LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I interrupt your Amazon Prime Day experience with the prime local sports news of the week:
Football coaches from the Atlantic Coast Conference (Charlotte), Southeastern Conference (Hoover, Ala.) and the Big Ten (Chicago) will gather this week so their players can explain why they are stronger, faster, healthier and more confidently optimistic than last season.
They call it Media Days — and it is already underway in the SEC. Before Eric Crawford and John Lewis depart for Charlotte and Annice McEwan and I drive to suburban Birmingham, I’ll devote the Monday Muse to a Media Day primer.
In other words, predicting what the Media Day predictions will be.
1. Team To Beat
ACC — Serious questions only. If you need my help to answer this one, you’ve come to the website.
SEC — Georgia believes this is the season the Bulldogs can overtake Alabama, but look for the Crimson Tide to play Clemson in the championship game. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
B1G — Urban Meyer is gone. Penn State lost a string of talented players, including its quarterback. Nebraska isn’t quite ready for prime time. All eyes are on Jim Harbaugh and Michigan — especially Harbaugh. If the Wolverines’ baseball team can make the finals of the College World Series, why is Michigan paying Harbaugh $7 million?
2. Player of the Year
ACC — Clemson has won multiple national titles but not the Heisman Trophy. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has the skills to check both boxes.
SEC — The guy most likely to stop Lawrence in both categories is Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Anybody other than Tua or Trevor striking the pose would be a shocker.
B1G — The Big Ten hasn’t produced a Heisman winner since Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in 2006. Las Vegas says the league’s top candidate is Justin Fields, who transferred after backing up Jake Fromm at Georgia last season.
3. Team on the Rise
ACC — Virginia. The Cavaliers showed what they can do with a solid coach in basketball. Bronco Mendenhall intends to prove the same thing in football. Virginia lost to Indiana last season — and still won eight games.
SEC — Everybody is gaga about Florida in Dan Mullen’s second season. Locally, the story was the Gators lost to Kentucky. But the Gators won 10 games and return a formidable quarterback in Feleipe Franks.
B1G — Phil Steele has predicted that Scott Frost will win West Division in his second season. That qualifies as a Team on the Rise.
4. Falling Fast
ACC — Louisville won this category last season so the Cards do not qualify in 2019. Without quarterback Daniel Jones, Duke could tumble.
SEC — Ole Miss posted some nine and 10 win seasons with Top 10 recruiting classes a few minutes ago but once the NCAA made the Rebels stop coloring outside the lines the world changed.
B1G — Wisconsin won its division in 2016 and 2017 but the Badgers were overtaken by Northwestern last season. Others are expected to join the club.
5. Coach on the Hot Seat
ACC — Willie Taggart. Yes, it’s ridiculous to put somebody on the Hot Seat in Year Two but if former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher wins big at Texas A&M and Taggart delivers another 5-7 record at FSU, it won’t seem so silly.
SEC — Gus Malzahn — Auburn just paid its president $4.5 million to leave. Will the Tigers really write Gus Malzahn a check for $27 million to do the same thing? What do you think?
B1G — Lovie Smith — What seemed like a strange hire by Illinois has remained a strange hire.
6. Game of the Year
ACC — Texas A&M at Clemson — The Aggies are showing up in Top 20s but they are likely a year away from challenging the defending national champion. Fisher’s history against the Tigers makes this game a Must See on Sept. 7.
SEC — Notre Dame at Georgia. The Bulldogs delivered a victory on their trip to South Bend two years ago. The teams will stage another playoff elimination game Sept. 21 in Athens
B1G — Notre Dame at Michigan. If the Wolverines are serious about making a playoff run, they cannot afford a home loss to the Irish Oct. 26.
7. Hot Topic
ACC — The Coastal Division has fallen. Will it ever get up? Weren’t Miami and Virginia Tech supposed to take care of that?
SEC — SEC schools have the OK to sell alcohol. How will everybody handle it, especially at night games?
B1G — Legends and Leaders didn’t work. East and West has put too much power in the Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State side of the league. Can the Big Ten find a better way.
8. Local Forecast
ACC — I have not found a pre-season magazine that picked Louisville higher than seventh in the Atlantic Division. And I looked.
SEC — Georgia is first. Vandy is last. Kentucky proved it could finish second last season, but it requires more than one season to shake a reputation. In Hoover, the call will be sixth. There’s your motivation, Mark Stoops.
B1G — If you begin with the concept that fifth place in the Big Ten East is the ceiling for Indiana and that Rutgers is expected to play at sub-Rutgers level this season, it’s a coin flip for fifth place between Indiana and Maryland. The game is at College Park.
9. Baseball Power Rankings
1. Los Angeles Dodgers — With a 14 1/2 game lead, the Dodgers can start talking about magic numbers.
2. New York Yankees — We’re just waiting to see which arm that Brian Cashman adds.
3. Houston Astros — Quietly, the Astros just keep winning.
4. Minnesota Twins — The Indians thought they could start the second half by pressuring the Twins. Wrong.
5. Atlanta Braves — Josh Donaldson is looking like MVP Josh Donaldson.
10. Tweet of the Week
Disclaimer: I an NOT going to get a tattoo if any predictions in this column fail to materialize.
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