabama, and it has basically grown each year and continues to outgrow many of the lesser bowl games’ weeks.
First-year LSU coach Brian Kelly will follow before Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin and Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz. Three players will accompany each coach.
Alabama coach Nick Saban opens the press conferences on Tuesday with Mississippi State’s Mike Leach, South Carolina’s Shane Beamer and Vanderbilt’s Clark Lee to follow.
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman, Florida first-year coach Billy Napier, Georgia reigning national champion coach Kirby Smart and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops will appear Wednesday. Auburn coach Bryan Harsin, Tennessee’s Josh Heupel and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher wrap it up Thursday.
Here are five storylines to look for:
1. CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT
USC and UCLA shocked the college football world less than three weeks ago when each confirmed they would be jumping to the Big Ten Conference beginning with the 2024 season. Some writers said they saw this coming, but no one wrote about it.
The Big Ten has not been able to match the SEC in football national championship hardware as the SEC has won 12 of the last 16 crowns with four teams taking it all to the Big Ten’s one in 2014 by Ohio State. But the Big Ten makes more money and looks to continue that in its next TV contract that remains under fluid negotiation.
What will Sankey, whose league confirmed the additions of Texas and Oklahoma in 2025 about a year ago, say about conference realignment? Probably not much. He’ll dance around it. What will Saban, a former Big Ten coach at Michigan State in the 1990s, say about conference realignment? Probably more than Sankey.
What will Kelly, Notre Dame’s former coach, say about Notre Dame football possibly moving to a conference permanently for the first time? He knows Notre Dame better than anyone. Please, Brian, say something.
It was a hot topic at the SEC Spring Meetings in early June and will continue. Saban has long been for nine league games. With the SEC at 16-20 teams by 2025 or maybe 2024, it should consider a 10-game schedule, which would finally rid the league of some of those awful non-conference games late in the season.
Or do you remember Alabama vs. New Mexico State and Florida vs. Samford from last November?
3. NIL AND THE TRANSFER PORTAL
Name, Image & Likeness continue to be one big, expensive four-letter word, and many of the coaches will likely continue to come up with new and exciting ways to criticize it. Maybe someone will call both what they each are at their worst – prostitution and the quitter portal. Each will be changed significantly by this time next year.
4. NICK VS. JIMBO II
Saban and Fisher each addressed their newfound feud at length at the SEC Spring Meetings, and it is old news. Each will likely be asked about it again, though, and Saban will likely say he messed for the fourth or fifth time. And he did mess up big time, insulting his best pupil and one that had respected and admired him more than all the others.
5. THE 2022 SEASON
Oh yeah, football. They’ll get around to it. After all the NIL and transfer portal crap and realignment, which will make everything more exciting and interesting, there will be football this fall.
What SEC programs have the most juice? That’s a tough one.
Will Alabama avenge its loss to Georgia in the national title game and win it all in 2023-24? Yes.
Will Tennessee really be as good as everyone is saying it will be? Yes.
Will Kelly and Napier turn things around dramatically at LSU and Florida? No. Look for LSU to be picked last in the West or close to it and Florida no higher than third. Each hired great coaches, but each have significant roster issues.
Here is a prediction you can count on:
OutKick will be covering the SEC Media Days like never before — from early to late each day on OutKick and OutKick 360.