The calendar tells us one thing. It is not even mid-July. Plenty of beach time remaining, filled with vacations and waking up each day with nothing special to do and then proudly getting half of it done by the time you go to bed.
But if you are in Hoover, Alabama next week, if you live in Southeastern Conference outposts such as Gainesville, Fla, Baton Rouge, Louisiana or Tuscaloosa, you know something is different. It's time for some football chatter. Lots of it as the extravaganza known as SEC Media Day(s) is upon us once again.
It is, of course, never too EARLY to talk college football in SEC territory.
So let's take a quick mid-summer (for most of us) look at what we can expect before the rest of the country gets its regular-season game face on closer to Labor Day weekend.
Yes, the SEC will be back, better than ever, after a decline last season in which their dominance was not only challenged by the Big Ten, but stolen by that SEC wannabe Clemson in the national championship game in Tampa.
The victim in that game was Nick Saban's Alabama team. Before a game is played in the 2017 season, it seems risky business indeed to pick against the Tide either in the SEC or nationally. Coach Nick Saban's team looks more than capable, with depth and talent almost everywhere.
Take a good look at the regular season opener in Atlanta against Florida State. You might see the same game in the same place in January in the national championship game.
Other contenders in the SEC: Florida, Auburn, LSU
Clemson has its national championship and the Tigers will be a Top 10 type team, but without DeShaun Watson playing QB, the Tigers might have to wait another year for an encore performance in the national championship game. The key to the regular season will be when FSU visits Clemson on November 11.
Other contenders: Louisville, Miami
The Big 12
The big news in the first part of the off-season was that Tom Herman was the new coach at Texas.
The big news in the late part of the off season was that Bob Stoops had retired at Oklahoma. and was replaced by 33-year old Lincoln Riley. Somehow we think those two events will play a role in who emerges in the Big 12. That's the good news.
The bad news is that even with a newly created conference championship game, the Big 12 will not be a Final Four participant this season.
Other contenders: Oklahoma State, Kansas State
The Big 10
Ohio State has J.T. Barrett returning at QB and Urban Meyer returning as its coach. That's enough to put the Buckeyes right in the middle of things in January--again. The other mini-drama to watch is how Meyer handles his on-going challenge with Alabama's Saban as the best coach in college football.
Saban could have locked up the title with another national championship last season, but with the loss to Clemson, the door is open just a crack if Meyer can make it to the national championship game in Atlanta--and then beat Saban and Alabama.
Other contenders: Penn State, Michigan.
USC might have been the best team NOT to make it to the Final Four last season, with the hottest QB in Sam Darnold.
The other Pac-12 story of the year was the re-emergence of Washington as a national power. Well, the Huskies are back and so is USC, which sets up a nice Pac-12 title game, with the winner becoming a major power in the Final Four race.
Other contenders: Stanford, UCLA
Well, that's all we have for now. It is, after all, still mid July. But count on this, we at TMGcollegesports.com will be back over the next few weeks and months with lots more.