Last year at this time we were being quarantined, socially distanced and worried about everyone's future. Our country and the world was being ravaged by COVID-19 and a cure or vaccine was a long way from becoming a reality. We had already lost the NCAA Basketball tournaments as well as all spring sports. Major League Baseball wouldn't begin its 2020 season until mid-July and, as far as football season was concerned, no one knew exactly if we would have a season or not.
Since then however, close to 70 percent of Americans have been vaccinated and it looks like things will almost return to normal this fall.
Our country is opening up with Major League stadiums returning to full capacity and there is more excitement than usual about the upcoming college football season. With that being said, pre-season football magazines are hitting the shelves and they're being gobbled up by die-hard fans from all schools.
Buying and reading those pre-season books at the end of June has become a tradition in my family. just last weekend I purchased the annual Athlon's SEC Preview and, while it's the 2021 version, it could have been a year or two old. Alabama is the pre-season number one team, while Clemson is second. That's the way it's been for several years now. In the last decade we've crowned Alabama national champion five times with Clemson winning it all twice. LSU, Ohio State and Florida State have won the other three.
I have always saved some of the magazines for beach reading in July and that will be the case in a couple of weeks. I also haven't heard about the annual SEC Media Days for this year but in 2020 things were done virtually. I really hope that those virtual events will soon be a thing of the past because there is nothing like hearing those SEC coaches cry and poor-mouth their way through dozens of interviews in person. It is also a time to renew old friendships among media members. Some of the busiest and best times I've ever had were when I was covering the SEC Media Days in Birmingham and, since the event moved to Atlanta a few years ago, I would love to go back one more time.
As for the Tennessee Volunteers and being "cautiously optimistic" about their chances for 2021, Athlon has predicted the Vols will finish 6-6 overall and 2-6 in the SEC. They also predicted the Big Orange will face Michigan in the Music City Bowl. Athlon may have forgotten about the NCAA investigation into the Tennessee program. Remember, bags of cash allegedly being delivered to players in McDonald's bags? I don't know when the NCAA's hammer will drop but when it does, it won't be pretty. And that's something that doesn't give fans cause to be "cautiously optimistic."
Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com