As has been said many times, spring games don’t actually matter all that much, but give the SEC credit for this: The conference really knows how to put the glory in glorified scrimmages. That will be proven true once again Saturday as the schedule of games offers the potential for a decent amount of entertainment.
Here’s which games fans should pay attention to most:
Alabama’s A-Day game — 3 pm ET, ESPN (Rating: 9/10)
Alabama’s recruiting is the college football version of Leonardo DiCaprio’s dating life, and this year is no exception. It’s hard to imagine a defending national champion losing its starting quarterback and Heisman-winning running back and not skipping a beat with their replacements. But that could be the case for the Crimson Tide.
College football fans — even if they don’t cheer for the Crimson Tide — will want to tune into this one if for no other reason than to find out which prospects their favorite team missed out on.
UGA’s G-Day game — 4 ET, ESPNU (Rating: 8/10)
The on-field intrigue in this one involves the debut of former five-star recruit Jacob Eason at quarterback, but the off-field drama surrounds the push by new coach Kirby Smart to fill Sanford Stadium with 93,000 fans. Will he get his wish? No one knows, but UGA will get some help from hip-hop artist Ludacris, who will perform before the game.
It’s hard to put into words how awkward this could get. The alumni section for Bulldogs games typically resembles the line for the early-bird special at a Florida seafood restaurant. Their idea of music is less Luda and more Lawrence Welk. Their reaction to the brief concert should be priceless.
Tennessee’s Orange and White game — 2 pm ET, SEC Network (Rating: 7/10)
From Tennessee’s perspective, the best thing about this year’s spring game is that it will be a chance for reporters to write a story about coach Butch Jones that doesn’t include the phrase, “Knoxville Police Department.”
It’s also a chance for the rest of the fans around the SEC to find out if the Vols are a team ready to live up to the hype that’s almost certainly heading their way. Tennessee will no doubt be the overwhelming favorite in the SEC East this season — which might be an uncomfortable position for the Vols to find itself after so many late-game collapses last season. The spring game might provide the Vols with an occasion to demonstrate that 2016 will be a new year for the program.
LSU’s National L Club spring football game — 4 pm ET, SEC Network (Rating: 7/10)
LSU coach Les Miles’ presence at this year’s spring game probably won’t get much attention — after all he’s led the program since 2005. Yet at the end of the 2015 season, Miles seemed about as likely as Tupac to show up on the field in Death Valley this year. Miles’ reward for not getting fired is a Tigers team that’s loaded once again, and has one of the top young coaching minds in the sport — new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda — making his debut, as well. This is a potential College Football Playoff team, and that’s plenty of reason enough to check out this game.
Mississippi State’s Maroon-White spring game — Noon ET, ESPNU (Rating: 6/10)
The final stage of grief is acceptance, but Saturday might prove Bulldogs fans are still a long way from accepting that legendary quarterback Dak Prescott is truly gone.
While Saturday’s spring game will offer the first glimpse at Prescott’s possible replacement — junior Nick Fitzgerald. It will likely also prove Fitzgerald — or any other Bulldogs quarterback — has a long way to go towards actually filling Dak’s shoes.
Missouri’s Black & Gold spring game — 6 pm ET SEC Network; Kentucky’s Blue-White spring game — Noon ET, SEC Network (Rating: 4/10)
If you’re watching one of these two games and you don’t root for one of these teams, congratulations. You’re apparently the SEC’s No. 1 fan. Spring football is already a poor substitute for real football, and last season the Tigers’ and the Wildcats’ version of real football wasn’t all that compelling either.
However, they’re televised for a reason. Someone will certainly be watching, and if that person is you, make sure you let us know how they turn out.