“The Talking Season” doesn’t officially begin for SEC football coaches until next month when they convene in Birmingham July 15-18 for the league’s Football Media Days, but for the rest of us, it is in full bloom.
The Talking Season is what Steve Spurrier, former Florida and South Carolina coach, dubbed the final weeks of July that led up to the beginning of preseason practices in August when everything was talk but no action.
In truth, Talking Season began the day after Clemson whipped Alabama for the college football title back in January, but there was other business going on like SEC hoops, spring practice, and SEC baseball.
After last night’s loss to Michigan, Vanderbilt has a game or two left in the baseball season, but for the most part everyone across the SEC else has their minds looking forward to football season.
There’s an old myth that every man thinks about sex every seven seconds. There’s no scientific research to back that up, but if you could truly measure SEC football fans’ thoughts, I’d guess football would weigh very heavily on that make-believe scale, too.
Frankly, college football is rarely far from my thoughts, whether it’s making projections about the upcoming season, reminiscing about past victories and losses, or gobbling up a random bit of news during this mostly fallow part of the year.
Like most of you, I’ve begun to notice the various college football annuals and special issues in grocery and convenience stores, and a noticed a blurb on Facebook yesterday that the 27th edition of “Hooten’s Arkansas Football” will hit the newsstands this week.
The book is always full of Razorback information, but if you have more than a passing interest — no pun intended — in high school football, the publication covers it from stem to stern like no other source in the state. The annual is without a doubt a money-making venture, but it also does a service in promoting high school football around the state like nothing else.
Certainly, gleaning information from internet news sources is more vital, current, and efficient than buying a magazine, but it’s hard to keep an internet story that mentions a son or grandsons name as a keepsake.
In moving my home office from one area of the house to another, I had a chance to rummage through some old Razorback football and basketball press guides last week and more than a few “Dave Campbell’s Arkansas Football” magazines from the 70s and 80s. Only Hog fans from before the SEC era will remember those.
As a kid, I’d pour over Campbell’s magazine in June and July until it was worn out, and then I impatiently wait for that big white envelope with bright red lettering that contained my dad’s copy of the Razorback media guide, which he received for being a season ticket holder.
I would practically memorize it. I’d often take it to school to read during any free time that would pop up, and I remember my buddies ribbing me about it. They said I cared more about the Razorbacks than our own team. They were right.
As a science project in the ninth grade, I used information from four media guides to chart the growth of Arkansas’ starting offensive linemen from their freshmen through senior years. Now, that’s what you call a football nerd.
Those football publications still add fuel the Talking Season, and the Talking Season was in full force last weekend in at least one small corner of Memphis, Tenn., at our annual family reunion.
Though its dwindled to a rather small gathering of around 20 as nieces, nephews, grandkids and cousins have scattered to live across the nation, we’re still a lively group even though we’re grayer and walk a bit slower. SEC football is a key topic of conversation among the men who support various schools like Ole Miss, Auburn, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and of course Arkansas.
The conversation is always lively, but we all tend to walk on egg shells a little bit. No real trash talk is allowed out of respect of the memory of our Grandmother Dovie, who wouldn’t have stood for it when she was living. We all can agree on hating Alabama, but that’s pretty much it.
I always like to hear what my family members who live in Starkville and Fulton, Miss., Gulf Shores and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Nashville have to say about their teams, and how they feel about Arkansas.
The most interesting thing I learned is that Ole Miss fans are just as locked in on the Sept. 7 game between the Rebels and Razorbacks at Oxford, Miss., as Arkansas fans are.
Both groups seem to understand how pivotal that game is for the entirety of the season. While nothing is ever set in stone, the team that wins that game has a much better shot at going bowling at the end of the year and staying out of the SEC West cellar. The loser will have an up-hill battle.
The second-most interesting thing I heard is the opinion that if Gus Malzahn doesn’t win more than eight games this season, he’s out of luck at Auburn no matter how much his buyout is. Evidently SEC insider Paul Finebaum has been preaching as much on his talk show for a good while.
According to a an article by Herosports.com, Auburn would owe Malzahn a whopping $26.625 million if they fire him after this season.
Auburn returns seven starters on defense this season which should make them salty. The Tigers are expected to have one of the best offensive lines in all of college football, but Malzahn will depend on a freshman at quarterback, whether its Joey Gatewood or Bo Nix.
However, Auburn has a gigantic obstacle to making it to nine or more wins in its schedule. Auburn faces a tough opener against Oregon at a neutral site, but it only gets tougher as the Tigers also face Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, and Texas A&M, which many believe will boast top-10 type teams.
In the past, Malzahn has done some of his best coaching when his back was against the wall. We all remember his wife’s house shopping excursion in Northwest Arkansas two years ago when his program seemed on the rocks in October, but he and his team turned everything around with victory over Georgia and Alabama late in the year.
I guess Auburn boosters and administrators are claiming temporary madness for giving him his massive contract worth $6.8 million a year, and that outrageous buyout. The War Eagle Nation almost instantly had buyer’s remorse.
But whether it’s triumph or tragedy on the plains this season, Malzahn is going to get paid handsomely.
Of course, Arkansas’ lust for Malzahn gave gave his agent Jimmy Sexton the bargaining leverage against Auburn. It also allowed Sexton to offer Chad Morris to the Arkansas brass as a runner-up candidate for the job.
After swinging and missing with Malzahn, Arkansas saw Morris, a Malzahn protege, as a perfect and available fit for Arkansas. After a 2-10 season last year, where his team got absolutely no breaks, the jury is still out on Morris.
It seems most fans are still hopeful thanks to his and his staff’s truly outstanding recruiting performance with his second class. However, results have to show up on the field this season to keep Hog fans so optimistic.
It’s too early in his tenure to say Morris is feeling any heat now, but for him to have a somewhat comfortable offseason going into his third season, the Razorbacks need to find a way to win enough to make a bowl game. Anything less, and the heat will be intensified.
Another 2-10 season, and Razorback fans will be lusting after Malzahn again. And who knows, he might be available?