Like it or not as a Big Ten fan, but the SEC is a standard-setter. For instance, would we have even had a college football season last year if not for SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and the way he navigated the pandemic?

The SEC is home to many of the top teams, and therefore many of the top coaches. These guys know how to make news, and they hold a lot of power in the college football world. That’s why it’s worth monitoring their responses to topics like the 12-team Playoff, COVID and NIL.

Here is a B1G fan’s guide to SEC Media Days, which begin Monday and can serve as an appetizer for Big Ten Media Days Pay attention to how these topics are handled this week:

12-team Playoff

The 12-team Playoff is coming in the next few years, that much we know. What we don’t know is how SEC personnel feel about it.

I thought it was interesting that North Carolina players were not in favor of expansion, even as Clemson has dominated the ACC. Alabama has similarly ruled the SEC, and Ohio State has been king of the B1G. None of that seems like it is close to changing, so will these other programs relish the better opportunity at reaching the CFP?

In the case of the North Carolina players, they cited too many games in a season that includes a 12-team Playoff. Will there be similar criticism from the SEC?

I figure there are certain B1G programs that would be intrigued by expansion, as programs like Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa and Michigan would’ve been right there in past years. Minnesota in 2019 and Indiana and 2020 would’ve been on the bubble, too. We’ll surely get some thoughts from them later in the week.

Break up divisions?

Going along with the 12-team talk, I’m wondering if there will be any discussion of dividing the conference into divisions and the merits of that. Will conferences be motivated to scrap the divisional format and just put their two best teams in the conference title game? Do leagues really want to risk a 4-loss team (or worse) getting into the conference championship and taking away a chance at a quality win from a CFP contender? The Big 12 doesn’t do divisions, and the ACC briefly eliminated them last year. Will this be more of the norm? If the SEC ever considers it, here’s guessing that the Big Ten follows suit. Something to watch, for sure.

COVID and vaccines

Ugh. It is unfortunate that this is even a topic, but it is what it is. While everyone is hoping for a somewhat normal season with full stadiums, the players will presumably still be subject to regular testing and contact tracing. The Yankees and Red Sox just had a game canceled this week because of COVID. Is that going to happen in college football this season? My guess is yes, though hopefully not anywhere close to the regularity of last season.

Will teams be subjected to disclose vaccination rates within their programs? Will teams have to hit a certain threshold of vaccinations for relaxed protocols? Will teams still have their protocols from last season in place? Will teams have to forfeit if they don’t have enough healthy players or will the games be rescheduled?

I’ll be interested to hear the thoughts of SEC coaches on that topic this week, as it appears COVID will still impact college football this season, albeit in a much smaller way.


I’m not really sure what could come out of this that is controversial, per se. I think most everyone agrees that the name, image and likeness is great for these student athletes to take advantage of their 15 minutes of fame.

I’m interested if any coaches will disclose how they’ll handle NIL during the season. We hear all the time how busy these athletes are with practice and classes, so will they still have time to do promotional stuff during the season?

I’m also interested to hear how NIL will affect the locker room dynamic. On the one hand, there has always been inequality amongst teams; Patrick Mahomes makes a lot more money than his offensive linemen. But at least in the NFL, everyone is getting paid and living comfortably. That won’t be the case in college.

B1G transfers making big impact?

There are a handful of former Big Ten players who should make an impact in the SEC. Former Ohio State starter Jameson Williams basically said, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” and transferred to Alabama. (What probably happened was that he felt he had a better chance for playing time considering Alabama lost 2 first-round receivers and Ohio State has the most talented wide receiver room in the country.) Former Penn State wideout Justin Shorter, who was the No. 1 wideout in the 2018 class, looks like he will start at Florida. Former Nebraska star Wan’Dale Robinson joined his home-state squad, Kentucky, and Mookie Cooper left Ohio State for his home-state squad, Mizzou.

SEC contenders

And finally, there will be a lot of chatter about Alabama reloading, whether this is Georgia’s year, if Texas A&M can break through and whether LSU can bounce back. Alabama, in particular, is going to be interesting because they are replacing two of the best wide receivers in the country, one of the best QBs, the best center, one of the best offensive linemen and the best offensive coordinator maybe ever.

I’d feel comfortable saying that either Georgia or Alabama (or both) will be in the CFP this year, and therefore they are a potential opponent for Ohio State (or Wisconsin, Penn State, Indiana or Iowa).

The SEC is always in the Big Ten’s way in terms of national title hopes, and the conferences are paired up 3-4 times each bowl season.