Friday February 12th, 2016 9:11AM

Opinion: One incredible party complete, another is soon in starting

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
I had a temporary moment of panic this morning: the month-long festival known as the World Cup is finally over.<br /> <br /> What am I to do with the rest of my summer days? How will I while away the hours?<br /> <br /> Then a realization as nice as a warm blanket on a frigid winter night slowly cloaked itself around me.<br /> <br /> Yes one form of football, and with it the world's biggest party, has come to an end. But another form of football is quickly gathering steam, and -- in less than a month -- we will be so wrapped in gridiron talk that Brazil 2014 will be a fading -- if happy -- memory.<br /> <br /> In fact, no sooner had the postmortems begun on Germany's march back to world dominance, than my attention had already begun to sway to another country entirely -- Alabama.<br /> <br /> That is because the SEC football media days are being held this week in Hoover. The conference's own version of a three-ring circus, the event allows various "media" members (some of whom have no more than a podcast and a catchy nickname) a chance to interview the league's coaches, a handful of players and hobnob with a few eccentric fans.<br /> <br /> More importantly it acts as a sort of impromptu season kick off and gets all of us salivating over what's to come in just a few short weeks.<br /> <br /> For the SEC there is never a shortage of topics, and this year includes a number of intriguing talking points:<br /> <br /> -- Can the SEC regain its place atop the college football world after Auburn lost to Florida State in 2013, stopping cold a run of seven straight national crowns for various conference teams?<br /> <br /> -- How will the league react to the graduation of a bevy of super talented quarterbacks (including Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger, AJ McCarron, Connor Shaw and James Franklin)? Who will step in to fill their shoes?<br /> <br /> -- Is their another Auburn-like reclamation project in the works this season? Is there another team capable of pulling off the incredible turnaround that shot the Tigers to the BCS title game after going winless in the conference in 2012?<br /> <br /> And that's just scratching the surface.<br /> <br /> Here in Bulldog territory we have a few more specific questions:<br /> <br /> -- Can Hutson Mason step into the aforementioned Murray's cleats and play well enough?<br /> <br /> -- Can Todd Gurley stay healthy for an entire season?<br /> <br /> -- Will the offensive line be good enough to help both the passing and ground game?<br /> <br /> -- And, perhaps most important, will new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt make a big difference to a unit that returns plenty of talent -- albeit a secondary with plenty of holes?<br /> <br /> All questions that we will find the answers to soon enough. In the meantime we will have to content ourselves with speculative answers and stories like Nick Marshall's recent brush with the law and marijuana -- the kind of stories every booster hopes to avoid this time (or any time) of year.<br /> <br /> There should be no shortage of stories over the coming weeks, however -- hopefully all good -- including the start of high school football (the first day for conditioning is July 25; full pads practice for GHSA programs is Aug. 1).<br /> <br /> In the meantime, yes, there will be a lag between the two footballs, which reminds me: just how great was this World Cup and what will it mean for the USA?<br /> <br /> It was a great competition -- perhaps not the greatest of the modern era, as some pundits have trumpeted, but certainly a great experience for the game and its fans. Germany were more than deserving winners, and the only shame is that the championship game did not produce more goals (although there were certainly plenty of chances). <br /> <br /> The efforts and relative success of the USA in navigating the "Group of Death" into the knockout phase should also have some impact on the game here stateside -- if not in increased interest in playing it, certainly in increased interest of viewing -- as television numbers and massive viewing parties around the nation showed.<br /> <br /> It was a fabulous party, and there will be just enough time to regain our senses before the next one starts in a few weeks.<br /> <br /> <i>-- Morgan Lee is sports editor for Access North</i>
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