When is SEC Media Days?
SEC Media Days start Monday, July 19, and run through Thursday, July 22. The event will be live streamed on fuboTV. The event certainly will have its fair share of talk about the College Football Playoff expansion as well as name, image and likeness. There will also be a number of first-time SEC coaches at the podium. al.comSEC Media Days 2021 live stream: How to watch online for free, TV, time, full schedule
When asked about playing Alabama in Gainesville for the first time in a decade, Mullen made his pitch to ditch crossover opponents to get those games more often. In essence, Mullen wants ‘Bama.
“We’d love to see that more,” Mullen said about Alabama’s arrival at Florida. “There’s ten teams that will visit -- there’s non-conference teams that will visit The Swamp a lot more than conference teams. I think you’d love to see maybe a better rotation of those teams.”
Florida is on its third coach (Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain and now Mullen) since Alabama’s last trip to Gainesville. Alabama last hosted Florida in 2014 though the two schools have also met in the SEC Championship three times in that span.
Mullen suggested ditching the permanent crossover opponents to facilitate that happening more often. It would mean no guarantee of the Third Saturday in October or the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. It’s a discussion point that seems to come up annually, especially down in Destin for the SEC spring meetings, but that conversation mainly had dissipated over the last year with other, more pressing issues dominating the headlines. The fact we are even talking about eliminating crossover opponents is another sign of a return to normalcy, even if it followed commissioner Greg Sankey’s blunt comments that the conference’s vaccination rate needs to improve before the season starts.
Mullen has long been one of the more outspoken SEC coaches, never afraid to throw out suggestions or ideas on improving things. His boss, Florida AD Scott Stricklin, has a similar perspective in shaking up crossover opponents to improve scheduling overall. As detailed in a recent Athletic story, Stricklin prefers a 3-5 approach where the SEC would eliminate divisions and each school would keep three permanent opponents. For Alabama, that could mean playing Tennessee, Auburn and LSU every season and then the five other games rotating each season. Stricklin’s plan would keep the games that matter most to schools but ensure that quality games like Alabama at Florida or Alabama at Georgia -- or vice versa -- don’t happen once a decade.
“I think for the players, for the fan bases, I really think it’s exciting to see some more of maybe mixing up the teams from the west (division) and playing two different teams each year instead of a permanent crossover,” Mullen said. “I think that would be really exciting so you get this matchup.”
The topic has come up in the past but has never gotten the necessary traction to become a reality within the SEC. Tradition means a lot in the conference and the possibility of losing annual rivalry games or divisions altogether has been a bridge too far for some to cross. There are plenty of reasons why and they begin and end with the fans. Fans like knowing they have those games to look forward to each year, it stokes interest between those two schools and can be a significant source of revenue for athletic departments even when the games aren’t always very good. The Alabama-Tennessee rivalry is a perfect example of that.
You can easily imagine how contentious the debate would be to figure out the three annual opponents if the SEC followed Stricklin’s plan, too. Vanderbilt would quickly become every fanbase’s top rival if they could choose. If you go with Mullen’s no set crossover games, you eliminate that issue but open yourself up to teeth-gnashing about ruining traditions and what makes the conference so great. No matter what, there will be angry people.
Still, they are worthwhile suggestions from the SEC’s most southern outpost. If you care most about consistently getting the best games, it is worth reconsidering the current scheduling approach. That doesn’t mean it will change this year or next year because it won’t, but as Sankey mentioned numerous times in his opening address, the college football landscape is changing. The SEC is already evaluating how it can evolve with those changing ways in multiple areas, and the permanent opponents conversation should be no different. With college football barreling toward a 12-team playoff sometime in the next few years, ditching divisions and/or rivalry games could help the SEC get more teams into the playoff.
Mullen making his case during a Monday SEC Media Days press conference isn’t going to be what prompts the change. It did, though, restart a conversation that had mostly lay dormant over the last year and could become increasingly discussed and scrutinized in the years to come.
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Read full article at Canes Warning
20 July, 2021 - 03:21pm
The Dan Mullen conundrum, imbalance in the Big Ten, 3 coaches to take to Vegas: Recruiting mailbag
20 July, 2021 - 03:01pm
HOOVER, ALA. — OK, we can officially quash the idea that the Florida Gators have been ducking the UCF Knights for all these years.
In fact, Gators head coach Dan Mullen not only said at SEC Media Days Monday to bring on the Knights, he admitted that he actually pushed to help make the long-awaited series happen.
Although it hasn’t officially been announced, the Gators and the Knights have agreed in principle to a future football series that will include two games in Gainesville (2024 and 2033) and one game at UCF in 2030. Although the school’s two athletic directors — UF’s Scott Stricklin and UCF’s Terry Mohajir — worked out the specifics, Mullen and new UCF coach Gus Malzahn were integral in making the series happen.
“I think it’s great,” Mullen said when I asked him Monday about playing UCF. “When Gus called me and asked about playing, I said I absolutely want to do it, but the way we’ve done it at Florida in the past is that we only do 2-for-1s [with non-Power 5 programs]. And Gus says, ‘Well, I’m all for that, too!’ Then I said, ‘Well, let’s call the ADs and make it happen.’
“I think it’s great for the state of Florida,” Mullen added. “National games are exciting because you’re playing games in different parts of the country, but I think local games are really exciting, too, for the people you live around. Is Florida-UCF a big game for the people in Arizona? Probably not, but it’s huge game for the people in the state of Florida. You have to have a balance [between local and national], but I love playing UCF because most of our players and their families will be excited about the game.”
From a UF perspective, it will also give the Gators a chance to put an end to the constant sniping from UCF’s fan base and players that the Knights have been the best program in the state over the last few years.
Although most of the current players at UF and UCF will never get a chance to play in this series, UF’s players at SEC Media Days say they would love to play against the Knights — if for no other reason than to shut them up.
“I think it will be good to show them [UCF] who runs the state of Florida,” UF defensive end Zach Carter said.
And who would that be, Zach?
It is a testament to UCF’s success under Scott Frost and Josh Heupel that the Knights have risen to a point where they have become a big enough national brand to annoy the Gators. After all, based on history, the Gators have always been reluctant about playing up-and-coming programs in Florida.
As I wrote three years ago:
It was back in 2018 when many UCF fans blew up Stricklin’s Twitter account, thinking the Florida AD worked behind the scenes to veto a potential Peach Bowl matchup between the Knights and the Gators. It was a natural assumption considering Stricklin was then a member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, which sets the match-ups for the major New Year’s Six bowl games.
It did seem questionable at the time that the selection committee would ship UCF to the Fiesta Bowl to play LSU and put Florida in the Peach Bowl against a Michigan program UF had played three times in the previous four seasons. Why not Michigan vs. LSU in the Fiesta Bowl in a battle between two storied college football programs who have never played each other? And why not UF and UCF in the Peach Bowl in a Sunshine State showdown just a short drive for both fan bases?
Stricklin insisted then that he would have loved to play UCF in a bowl game, and is proving now that he’s certainly not afraid to play the Knights. When Mohajir was scrambling to fill out UCF’s 2024 schedule, he called big-time Power 5 ADs all over the country looking for a game, and Stricklin was the only one to return the call.
Finally, we can stop the griping and grousing about ducks and chickens and start talking about Gators and Knights.
“It’s going to be fun,,” Mullen says.
Sometimes, it seems, ADs and coaches forget that “fun” is what college football is supposed to be all about.
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UF was voted to win the division last year and delivered, though rival Georgia is expected to be the media’s pick this week. Mullen is more worried about picking a quarterback to replace Kyle Trask.
“I don’t even know what type of team we’re gonna have this year and I’m there every day,” Mullen said. “I know Emory Jones is coming back and Anthony Richardson is competing for that job with him. You look at those guys and what they've been able to do with the experience they have … so I'm really excited about that.
“This spring was great for our defense, man, honestly,” Carter said. “The guys all spring, we were juiced every day, energy. Guys playing hard, and the biggest thing is guys coming together. I think the biggest thing about a unit is being close off the field, and I think guys started to come together more.
The Gators gave up 35 points or more in half of their 12 games last year, including over 50 points in the final two losses. With more depth and a full offseason in 2021, Miller believes Florida’s defense can pitch some shutouts this season.
“The defense is coming along,” Miller said. “Having a great spring and then coming out with summer conditioning and holding everybody accountable and holding the Gator standard up, that's where I think this starts.
“We're looking forward to having a great year this year. Definitely, the points are not going to be that high this year, so we plan on shutting people out this year. So that's the expectation for my defense this year.”
“I’m always asking, ‘How’s the mindset? How’s the attitude? How’s the team coming together? How are guys lifting each other up?’ You walk around the building, the training room and the locker room, equipment staff, academic staff and the interaction with players: are we in a positive place as a football team? I think we’re in a very positive area.”
19 July, 2021 - 05:23pm
Carter was speaking at SEC Media Days, but he wasn’t talking about an SEC opponent. He was also speaking on behalf of countless Florida fans who’ve heard just about enough.
The object of their ire is UCF, where half the fans probably feel the SEC is beneath them. They might consider membership in the NFC East.
As such, there were a lot of things worth discussing Monday — Emory Jones, fixing the defense, the orange-and-blue Air Jordans Dan Mullen wore with his blue suit. But the biggest news out of UF recently has been the series with the Knights.
Florida wanted two home games in Gainesville and one in Orlando. For a variety of reasons, it doesn’t play home-and-home games with non-Power Five conference teams. That’s a longstanding policy.
UCF’s policy since 2017 is to be the most annoying program in America.
It became true in a way. If they gave a national championship for bluster, UCF would be Alabama. Florida became a target when the Knights were sent to the Fiesta Bowl in 2018 and the Gators played in the Peach Bowl.
Knights — “You’re afraid of us!
Gators — “Go fetch my beer."
UCF’s feelings are understandable. Its football program has advance about 50 years over the past decade. The Knights really are as good as at least half the Power Five teams in America.
Things looked a bit grim in January when White went to Tennessee and took Heupel with him, but UCF actually upgraded its staff when it brought in Terry Mohajir as AD and Gus Malzahn as coach.
Gator fans aren’t too keen on White, but his policy of annoyance was brilliant. It made UCF a national name and probably expedited the move toward a 12-team playoff.
But in his relentless drive to make UCF consequential, White lost touch with the natural order of the college football universe. On a good day, UCF doesn’t have half the home attendance that Florida has.
Getting the Gators in the Bounce House one time would be a coup, even if it meant playing three or four games in Gainesville. UCF has a lot more to gain and Florida has a lot more to lose in any game they will ever play.
White had staked his position and wasn’t backing down. Mohajir and Malzahn have a better grip on reality.
“He’s like, ‘I’m for that, too,’” Mullen said. “I’m like, ‘Call the ADs.’ I think it’s great for the state of Florida.”
The guy Mohajir really should call is White, and he should propose a home-and-home between UCF and Tennessee. If UCF won’t do it, Memphis should give it serious try.
It would be interesting to see if White still thinks an SEC school that packs 90,000-plus into its stadium should play a home-and-home against a team that’s not in a Power Five conference.
We’ll have three more years of internet warfare without anything being settled. But on some Saturday in 2024, the trash talking will end and we’ll see who really runs the state of Florida.
I know which team I'd bet on.