College football's most dominant conference in the BCS era also hosts the sport's most anticipated set of media days, and this year's gathering of those 14 programs in Hoover is no different.
If you don't think the annual question and answer sit-down is must-see TV, just look at this tweet from Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde:
Boss asked if I wanted to cover the British Open. I thought, "But it conflicts w SEC media days." Then I thought twice. Sorry, Nick Saban.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) July 15, 2013
From top to bottom, the SEC is expected to harbor a strong set of football programs once again.
Alabama's win over Notre Dame in last year's BCS title game gave the SEC its seventh straight championship win. If another champion was to emerge from the conference this year, the SEC could be the last conference to win a national title before we move into the playoff era.
The Crimson Tide have won three of the last four BCS title games and will once again be the favorite to bring home the trophy this year, but programs like Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, South Carolina and Florida will give the Tide (and each other) everything they've got during a grueling conference schedule.
Which head coach are you looking forward to hearing the most?
On Tuesday, the SEC's media days will begin. Starting with conference commissioner Mike Slive and ending with an Alabama/Vanderbilt panel on Thursday, media members everywhere will test coaches and star players with questions about the upcoming season.
But it's the answers we're all interested in.
*For a complete look at the 2013 SEC Media Days schedule, click here (via SECDigitalNetwork.com).
When: Begins Tuesday, July 16, and ends Thursday, July 18
Where: Hyatt Regency Birmingham - The Wynfrey Hotel; Hoover, Ala.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Participant List, Schedule of Events
|TUESDAY, JULY 16|
|1:30 p.m.||SEC Commissioner Mike Slive|
|2-4:40 p.m.||Florida||Head Coach Will Muschamp
QB Jeff Driskel
DL Dominique Easley
OL Jon Halapio
|2-4:40 p.m.||Missouri||Head Coach Gary Pinkel
QB James Franklin
WR L'Damian Washington
LB Andrew Wilson
|4:50-7:20 p.m.||Ole Miss||Head Coach Hugh Freeze
WR Donte Moncrief
LB Mike Marry
QB Bo Wallace
|4:50-7:20 p.m.||South Carolina||Head Coach Steve Spurrier
DE Jadeveon Clowney
WR/KR Bruce Ellington
QB Connor Shaw
|WEDNESDAY, JULY 17|
|9:10 a.m.||SEC Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw|
|9:30 a.m.-12:10 p.m.||Texas A&M||Head Coach Kevin Sumlin
DB Toney Hurd
QB Johnny Manziel
OT Jake Matthews
|9:30 a.m.-12:10 p.m.||Kentucky||
Head Coach Mark Stoops
DT Donte Rumph
RB Raymond Sanders
LB Avery Williamson
|12:20-3 p.m.||Mississippi State||Head Coach Dan Mullen
DL Kaleb Eulls
LB Benardrick McKinney
QB Tyler Russell
Head Coach Butch Jones
OL Antonio Richardson
OL Ja'Wuan James
DL Jacques Smith
|3:20-6 p.m.||Auburn||Head Coach Gus Malzahn
CB Chris Davis
DE Dee Ford
FB Jay Prosch
Head Coach Bret Bielema
DE Chris Smith
C Travis Swanson
FB Kiero Small
|THURSDAY, JULY 18|
|9:30 a.m.-12:10 p.m.||LSU||Head Coach Les Miles
WR Jarvis Landry
S Craig Loston
QB Zach Mettenberger
|9:30 a.m.-12:10 p.m.||Georgia||
Head Coach Mark Richt
TE Arthur Lynch
QB Aaron Murray
DE Garrison Smith
|12:20-3 p.m.||Alabama||Head Coach Nick Saban
QB A.J. McCarron
LB C.J. Mosley
OL Anthony Steen
Head Coach James Franklin
CB Andre Hal
OT Wesley Johnson
WR Jordan Matthews
*SEC Media Days 2013 schedule courtesy SECDigitalNetwork.com.
3 Things to Watch
Questions for Manziel
Johnny Manziel took college football by storm during his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2012, but he's been involved in more off-the-field activities since Texas A&M's Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma than anyone in College Station would like.
As ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on Sunday, Manziel left the 2013 Manning Passing Academy on Saturday afternoon. An "illness" reportedly left Manziel unable to show up to meetings and practices that were required in his counselor role. That situation is still mired in controversy as the focus shifts to Hoover.
Expectations for A&M to duplicate its 2012 success are high. As the Aggies were the last team to beat Alabama, the Tide have already circled their trip to College Station as a must-win game.
While the quarterback has been one of the most publicized players in the country since he led an upset of the Tide in Tuscaloosa last year, we've also seen a steady shift from stories about his football prowess to whispers that he hasn't exactly handled his newfound fame in stride.
Unfortunately for head coach Kevin Sumlin and Manziel's teammates Toney Hurd and Jake Matthews, who will likely want to field questions about A&M's plan of attack this season, questions about Manziel's maturity and focus will inevitably dominate the Aggies' session.
Expectations for New Coaches
Four new coaches are taking over SEC programs this year.
Kentucky (Mark Stoops), Auburn (Gus Malzahn), Arkansas (Bret Bielema) and Tennessee (Butch Jones) are all taking over for their failed predecessors. Each has a different philosophy and new players to work with, but the SEC isn't exactly the place where coaches can take their time in building a winner.
Mixing tempered expectations with the sting of starting over at a new school, these four men will have to answer questions about how they are going to compete and what steps have been taken to ensure they have a long career with their new program.
Tennessee just suffered through three seasons of futility under Derek Dooley, but is expecting the first full year of the Butch Jones era to be a strong one. This tweet from The SEC Logo should serve as a good example of said expectations:
Butch Jones - Rise to the Top: https://t.co/xHTAeFfc97— The SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo) July 15, 2013
Expect questions for Bielema about how he will bring his power running game to the SEC, what Malzahn is going to do about the QB situation in his up-tempo offense at Auburn and how Stoops will aim to get Kentucky out of the SEC basement.
This will be the first chance for the conference's new head coaches to make a good impression on a national audience. It goes without saying that the stakes are high.
The Reign of the Tide
Can anyone unseat Alabama?
The Tide will likely be the No. 1 team in the AP poll when the 2013 season begins, and it wouldn't be surprising to see each of the other 13 teams in the conference asked about what they have done to close the gap.
Which program has the best chance to unseat Alabama?
Georgia was within a possession of being the conference's representative against Notre Dame, and Texas A&M will likely be called upon to provide a formula to beat the Tide.
But Nick Saban and company are in the middle of one of college football's most impressive dynasties, even if the head coach and his players must put those notions aside and stay focused on an unprecedented three-peat.
These days, the SEC starts and ends in Alabama. The conference travels to the Heart of Dixie to begin the 2013 SEC football journey on Tuesday, but only time will tell if the journey will once again end with the Tide hoisting the trophy in January.
*For a complete look at every SEC school's 2013 football schedule, check out SECDigitalNetwork.com.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.