Can you believe we’re actually within shouting distance of football season once again? North American sports’ longest offseason is nearly over! We know this because media days are popping up all over the place, most notably (for our purposes here), the ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C., starting this Sunday, July 21 and going on through Monday, July 22. Sadly, I will not be there in-person.
We’ve already see the list of student-athlete attendees, but that’s not the only focus — far from it. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 talking points we’re likely to see addressed at the two-day event. Some topics (see: the top few items) will be the overarching theme for all in attendance, while others will simply be underlying points of conversation everyone wants to try desperately to escape from. Without further ado, your guide to the 2013 ACC Football Kickoff:
1. Say Hi to the New Guys: Syracuse and Pittsburgh (plus non-football member Notre Dame) got a very warm welcome to the ACC on the weekend prior to July 1, hanging around New York City with mascots and such. But the festivities included very little talk of football, so you’ll be hearing plenty about the Orange and Panthers now instead. Expect questions about the adjustments the teams will need to make coming from the Big East, road trips they’re most looking forward to and plenty on whether they expect to compete right away. Also curious about the local media turnout from both areas, plus with no dedicated ACC beat writer (especially for football), will the New York Times be attending?
2. Six-Year Bowl Cycle: I wrote up a pretty extensive breakdown of the bowl agreements the ACC announced yesterday over at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, so for full details I’d recommend going there. But with a drastically improved bowl lineup, this will be a hot topic. People will also want to know how some of the alternating bowls will work, specifically the Gator/Music City setup, and I’d love to hear that response myself.
3. Grant of Rights: The amount of “Ninja Swofford” references during the two days may reached the hundreds. And why shouldn’t it? Without commissioner John Swofford’s typical backdoor dealing, the mood around the weekend is very, very different. Instead, it’s a pretty jovial occasion, which also leads to another topic that’s been on everyone’s minds ever since said grant of rights announcement was made…
4. ACC Network: This story’s not going to die until we’ve got a firm no from ESPN, or a firm date of when things are starting, so don’t be surprised to hear Swofford’s time on the podium filled with questions about an ACC cable channel. There are still plenty of hurdles to jump (let’s be reasonable here, Raycom), so I wouldn’t hold my breath for a quick settlement. The ACC’s on-field success will also play a factor here, as that has a direct impact on whether or not people would even want to watch an ACC Network.
5. University of Maryland v. Atlantic Coast Conference: It will be downplayed in the spirit of Maryland still being part of the conference (which they are), but questions about the lawsuit between Maryland and the ACC are bound to come up. With Testudo being the only attendee from the Terps at the July 1 events, there didn’t have to be any awkwardness (he doesn’t talk, obviously). But this will be the start of a very awkward, icy 11-ish months between Maryland and ACC.
6. Looking Forward to Louisville: You won’t see any representation from the Cardinals, but they’ll surely be a hot topic as media looks ahead to the ACC’s more permanent membership come next year. Louisville’s also projected to be among the top 10-15 teams in the nation, so any victories they claim this year will undoubtedly be pinned up on the ACC’s wall, rightfully or not.
7. Clemson‘s National Title Hopes/Tajh Boyd for Heisman?: These two are intertwined; as one goes, so goes the other. And that should be enough to drive plenty of conversation about the Tigers, who are seen as a top 10 team by most pundits this season. We saw what happened to last year’s title contender (Florida State). Can Clemson avoid the same fate, especially with a weaker defense and tougher schedule than the ‘Noles? It’s highly likely Dabo Swinney is asked about Steve Spurrier quite a bit too, much to Dabo’s chagrin.
8. Miami and the NCAA Investigation: Miami’s a fringe top 25 team, but until we hear the NCAA’s verdict from their investigation, the focus will be on that side of things. We all know this entire job has been botched by Mark Emmert’s offices and that the NCAA is a clownfraude institution, but until something changes, they’re still the law in college sports. After two self-imposed bowl bans, I think they make it out clean — though we’ll have to wait and see for the announcement which should come by the end of July.
9. Progress on College Football Playoff Committee: Very little’s been decided upon for the selection committee designed to set the College Football Playoff field, though based on reports the other day, it seems that current athletic directors will be part of the group. I don’t agree with that decision, and I bet a good portion of the media in attendance won’t either. They’ll want to know who will fill out the other spots on the 12-20 person board, and it’s likely all these questions are met with a simple shrug. Rinse and repeat this series of events from now until probably November.
10. Virginia Tech vs. Alabama: There are plenty of other big opening weekend games, but this one is against the two-time defending national champs. Virginia Tech’s bringing the ACC’s and their own pride on the line, and because of that, coach Frank Beamer will be peppered with questions. Unfortunately, I don’t like the Hokies’ chances in that one, though I doubt you’ll hear many admit it around Greensboro on Sunday and Monday.
Any other storylines we should be prepared for? Any predictions on how the respective situations with Maryland and Miami turn out? Predictions for this season? Share your thoughts in the comments below.