Media days – the unofficial kickoff to the start of the 2019 college football season – are nearly here.
This is the peak of “talkin’ season,” and college football’s best players and coaches will be in the spotlight with news conferences in front of the national media. That of course, begs the question: What kind of questions can we expect?
Here are five storylines that will emerge during the Power 5 conference media days, which begin on Monday with the SEC and the Big 12:
SEC: Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa
SEC Media Days run Monday through Thursday, and Alabama will take the spotlight in its customary Wednesday spot. Tagovailoa, a second-team Sporting News All-American, will take centerstage alongside teammates Jerry Jeudy and Dylan Moses. Last year, Tagovailoa was riding the high of a pinch-hit appearance that led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 2017. The hype was real, as he finished with 3,966 passing yards and 43 touchdowns to just six interceptions en route to a second-place finish in the Heisman race.
Now, a full-scale dissection begins. Can he stay healthy? What will the offense be like with new coordinator Steve Sarkisian? Can he be considered a franchise quarterback at the next level? Alabama coach Nick Saban can bristle at those questions. How Tagovailoa reacts will generate a larger reaction.
Sporting News has Tagovailoa as the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Of course, we already know who the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft is going to be – but he won’t be at ACC Kickoff.
ACC: Clemson coach Dabo Swinney
The ACC Kickoff runs Wednesday and Thursday and will offer Dabo Swinney the chance to address media as a national champion for the second time in three years. This is no longer “little ‘ole Clemson.” The Tigers have been in the national spotlight, with everything from a candlelit fast-food dinner at the White House, a drug test appeal that was denied by the NCAA and Swinney’s joke that he was “Osama bin Dabo” in Alabama.
Swinney is typically an affable, open book at news conferences whose answers can run long. It will be interesting to see if he takes a more buttoned-down approach this year. We still don’t think he will. The upcoming launch of the ACC Network (Aug. 22) will be a topic of conversation, and Clemson is carrying the conference’s football flag.
Big Ten: Commissioners Jim Delany and Kevin Warren
Delany will preside over his final Big Ten Media Days on Thursday and Friday, though incoming commissioner Kevin Warren will also be in the spotlight. Delany added four teams to the Big Ten; from a football standpoint, half (Penn State, Nebraska) are hits, while the other two (Maryland, Rutgers) are still being questioned. Delany’s tenure is one where the good outweighed the bad, especially with the revenue the conference has generated.
Warren will face College Football Playoff-era questions, especially as it relates to the conference’s format (divisions or no?) and scheduling (are nine games a good idea when the ACC/SEC don’t do it?). Warren likely will be in charge when the Playoff field expands, and his introductory news conference shows he’s up to the task.
Last year’s Big Ten Media Days featured the Urban Meyer drama. This year’s event should be more reserved, though Nebraska’s Scott Frost and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh will generate the usual headlines.
Big 12: Les Miles, Neal Brown headline new coaches
Big 12 Media Days run Monday and Tuesday. The Big 12 had the most coaching turnover among the power conferences, with Kansas’ Les Miles, West Virginia’s Neal Brown, Texas Tech’s Matt Wells and Kansas State’s Chris Klieman each facing different challenges at their respective schools. But this year they at least will be able to offset the typical Oklahoma-Texas theme that typically overpowers the event.
For one, we’re excited to have Miles back at a media day. He was typically the star while in the SEC, and he’s good for one or two can’t-miss stories. Expect him to be better than ever on the podium while trying to shine a light on a program that has won a paltry five Big 12 games this decade.
Pac-12: USC coach Clay Helton
Pac-12 Media Day takes place July 24, getting the entire week of storylines to itself. That might not be good for USC coach Clay Helton, who will be the lead topic of conversation. The Trojans are coming off a 5-7 season, hired Kliff Kingsbury as offensive coordinator before he took the Cardinals job and now have a remodeled staff that faces a brutal first-half schedule. Oh, and the Urban Meyer speculation is off and running.
Hot-seat coaches are over-analyzed during media days, so expect Helton to keep it tight and not offer a byte that can be used against him later. Coaches will face the usual questions about the standing of the conference, and as usual, Washington State’s Mike Leach will give at least one off-the-wall headline.
This content was originally published here.