Commentary

Let the countdown to 2010 season begin

Originally Published: July 19, 2010
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

The 2010 college football season doesn't kick off for another 45 days, but after a chaotic offseason that threatened to change the face of the sport like never before, we can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.

SEC media days, an event that has become the unofficial start of the preseason, begin Wednesday in Hoover, Ala. The three-day circus probably won't be as eventful as last year -- new Florida quarterback John Brantley won't be there to discuss his sex life -- but it's hard not to get excited about Alabama's Nick Saban and Florida's Urban Meyer making appearances on opening day.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
AP Photo/The Tuscaloosa News/Dusty ComptonNick Saban will be in Hoover, Ala., for the SEC media days beginning on Wednesday, no doubt answering questions about the Tide's title defense.

The SEC kicks off the media days tour, followed by the ACC in Greensboro, N.C.; Big 12 in Dallas; Pac-10 in Los Angeles (and New York); Big Ten in Chicago; and Big East in Newport, R.I.

It won't be too long before preseason camps begin to open around the country, with some teams starting practice as early as the end of the month.

For schools such as Georgia, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Southern California and Tennessee -- where the only offseason news seems to have been bad news -- the start of the season can't get here fast enough.

There will be plenty of storylines to watch around the country in the coming weeks, including:

• When the 2009 regular season ended in December, Saban was sitting on top of the SEC world and Meyer was checking himself into a hospital. Meyer retired from coaching for all of 24 hours or so before returning to coach the Gators in the Sugar Bowl. Meyer then took an extended leave of absence to address health concerns, although he was never far from sight in Gainesville.

Meyer will be back in Hoover this week, but quarterback Tim Tebow and the heart of a defense that helped the Gators win the 2008 BCS national title are gone.

• The Crimson Tide must replace nine defensive starters from the team that defeated Texas 37-21 in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game. Despite the massive face-lift, Alabama is still a popular choice to win back-to-back national titles.

• For the first time since 1976, Bobby Bowden won't be coaching Florida State this coming season. New Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher, who served as Bowden's coach-in-waiting the past two seasons, meets the media at ACC Kickoff in Greensboro on July 25 and 26.

• The Big 12 might want to hand out name tags when its coaches and players meet the media in Dallas from July 26 to 28. Star players such as Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh are gone, and there are two new coaches in the league: Kansas' Turner Gill and Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville. Former Red Raiders coach Mike Leach's colorful quotes will be sorely missed.

• Nebraska, and possibly Colorado, will be making a last appearance at Big 12 media days. The Buffaloes are leaving for the Pac-10, and the Cornhuskers are joining the Big Ten in 2011. Utah joins the Pac-10 in 2011, and Boise State is moving from the WAC to the Mountain West.

• Is the Big Ten, which added Nebraska as its 12th member, finished with expansion? Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany will be asked that question and many more when he meets the media in Chicago.

• Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, who hopes to spread his league's brand name from coast to coast, will try to do just that during a three-day blitz from July 27 to 29. Pac-10 coaches and officials will spend July 27 meeting media in New York, followed by one-day stops at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

If Scott really wanted to generate attention, he'd make a pit stop in Knoxville, Tenn. Former Volunteers coach Lane Kiffin bolted after only one season and is the new coach at USC, replacing Pete Carroll.

• Given what Boise State and TCU accomplished in 2009 -- and what each team has coming back this season -- it's going to be hard to ignore the non-BCS powers in 2010. The Broncos, who bring back 21 of 22 starters after finishing 14-0 last season, probably will begin the season ranked in the top five of most polls. First, Boise State meets the media at WAC media days in Salt Lake City from July 25 to 27.

The Horned Frogs' only loss in 2009 came against Boise State, 17-10 in the Fiesta Bowl. With 17 starters coming back, TCU again looks like a legitimate BCS-bowl threat this season. The Horned Frogs meet the media at MWC media days in Las Vegas on July 27 and 28.

The 2010 season begins Sept. 2.

The questions will begin this week, and teams will start searching for answers soon thereafter.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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