We all know about the real X factor for the 2020 (and possibly 2021) football season, but on this day we will try to forget about it and daydream about a world without COVID-19 or people screaming about how they can’t wear masks, but will wear shoes.
Instead, we will pretend that the start of a normal SEC season is on the clock, that SEC Media Days starts Monday and as soon as it’s over we are going to try to cram vacations into the few weeks we have before it gets serious. Football-wise, that is.
Ah, perchance to dream.
This would be one of those days when I would be revealing my predictions for the SEC race (irrelevant until we know what the schedule will look like) and talking about Media Days story lines (Dan Mullen talks about his new shoes and his golf game, live at 11) and telling stories at a bar that charges $9 for a beer (just sayin’).
Instead, today I will take you to a magical place where the streets go from black and white to golden, where there is a buzz that sounds like sweet music, where the chicken is never overcooked and the ice chest is always full.
This is my way of pretending we are closing in on a college football season instead of pushing it further away with every positive test.
Here in Dooleyville we have a countdown clock and nobody is scoffing at it. We have already done a few stories on the best Saturdays of each month schedule-wise. We already have been notified of the times for Florida’s first three games and made our plane reservations for Knoxville and Nashville.
We are fired up about Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach feeding us columns and watching the women of the ASAP transcription service try to keep up with Jimbo Fisher and translate Ed Orgeron.
Hey, this is my fantasy.
But because there are no Media Days and we don’t even know when the virtual Media Days will be (it’s kind of hard to schedule when you don’t know the actual schedule), we will continue living in a fantasy world in print and on the web (while following all of the guidelines in the real world).
And this is something I like to do every July – writing about the X Factors of the SEC (you knew I’d get back to it).
So here. Drift away for a few minutes.
Doesn’t it feel like every year LSU is an X Factor? Now, to understand what a true X Factor is, it is a team or player that could go either way. You can see something special, but you aren’t ready to bring out the holy water.
That is LSU on an annual basis. Don’t dismiss the Tigers just because most of its star players and coaches moved on. This is still a team that could knock Alabama out of the top spot in the West.
It could also go 8-4.
Which brings us to the next team, the Kings of Eight-Win Seasons, the Aggies of Texas A&M. In the last six seasons, the Aggies have won eight games four times. The other two years they won seven and nine.
But the schedule (remember, we’re in a fantasy here) is easier this year and Kellen Mond might be on the verge of something special.
One thing, though. One reason A&M finished the season unranked was a defense that was ninth in the conference.
Again, this could be the year that Fisher earns his ridiculous salary. Or the year he gets put on the hot seat.
One more X-Factor team before we move on – the Kardashians. That was a name I used to use for Tennessee because they looked great but never really did anything.
They beat a bunch of bad teams at the end of the season and think they are on the verge. Of what, I have no idea.
The obvious one is Jamie Newman at Georgia. He is talented and will change the way the Bulldogs attack offensively. But it feels like he will either be the first team All-SEC quarterback or listening on the headsets while the offense is on the field late in the season.
The ultimate X Factor.
Certainly, Myles Brennan at LSU is one as well. Let’s see, all you have to do is replace a guy who put up the greatest season in the history of college football without a full spring and without most of the weapons he enjoyed.
Have another bowl of turtle soup (Get it? Brennan’s? Never been there? Never mind).
The third quarterback would be South Carolina’s Ryan Hilinski, who showed flashes of brilliance last year but also had some rough games. Year Two will be a big one for him.
Speaking of Hilinski, his future is tied into our old friend Will Muschamp’s. We don’t know if the financials will keep a lot of coaches from getting fired, but another season like the last one will not bode well for Boom.
Another X-Factor coach is Mark Stoops, not that he is even close to being on a hot seat, but because he keeps finding a way to win enough games to be bowl eligible. After a 12-24 start at Kentucky, he has pulled his record back to .500. That is impressive.
And that’s why you never know if he will find a way to win a game in this league that will surprise you. Or find another way to lose to Florida (he’s done it just about every way).
Finally, we give you Arthur Gustavo Malzahn III, the ultimate X-Factor coach. You never know what you’re going to get, week to week or season to season.
Auburn might win 11, but hasn’t since his first season when he got to the national title game in 2013. Since then, the Tigers have lost at least four games every season.
I could go on with these X Factors, like Player of the Year in the SEC (Kyle Trask, Kylin Hill, Najee Harris) or Coach of the Year (Mullen, Kirby Smart, Orgeron) or a number of other things.
But let’s get back to reality.
And the real X Factor that will decide more than any of these players or coaches.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.