College football’s long offseason ends this week with the arrival of conference media days.
The Gators will meet with reporters in Hoover, Ala., on Monday during the SEC’s four-day marathon. USF and UCF will have their day Tuesday in Newport, R.I., with Florida State and Miami getting the spotlight Wednesday and Thursday at the ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte.
Here are five things to watch:
1. AAC realignment
We know UConn is bolting the AAC for the Big East, but we don’t yet know how the AAC will respond. Expect some insight, if not a final decision, when commissioner Mike Aresco addresses reporters Tuesday morning.
Whatever the AAC decides will give us a glimpse at what metrics will matter when the next big wave of conference realignment hits (probably around 2023-25).
If the league adds a big football name (Boise State), then maybe brand names matter even more than they did during the last round.
If the league chooses a school with a national fan base (BYU, Army), then maybe TV markets don’t matter as much as they did when the Big Ten added Rutgers.
Or the league could go the other way and consider an up-and-coming school from a top-50 TV market (North Texas, Georgia State, Old Dominion), which suggests that cord-cutting hasn’t lessened the importance of potential viewers.
If being good at football and men’s basketball matters most, then Buffalo and Alabama-Birmingham could make sense.
And if the AAC stays at 11 teams —the most likely bet — that says there aren’t any teams that add value to the conference. It also means the pool of potential expansion candidates won’t be large in the next shift.
2. The ACC Network
The long-awaited ACC Network is finally set to launch next month, eventually giving millions of new annual revenue to each school.
But distribution for new networks is always tricky, and negotiations often come down to the final days before kickoff, which is why you’re seeing electronic billboards about it around Tampa. Commissioner John Swofford will update the media on where the conference and its network stand.
3. Florida perception
The Gators’ offseason has been rocky. Four blue-chip prospects from UF’s top-10 recruiting class are gone without ever playing in a real game, and backup defensive back Brian Edwards recently became the latest player to enter the transfer portal.
Those defections shouldn’t hurt UF much this season — the Gators are still a top-12 team — but they will affect UF’s future and its current perception. This will be the first chance for coach Dan Mullen to address reporters and try to put a positive spin on the recent hits.
4. Who is the ACC Coastal favorite?
Spoiler alert: Alabama and Georgia will be projected to meet in the SEC title game, and Clemson will be predicted to win the ACC’s Atlantic Division. That leaves the ACC Coastal as the biggest wildcard in the state’s two Power Five conferences.
Miami has a strong case, assuming its transfer portal army plays like a team rather than a bunch of mercenaries. Virginia Tech’s older defense should get the Hokies back in the race. And Virginia might have the best defensive player in the conference (defensive back Bryce Hall). This week’s conversations and polls will give us a look at which team will have the honor of being ripped apart by Clemson for the league title in December.
5. UConn awkwardness
Because the Huskies are joining the football-less Big East, the program’s future is in question. Go independent? Drop to Division I-AA? Beg for a spot in the MAC? Abandon it entirely?
Don’t expect many answers from coach Randy Edsall, who will want to stick to the 2019 season. But hey, at least UConn football will be relevant for a change.