SEC media days: Wednesday morning takeaways

semerson@macon.comJuly 16, 2014 

SEC Media Days Football

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel speaks to media at the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


It's Day 3 of SEC media days, and it was a busy morning: Missouri's delegation, the SEC coordinator of officials, the head of the SEC Network and the head of the College Football Playoff all visited with the media. Here are the top five observations or notes:

1. Quarterback confusion

This is how undefined the quarterback position has become in the SEC:

Georgia's Hutson Mason was one of five SEC quarterbacks named to the "watch list" for the Davey O'Brien award. But Mason was not among the seven SEC quarterbacks given as an option for the preseason all-SEC ballot. (You could write in Mason. You could also write in Jacob Park.)

Missouri's Maty Mauk was on both lists, and is developing into a breakout candidate for this season. Mauk actually fielded questions comparing him to Johnny Manziel. Maybe it's going a bit far, but Mauk did get experience last year as a redshirt freshman when starter James Franklin was hurt. Georgia fans may recall that Mauk replaced Franklin in the second half to help Missouri hold onto a 41-26 victory.

Much like Mason at Georgia, the feeling around Missouri seems to be optimistic at quarterback because of the experience Mauk gained last year.

"He's just got the 'it' factor," Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. "Obviously you have to block and give him time to throw the football, establish our running game, make plays. It's not all Maty Mauk. But I think he's a player that has great, great potential."

2. So what do we think of Missouri?

The Tigers begin their third year in the SEC with a lot more credibility. It seemed like Pinkel and his players came here the past two years trying to convince everyone - including themselves - that they belonged in the SEC. That was taken care of last year.

And then Missouri got all that good publicity this spring when Michael Sam came out, with Pinkel and his program embracing Sam and the story.

"Very proud of everybody, how we handled it," Pinkel said. "I hope five years from now, you know, there's no discussions about this, that we've moved on, we respect people for what they are and what they do."

So now it returns to how Missouri will do on the field, and the fact is it did lost Sam, who was the SEC co-defensive player of the year. It also lost Kony Ealy, Dorial Green-Beckham, Henry Josey and many other good players.

So it's very likely the Tigers will once again be picked to finish well out of first place. Pinkel said Wednesday that someone apologized to him recently for voting Missouri lower last year. (The Tigers finished sixth in preseason voting.)

"I said, I don't know how you voted for us, I don't really care," Pinkel said. "When I became the head coach at Missouri, I wanted to be respected in the Big 12, and now it's the SEC, and nationally. Not only do you have responsibility to the league and to your school, but this league we have responsibility. I just wanted to be respected."

That's been accomplished, at least around the SEC.

3. Simulating the playoff

Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff, gave a presentation in the main media room. The most interesting thing Hancock did was go through past years (2006-13) and simulate what would have happened had the new system been in place.

The most interesting was 2012, when Hancock decided that one playoff semifinal would be an SEC matchup: Alabama vs. Florida in the Fiesta. (The other semifinal would be Notre Dame-Oregon in the Peach.) There is no prohibition against matching conference teams in the playoff, Hancock pointed out, only the other four bowls.

The selection committee won't just pick the four playoff teams. It will also assign teams for the other four bowls. The six bowls in the rotation are the Cotton, Orange, Fiesta, Peach, Rose and Sugar. They'll alternate having two of them be the semifinals, and the other four each year will have teams assigned to them.

So Georgia in 2012 would have fared better under the new system: You'll recall that despite barely losing to Alabama in the SEC championship, the Bulldogs did not get a BCS bid - Florida got it - and the Capital One Bowl ended up being Georgia's bowl. When Hancock simulated the new system, Georgia ended up in the Sugar Bowl playing against Kansas State.

4. We love the playoff! Really!

During his opening remarks, Hancock uttered this: "To say those four words: College Football Playoff, is mighty beautiful to all of us."

This is the same Hancock who strenuously defended the BCS and wrote me an e-mail a few years ago when I wrote a column criticizing the BCS. (Hancock is genuinely one of the nicest people in the world. He was just stuck defending a broken system which thankfully has been changed.)

Hancock also said this: "This playoff wasn't done for the money. It was done for the fans, because we heard the fans, who wanted more teams, and wanted a bracket."

Yes, it was done for the fans, not the money. Yup.

5. SEC Network: As good as Herschel Walker's team?

Justin Connolly, the head of the SEC Network, provided an update on the channel, which goes to air on Aug. 14. Most of what Connolly said was already known, and was more of a rah-rah effort to subtly urge the public to get their cable provider to pick up the network.

In listing the talent base the network has hired off-camera, Connolly said the network has "built a team that is the television production equivalent of the 1980 Georgia Bulldogs."

Bonus: Quote of the day

Pinkel, as he said hello to the media:

"I appreciate y'all being here. I know it's day three for you guys. If the league expands you guys'll be here for two weeks."

And a collective shudder went through the room.

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