SEC Football Media Days preview: Team-by-team topics

One story line for each of the teams entering SEC Football Media Days, which start on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala.

Columbia - The StateJuly 13, 2013 

Below is one story line for each of the teams entering SEC Football Media Days, which start on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala.

GoGamecocks.com will have coverage of the event all week - visit GoGamecocks for live updates during South Carolina's appearance from 4:50 to 7:20 p.m. Tuesday (Steve Spurrier, Jadeveon Clowney, Bruce Ellington and Connor Shaw.)

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ALABAMA

WHEN WILL IT END?

The Crimson Tide have won three of the past four BCS titles, including the past two, and are the heavy favorites to repeat. With quarterback A.J. McCarron, running back T.J. Yeldon and wide receiver Amari Cooper returning, Alabama could take the suspense out of college football.

ARKANSAS

WHO MADE THIS SCHEDULE?

First-year coach Bret Bielema will break in the new-look Razorbacks against one of the SEC’s fiercest slates. Arkansas, which will be a power run team, plays Texas A&M, at Florida, USC and at Alabama in its first four SEC games.

AUBURN

IS THE MAGIC BACK?

When Gus Malzahn was offensive coordinator, the Tigers won the national title. They also had quarterback Cam Newton and an SEC-worthy defense then. Malzahn, now the head coach, has rebuilding to do.

FLORIDA

WAS 11 WINS A FLUKE?

The Gators won every game they played last season — except for their most important one and their last one. Florida’s offense made LSU’s look crisp. The Gators finished last in the SEC in passing and 12th in total offense. Quarterback Jeff Driskel must improve.

KENTUCKY

IS MARK STOOPS THE ANSWER?

One of four new hires in the league, Stoops is the only head coach who has to worry if his school really cares about football. Kentucky is talking a big game, as it does each time a new football coach is hired. Still, it’s an uphill climb.

LSU

WILL THE OFFENSE RETURN?

The Tigers had one of the country’s best teams despite having the 10th-best offense in the conference. LSU was No. 11 in the SEC in passing, and coach Les Miles has promised new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will improve the air attack.

GEORGIA

CAN THEY BEAT THE GAMECOCKS?

The Bulldogs’ schedule gave them some wiggle room the past two seasons, which helped them to two consecutive SEC title games. This year, there’s less margin for error, and Georgia almost certainly will have to beat South Carolina (for the first time in four years) to win the East.

OLE MISS

CAN HUGH FREEZE FOLLOW THROUGH?

The Rebels did enough good things last year, beating Mississippi State and winning a bowl, to cover embarrassing losses, 66-31 to Texas and 41-20 against Auburn. Which of those games was an indicator for Hugh Freeze’s second season?

MISSISSIPPI STATE

CAN DAN MULLEN HANG ONTO HIS JOB?

Mullen has averaged eight wins the past three years, no small feat in Starkville, but the natives are getting restless in Year 5. He is 3-1 against Ole Miss, but that loss came last year and the perception is that the Rebels have closed the gap.

MISSOURI

ARE THE TIGERS READY FOR PRIME TIME?

Gary Pinkel will be asked many versions of this question next week: Are these paper Tigers? Missouri, seemingly a solid program in Pinkel’s first 11 years, won two SEC games last year. Quarterback James Franklin is healthy this year, which might make a difference.

SOUTH CAROLINA

CAN THEY BREAK THROUGH?

The best three-year run in school history has seen 31 victories and plenty of historic achievements but one appearance in the SEC title game and no conference championships. The Gamecocks won’t have to fight an uphill schedule this year but probably will have to beat Georgia a fourth consecutive season to get back to Atlanta.

TENNESSEE

ARE THE GLORY DAYS GONE?

The Volunteers are 23-27 since firing Phillip Fulmer following the 2008 season. Under Johnny Majors and Fulmer, it became easy to forget this is a tough job because there is not enough home-field recruiting advantage. Butch Jones is the third coach post-Fulmer.

TEXAS A&M

SIDESHOW OR CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER?

The Aggies finished 11-2 in Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel’s first year with an impressive win against Alabama. Now, they have to repeat with a target on their back. It will be fascinating to see the adjustments to counteract the focus on the sophomore quarterback.

VANDERBILT

CAN THEY BEAT ANYBODY?

There’s an unprecedented sense of optimism in Nashville, which is what nine wins will do for you. Still, there’s another huge step to be made from not-horrible to contender. James Franklin remains winless against USC, Georgia and Florida.

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