5 Week 1 SEC Storylines That Will Steal the Spotlight from Johnny Manziel
What? I Thought it was All About Me!
So, Johnny Manziel took some ill-advised photographs and posted them on Instagram. Big deal! Yeah, the returning Heisman Trophy-winner may or may not have accepted money to sign some memorabilia. Who cares? We know, the Texas A&M quarterback will “pay” for his actions by sitting out the first half of the Aggies’ opener against Rice. So what? Isn’t there anything else going on in the SEC football world that we could be talking about?
Frankly, Johnny Football has been the dominant SEC football storyline for far too long now. You’ll likely find questionable photos on every young adult’s Instagram account. The NCAA is hypocritical about who can profit from a college player’s likeness. As for Saturday, A&M would beat Rice if they started Reveille the collie at quarterback.
In case you’ve forgotten, there are 13 other teams in the SEC, each with more than 100 players. And they are all playing football this week. That’s a lot of possibilities for stories. So why focus every shred of attention to one player? To be quite honest, there are far more interesting SEC football storylines just waiting to unfold, stealing the spotlight from ol’ Johnny boy.
Where’s a good Les Miles soundbite when you need one? Surely a player on one of the SEC teams has been arrested in the last few days. I heard every time Aaron Murray breathes this season he will break an SEC passing record. With so much going on around the conference, let’s give the Manziel mania a rest already. Here are five storylines that will help get our minds off the only thing anyone seems to write about these days.
5. Air Alabama
Alabama’s offense torches Virginia Tech through the air, as two Crimson Tide wideouts – Amari Cooper and Kenny Bell – have more than 100-plus receiving yards. AJ McCarron will have a stellar performance against the Hokies, who are missing a starter in the secondary and will be leaning on some inexperienced players. Not a good recipe for success against what should be the most prolific passing attack in Crimson Tide football history. Tryone Prothro and DJ Hall were the last two Bama receivers to have more than 100 receiving yards in the same game – Sept. 10, 2005 vs. Southern Miss. It’s only happened four times in Alabama football history.
4. Kentucky Gets Petrinoed and Hilltopped… Again!
The Wildcats open the season against in-state directional foe Western Kentucky, whose head coach, Bobby Petrino, comes in with a 4-1 record against the Wildcats during stints at Louisville and Arkansas. Another number that stands out is Petrino's 8-0 record in season openers, which WKU aims to keep perfect by following up on last season's 32-31 overtime victory over Kentucky. For folks in Lexington, it’s never too early to start looking ahead to basketball season.
3. Arkansas Swamped Again
It’s déjà vu all over again for Arkansas when another Louisiana Bayou ball-team comes to Fayetteville and roasts the pigs this weekend. This time it’s Louisiana-Lafayette, which will channel LA-Monroe from a year ago to take down an SEC team on the road. The Ragin' Cajuns are the favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference, and they have an athletic quarterback in junior Terrance Broadway, Jr. who could wreak havoc on an Arkansas defense that is not expected to be very good by SEC standards. Remember what Kolton Browning (432 yards, 3 TD) did to the Hogs a last year? Broadway threw for 2,842 yards and 17 touchdowns with nine interceptions last season and ranked 19th in the FBS in passer efficiency. He will have a huge performance in a monumental win for Louisiana-Lafayette. Remember, this Ragin' Cajuns team would have beaten 11-2 Florida in The Swamp in 2012 if not for a miracle comeback by the Gators in the final minutes.
2. Gators Find Themselves in a Bind
Speaking of Florida, things will be very hairy, and scary, in Gainesville in Week 1 – but for all the wrong reasons if you’re a Gators fan. Florida opens 2013 against the Toledo Rockets, a team that finished 9-4 last season, won eight-straight games and made a brief appearance in the BCS Rankings. The Rockets' strength is obviously on offense, a unit that returns nine starters from a year ago. The Gators have lots of questions on offense, so it will be interesting to see what happens if Toledo has some early success against a retooled Florida defense. Can Jeff Driskel and company answer the call and keep pace on the scoreboard? Though Toledo has never faced an SEC opponent, it could unexpectedly enjoy success against a Top 10 conference power in its first try. Gators fans may be more blue than orange by mid-afternoon Saturday.
1. Georgia-Clemson Game One for the Ages
If all the hype about these two teams is to be believed, this season-opener will be one of the best in recent memory, if not in college football history. Two Top 10 teams located less than 80 miles apart, both with exceptional senior quarterbacks and a surplus of offensive skill talent, will battle it out for geographical, conference and BCS bragging rights. The atmosphere in the other Death Valley will be electrifying, as will the play on the field. Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd will both deliver huge performances, placing themselves at the epicenter of early-season Heisman talk. I wouldn’t be surprised to see lots of late-game fireworks and an extraordinary finish. Folks will be buzzing about this game for the rest of the season.