HOOVER, Ala. -- Today marks the unofficial start of the 2017 college football season.
Yep, it's SEC media days time in Hoover, Alabama, and the circus is coming to town. The Wynfrey Hotel will be buzzing with fans, 1,000-plus media members, 14 head coaches and 42 football players.
It's the show that never seems to end, and here are five things to keep an eye on as the week unfolds:
1. What will Nick Saban say?
It wouldn't be SEC media days without Alabama's head coach -- the unofficial czar of college football -- scolding the media for its preseason picks and saying something that causes some sort of stir. From comparing unscrupulous agents to "pimps" to defending himself for giving controversial players second chances, Saban always says something that gets everyone talking. He'll likely get more questions about the added signing day and adjusted recruiting calendar -- two changes he isn't thrilled with. He will also almost certainly be interrogated on how he and his Crimson Tide plan to rebound from last season's last-second national championship loss to Clemson, which he's bound to love.
2. Georgia becomes the East darling
Welcome to life as a head coach in the SEC, Kirby Smart. You just won eight games in your debut season and landed the nation's No. 3 recruiting class. You have an all-world quarterback, a first-round running back and 10 returning starters on defense. You don't have to play Alabama or LSU in the regular season, and the SEC East hasn't exactly been the poster child for great football over the last few years (more on that later). The media will love you on paper, but don't forget last year's media darling in the East.
3. Hot-seat talk
This year, the hot seat attention will focus on Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Tennessee's Butch Jones and Auburn's Gus Malzahn. Sumlin has started 5-0, 5-0 and 6-0 the last three seasons, only to finish each campaign 8-5. Sumlin's boss, A&M athletic director Scott Woodward, made it clear during SEC media days that Sumlin has to win more this season and show the program is truly trending upward. Jones was the uber-obvious East winner last year, but saw his Volunteers lose four SEC games. Tennessee finished well below expectations, and Jones must get this program chugging again with a host of brand new faces on offense. Malzahn was in similar hot water last year, but managed to guide Auburn to an 8-5 season. However, he lost three of his last four games, and will be under enormous pressure to compete toe-to-toe with Alabama with quarterback Jarrett Stidham under his watch. If he can't win with him, it'll be a long year on the Plains.
4. Ole Miss and all that NCAA talk
Hugh Freeze doesn't like talking about the NCAA investigation that he and his school are currently dealing with, but he'll have to -- a lot. Ole Miss has already banned itself from postseason play, fired a staff member who is heavily linked to improprieties in the investigation and retracted a handful of scholarships over the next few seasons. However, this ordeal is far from over. Ole Miss has submitted its response to the NCAA's amended notice of allegations from the spring, and is challenging some of the most damning accusations. The school will meet with the NCAA in the next couple of months before any sort of resolution from this multi-year investigation is reached. When Freeze and his Rebels take the stage on Thursday, they will be inundated with NCAA questions. Freeze will face the brunt of them, but his players -- including star quarterback Shea Patterson -- will be present to discuss how the team is staying focused and unified amid all the controversy.
5. Is the East gaining ground?
OK, so this is still Alabama's conference, but after six East teams went bowling last year and the division finished 6-8 against the West last year, eyebrows are perking some. The East appears to be a two-team race at the moment between Florida and Georgia, but South Carolina surprised everyone by winning six games in Will Mushcamp's first year. The Gamecocks also have one of the league's best young quarterbacks in Jake Bentley. Kentucky is a true team on the rise after Mark Stoops guided the Wildcats to their first bowl game since the 2010 season. They return a solid group of offensive talent. Vanderbilt made it back to a bowl game in Derek Mason's third season, and he thinks he has both a salty defense and a true SEC quarterback in Kyle Shurmur. And Missouri could be a team to watch. The Tigers' offense was one of the SEC's best last season, and it's only a matter of time before they learn how to play defense again.