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SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion, Part 5

"Now let me explain"
Posted Aug 17, 2009

What SEC game are our guys most excited about? Which team should be on serious upset alert? What position battle should we be watching and did Barrett, Billy or Brian learn anything from the SEC Media Days? Read on to find out what they thought in our Final SEC Blogger Roundtable of the year.

- Blogger Roundtable, Part One 

- Blogger Roundtable, Part Two 

- Blogger Roundtable, Part Three 

- Blogger Roundtable, Part Four 

Just when you thought you couldn’t handle any more from Barrett, Billy and Brian, the SEC Bloggers are back with Part Five of their SEC Roundtable Discussion. Three of our SEC Bloggers (Billy Gomila, Brian Harbach and Barrett Sallee) are back to get you through the summer until the season starts. This monthly SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion should fire up our loyal CFN SEC readers and give you something to talk about during the College Football’s dead period. Each month the guys will dive into a handful of juicy topics to give your off-season water cooler discussions some life. In their Final Roundtable of the year the guys discuss SEC Media Days, August Position Battles, Potential Upsets in the SEC and the SEC game they are most excited about.

What was the most interesting tidbit you picked up from SEC Media Days?

Billy Gomila: The inquisiiition…let’s begin…the inquisiiition…lookout sin!

You know, when the Coaches’ Preseason All-SEC team came out, I naturally wondered who the heck didn’t vote for Tim Tebow as first-team quarterback. I did not, however, feel the urge to interrogate every single coach in the league about it. Honestly, I’m not sure what I learned at SEC Media Days. In the internet age, most die-hard fans and talking-head-types are dialed into not just their own team, but the rest of the conference on a daily basis. We know who we expect to see playing this year, or at least have a pretty good idea. Media days at this point are basically for the Maisels, Mandels and Fordes of the world, who don’t have the luxury of focusing on one conference. The coaches rarely give non-rehearsed answers, and given that practices haven’t even started yet, there just isn’t a whole lot to reveal. The most interesting part is probably watching the cult-like swarm of Alabama fans to kiss the ring of whoever’s coaching them that year.

Brian Harbach: The most interesting thing I saw during the SEC Media days was how flustered and uncomfortable Steve Spurrier looked at the podium. The once mighty Darth Visor looked awful. A self-admitted 7-6 head coach, it looks like 4 years at South Carolina has taken away his swagger, his attitude and his confidence. It was quite a change from the man that came into Media Days 4 years ago with the opinion that he could win the SEC at South Carolina and it seems evident that even he doesn’t believe that any longer. The Tebow voting situation was a disappointment, but anyone who knows Spurrier is aware that he never has any input on his votes unless it was ranking Duke 25th in the preseason Coaches poll. Earlier this year I said this would be his last at South Carolina, I no longer believe that, but Spurrier looks like he is a lot closer to the end of his career than the revitalized man that showed up in Columbia with hopes of taking the Gamecocks to Atlanta. The SEC is better with Spurrier, I hope South Carolina has a better year than the experts think because I want the old Spurrier back.

Barrett Sallee: The most interesting thing I saw at Media Days was the level of attention that was paid to the event on the national level. Billy is right, due to 24/7/365 coverage of every football program nowadays, the information learned at Media Days is really only useful for people that can't focus on one particular conference. But, with the new TV contract and the attention paid to it on ESPNU, this Media Days was transformed from a media event, to a media circus. From Clay Travis questioning Tim Tebow's virginity, to Steve Spurrier looking squeamish at the podium, to the seemingly never-ending search for the vote culprit; this seemed more like a Super Bowl Media Day than a pre-season conference meeting. The only thing missing was a scantily-clad “reporter” from a Spanish language television station. Traditionalists will probably tell you that this transformation is bad for the league, and those types of shenanigans are better left for the NFL. I, however, disagree. Real information on every team and player is still discussed at Media Days. All the circus atmosphere does is bring more fans in to an event that they wouldn't have paid much attention to in the past.

What is the most exciting position battle to watch in 2-A-Days?

Brian: There are quite a few big battles going down in August but the one that stands out the most is the running back position at Tennessee. There is definitely not a lack of talent at the position for the Vols with Senior Montario Hardesty currently listed as the starter, but the infusion of young talent in freshmen Bryce Brown and David Oku should add some significant challenges to the incumbent senior. During the first week of fall camp both freshmen have looked impressive along with sophomore Tauren Poole. Running back should be a strength for the Vols this season and looking back at the great USC teams that Lane Kiffin was a part of there was never a shortage of talented backs. Guys like Reggie Bush, Justin Fargas, Chauncey Washington and Lendale White all made great contributions at Southern Cal and are now in the NFL. Tennessee has the talent and depth to rotate players and get the same production; it should be a battle all the way up until the season opener.

Barrett: I had planned on saying that the Auburn quarterback battle is what I'm most interested in, but Chris Todd ended that battle real quick. Now, I am most interested in seeing who will replace Knowshon Moreno as the Georgia starting running back. Mr. All Everything recruit Caleb King had planned on battling Moreno for the top spot a few years ago, before Moreno blossomed into a first-round back. No problem, he'll just wait a few years and step right in, right? Wrong. King was actually replaced as the Bulldogs second-string tailback towards the end of last season, in favor of Richard Samuel. Samuel sat out spring with a wrist injury, setting up a summer battle. It hasn't been much of a battle so far. Samuel got Bulldog Nation worked up into a tizzy with a solid performance in their first scrimmage, totaling 108 yards on just five carries for two touchdowns. He also added a 70-yard touchdown reception on top of that. Meanwhile, King is out with a lingering hamstring until next week. The door for Samuel to surpass King as the top dog isn't just cracked, it's wide open. Another solid week, and he'll probably waltz right through.

Billy: As an LSU fan, most of my attention on the Tigers is focused on the offensive line, specifically center, where sophomore T-Bob Hebert and redshirt freshman P.J. Lonergran are battling for job. But looking across the conference, here are a few other battles I’ll be watching:

Alabama Offensive Line:Will D.J. Fluker be God’s gift to the left tackle (unlike that All-American bum that cost you the Sugar Bowl, right Bama fans?) position? The offensive line will likely go the longest way towards determining the Crimson Tide’s success this season. It’ll be crucial for Nick Saban to find a starting five quickly and get them to gel as a unit.

Florida Wide Receiver: Percy Harvin isn’t the only receiver the Gators have to replace. Who will step up and provide the consistency that Louis Murphy gave them last season? Florida’s got no shortage of playmakers out there, they just need to find who will be the go-to guy on third and eight.

Georgia Running Back: The last time Georgia had to replace a 1,000-yard rusher, it took a few years to find another workhorse. Recruitnicks figure Caleb King will step in for Knowshon Moreno, but he’s looked tentative as a runner at times. Richard Samuel looks like a straight-ahead-running power back that can carry the load, but can he stay healthy? Freshmen Carlton Thomas and Washaun Ealey will have something to say as well. It’ll take a strong running game to keep opponents from bracket-covering A.J. Green.

What SEC game are you most excited to watch this season?

Billy: Maybe it’s the guilty pleasure, trainwreck-reality TV fan in me, but in the season’s first month Florida-Tennessee is squarely in my sights. Frankly, I want to see what all the fuss is about. Lane Kiffin has called out the conference’s biggest, baddest bully to meet him on the playground after school. Will this be the atomic wedgie/swirly combination Urban Meyer is dying to give him? Or will Kiffykins’ swagger translate to his football team’s play? Tennessee will almost certainly lose – but with the entire nation expecting an epic beat-down, they have a little house money if they can keep the score respectable.

Brian: The game I am most excited about will hopefully be so good we get to watch it twice. Florida at LSU has all the makings of an SEC Classic and when you add the fact that the last three BCS National Champions will be on the field, the stakes get even bigger. The last two meetings in Baton Rouge between these two programs have been filled with drama with LSU winning both by 4 points. Who can forget Tebow signaling the crowd to give him a call in 2007? Maybe you recall Jacob Hester going in for the winning touchdown to help continue LSU’s march towards the 2007 National Championship. We can only hope we get a moment close to those two this season but the important question is should there any doubt that this will be a night game? Just in case CBS is getting the idea to put this game on at 3:30 ET they better take it out of their head right now. I am willing to boycott every one of their sponsors if they pick this game up and I will use my columns to ask all our readers to do the same. This game should be played at 7:45 or later and there is no arguing that.

Barrett: I firmly believe that the annual “Magnolia Bowl” between LSU and Ole Miss will be the most exciting and most important game of the SEC season. Ole Miss broke a six-game losing streak to the Tigers in last years 31-13 drubbing in Baton Rouge. This year, Ole Miss and LSU both are considered real contenders to win the West, despite being voted third and second respectively in the division by the SEC Media. The Rebels get the Tigers in Oxford in 2009, in a game which, in my opinion, will decide who wins the SEC West and gets to face off against the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship Game.

Billy: It’s all so close guys…just talking about this has me itching for week one. That weekend alone will have a lot to tell. Will Jordan Jefferson and LSU get off to a good start on a long road trip? Can Ole Miss dispatch Memphis – who has generally been a pesky opponent for them – with the kind of gusto that says championship material? Will Alabama kick off another season with a bang in the Georgia Dome? Nevermind the start to the Gene Chizik era, a game that won’t exactly be a cakewalk. I can’t wait for it all to begin again.

Do you expect any major upsets in the SEC this season? If so, which game?

Barrett: I believe that South Carolina will go to Athens and upset Georgia the second week of the season. The Gamecocks did it two years ago, and in retrospect, that game cost the Bulldogs a chance at the National Championship. That Georgia team featured a first round QB and a first round RB. This year, the Bulldogs are working with an entirely new backfield and coming off a rare road out-of-conference game vs. a very tough Oklahoma State Cowboys team to start the season. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks get two extra days to prepare for Georgia after visiting N.C. State on the first Thursday night of the season. Both teams have huge question marks on offense, which is why South Carolina, led by Eric Norwood and that stellar defense, will be the deciding factor in this early season slobber-knocker. The Gamecocks posted the nation's 13th best defense last season, allowing just 292 yards per game, despite getting virtually no help from their offense. They will put pressure on new Bulldog QB Joe Cox, forcing him into some early mistakes; giving the Gamecocks an early season W over a quality opponent.

Billy: With all due respect to my two colleagues, I’m going to go with Louisiana Tech over Auburn in week one. Sorry fellas, but rising star Derek Dooley and the Bulldogs will make it two straight season-opening wins over SEC schools. Returning 16 starters from last year’s 8-5 squad, Tech will be paced by a strong defensive line that features several SEC-caliber talents and is coached by an Auburn man himself, former All-SEC defensive lineman Jimmy Brumbaugh. As an interesting side note, Brumbaugh served as a strength and conditioning assistant at LSU in 2006 and 2007 – and some close to the program have whispered that his departure played a major role in the decline of the Tigers’ d-line play in 2008. Tech also features a handful of playmakers on offense like Phillip Livas and Daniel Porter and a veteran quarterback in Ross Jenkins. Tech is just the wrong matchup for an Auburn team that will be breaking in a new offense and have issues at quarterback and along the offensive line. Try not to break out the pitchforks and torches for Gene Chizik Auburn fans…remember, it’s just one game!

Brian: Looking over the entire SEC schedule there are games that have the potential to be upsets, the two games listed above are perfect examples, but my pick is a game that I can guarantee will be an upset. Top 10 Ole Miss will lose its first game of the season to an unranked South Carolina team in Columbia. If Barrett and I are both right it will be a very nice start to the Gamecock season, but I am less in agreement over a UGA upset for USC than the lock South Carolina is to beat Ole Miss. Last year South Carolina beat Ole Miss in Oxford with a worse quarterback and honestly with a worse team. This year’s rematch is in Columbia on a Thursday night and from my experiences at Thursday night games in Columbia; Williams Brice Stadium is going to be rocking. Of course it is difficult to win on the road in the SEC, especially in a night game, but this is a game Ole Miss should win, but they won’t.

Barrett: A lotta love for the Gamecocks. And Billy, no disrespect taken – I wouldn't be totally shocked to see Louisiana Tech come to the Plains and upset Auburn either. Some other games that you might want to keep an eye on are: Kentucky vs. Alabama the first week of October in Lexington, Arkansas vs. LSU the last week of the season in Baton Rouge and don't be surprised to see Memphis go into Knoxville on week 10 and give the Vols all they can handle.

Brian: I want to add one last piece to our Final SEC Blogger Roundtable. It has been a blast writing with both Barrett and Billy the last 4 months. These guys know SEC football and have the passion that every person who loves the SEC should have. I hope the readers enjoyed their takes as much as I did and I look forward to working with them throughout the year. Enjoy the season, we are almost there.

We hope you enjoyed our Fifth and Final SEC Blogger Roundtable Discussion, please email any of us or all of us with your comments. Also, if there are any questions you want us to answer go ahead and send them our way.

Billy Gomila

Brian Harbach

Barrett Sallee

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