Duane Rankin, USA TODAY Sports
Only one thing can bring nearly 1,000 journalists and rabid football fans to Birmingham during the middle of summer vacation season: SEC media days.
Where else can you find a Heisman Trophy winner (Johnny Manziel), coach of the two-time defending national champions (Nick Saban), projected top pick in the 2014 NFL draft (Jadeveon Clowney) and one of nation's hottest coaches (James Franklin) in the same city?
Break out the red carpet, dramatic theme music and a mass choir, because this has become a three-day, must-see event.
So to kick off 72 hours of SEC glorification, here are five questions (plus a bonus offering) heading into SEC media days.
1. Can South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney win the Heisman Trophy?
Sure he can. The big fella just has to knock off a helmet once every two weeks to make ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 plays. He needs to rack up 14½ sacks, with half of those leading to fumbles, and half of those fumbles leading to defensive scores.
Snatch a couple of quick screens out the sky and return one for six. Persuading Steve Spurrier to play him at tight end and catching a couple of touchdowns would help the cause.
Then if he leads the Gamecocks to an SEC title with a dominant MVP performance against Alabama to give them an undefeated regular season, Clowney will strike the pose and make history.
2. What SEC team has the best chance to knock off Alabama in its bid for a third consecutive BCS title?
Texas A&M and LSU in the regular season, but time won't be on their side. The Tide, ironically, has bye weeks before playing at A&M on Sept. 14 and LSU at home Nov. 9.
If Alabama still is unblemished entering the SEC title game, throw Georgia or South Carolina into the equation. Motivation would be on Georgia's side (Alabama edged the Bulldogs 32-28 in last year's SEC title game), but history would be on South Carolina's side.
The last time they played in 2010, the Gamecocks rocked the top-ranked Tide 35-21.
If Alabama ends up in Pasadena, only Ohio State keeps Alabama from being at least a 10-point favorite to three-peat.
3. Which one of the four new league coaches will fare the best this season?
By process of elimination, scratch Mark Stoops (Kentucky) and Butch Jones (Tennessee) first.
The Wildcats and Volunteers have had three losing seasons in a row. Last season, Kentucky went 2-10 and Tennessee finished 5-7, with one of those victories coming against the Wildcats.
Stoops and Jones have a lot to clean up before they can move up.
So that leaves Gus Malzahn (Auburn) and Bret Bielema (Arkansas).
While optimism is high at Auburn, I just don't see how Malzahn can turn around a program that had its worst season in 60 years right away, even though he was the offensive coordinator when Auburn won it all in 2010.
As for Bielema, he's had the most success over a longer period of time while at Wisconsin, so the nod goes to him.
Plus he opened his mouth about Saban and the SEC. Hope the food was good at the fish fry, because now he has back up those words. If Bielema gets it done, he'll make many eat crow.
4. Which SEC coach most likely will be canned before next season?
Gary Pinkel. When he signed a two-year contract extension in April 2011, Pinkel was 77-49 in 10 seasons at Mizzou.
Since then, he's gone 13-12, with an SEC debut record of 2-6. Doesn't help that Texas A&M went 11-2 overall, 6-2 in the SEC under Kevin Sumlin in its first year out of the Big 12. The Aggies play on the tougher side of the SEC, too, and still fared better.
Pinkel needs to show improvement, or else.
5. Pick your poison: Manziel, Murray or McCarron?
As good as all three of these guys are, imagine what Spurrier would do with them.
I can hear the 'Ol Ball Coach now in that twangy voice talking about this, but he can only choose one. As much fun as Spurrier might have with the ultimate dual threat in Manziel, he chews out his quarterbacks like Trident. So I'm not sure Manziel could handle Spurrier's fussing.
A.J. McCarron is the ultimate winner, but when Spurrier has had his ideal quarterback, his offense has been pass happy. Danny Wuerffel averaged 27.8 pass attempts as a senior in winning the 1996 Heisman Trophy. McCarron averaged 22.4 attempts last season.
Not sure McCarron's arm would hold up.
Aaron Murray is the ideal quarterback for Spurrier. He threw for more yards and touchdowns than McCarron and Manziel last season. Plus Spurrier likes seeing players bounce back as Murray did following that 35-7 drubbing his Gamecocks put on the Bulldogs last season.
Murray went 11 of 31 for only 109 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. The next week, he threw four touchdowns with no picks against Kentucky.
Bonus question: Will Nick Marshall be Auburn's starting quarterback or will Malzahn give G.W. Carver graduate Jeremy Johnson a true shot at the job?
Marshall has been the talk on the Plains, and he hasn't even taken a snap for the Tigers.
People can't wait to see the JUCO transfer's dazzling talents mesh with Malzahn's up-tempo offense, but Johnson would fit quite nicely in it, too, right? Jonathan Wallace and Kiehl Frazier finished spring practice even, so the job is up for grabs. Or is it Wallace's to lose?
Duane Rankin also writes for the Montgomery Advertiser, a Gannett property