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Jim Fassel

Jim Fassel

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In the slowest part of the sports summer, Michael Vick and Brett Favre have become the biggest stories.

The annual circus known as the SEC Media Day kicks off in Birmingham on Wednesday.

It's launch time for SEC fans.

But you know it never really dies The NFL and SEC football are year-round sports in the South.

Nick Saban soon will be on his second Sports Illustrated regional cover.

How big has SEC Media Days become? This season, 25 radio stations will be broadcasting live from inside the event, and more than 800 members of the media have been credentialed.

There'll be a lot of persons there using the word, goll-durn.

Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, an offseason newsmaker, was given the last time-slot on Friday.

Is this to keep his comments from overshadowing everyone else's and with whatever he says floats into the weekend oblivion.

LSU's Les Miles will e asked if he's a bona fide long-term fit at LSU, or will this be the season when he demonstrates that a temperament consisting of equal parts insanity and supreme self-confidence doesn't work in the SEC? Miles went 19-5 in the SEC his first three seasons with an SEC and national title.

But then he went 3-5 last season in the SEC, equaling the conference loses that he put up in his first three seasons combined.

As if that weren't enough, the Tigers defense imploded, allowing more than 50 points to Georgia and Florida and going 3-5 in the final eight games of the regular season.

The Tigers rebounded with a new quarterback to smoke Georgia Tech in the bowl game, but was that indicative of what's to come or was the preceding eight weeks more representative of what LSU has become? Another question Miles may be asked is how much less fearsome would he be if he went by his given name, Leslie? The name Leslie standing alone probably disqualifies him from coaching everywhere in the the SEC except Vandy.

There will be a lot of focus on LSU's new defensive coordinator John Chavis this season.

He could have more impact on LSU than Miles.

While the Tigers loses three of their starters on the defensive line, they return the guys in the secondary who were so awful and the linebackers as well.

They'll be improved, More importantly, Chavis will instill an attitude (like Gregg Williams is doing with the Saints) that doesn't allow consistent failure.

LSU will go from awful to solid in the first year under Chavis.

Florida is better than the rest of the league by a great margin than any team in the SEC in can remember.

The Gators, in 1996, the year they won the national championship, was dominant, but the second-tier teams were better.

This year? Even if you buy Ole Miss as a top-10 team (which I don't), there isn't anyone else with hailing distance.

The Gators are going to be double-digit favorites in every game they play this season, including the SEC championship game and Oct.

10 at LSU.

Has an SEC school ever been favored for an entire season by double-digits? I doubt it.

In fact, there have been only two teams in the past decade to march through the SEC without a loss.

Tennessee in 1998 and Auburn in 2004..

Florida may lose a game in the SEC, but if the Gators do, it will be a bad loss.

According to the Golden Nugget casino, Florida is currently favored by 27 points over Tennessee for their game Sept.

19 in Gainesville.

It's the biggest underdog that the Vols have been in three decades, maybe ever.

We're in an era when non-Southerner like Urban Meyer, Bobby Petrino, Lane Kiffin, Dan Mullen and Nick Saban are five of the most recent hires in the SEC.

But they're using words fixin' and y'all so they fit in immediately.

They're like politicians who develop accents as soon as they leave Washington.

Football season is close enough touch with the Saints beginning training camp in nine days.

I want to see what Williams is doing with the Saints defense and Malcolm Jenkins, if Pierre Thomas is going to replace Deuce McAllister and allow Reggis Bush to occupy the role he had with Deuce, and I even want Brett Favre back as sick as I am of the back and forth.The Zephyrs' losing streak continued Tuesday night as they fell to the Oklahoma City RedHawks 9-6 at Zephyr Field.

Willie Glen (0-1) got roughed up in his first start for the Zephyrs.

After setting down the RedHawks in order in the first inning, he ran into considerable trouble in the second, allowing seven runs on six hits.

The big blow came in the form of a Joaquin Arias grand slam to stretch the lead to seven.

The Zephyrs offense tried to mount a comeback, but could not get closer than three runs.

Andy Gonzalez and Brett Hayes each went 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored to pace the Zephyr offense.

The story offensively was the inability for the top of the lineup to generate any offense.

The top four hitters for the Zephyrs combined to go 2-for-18 with six strikeouts on the night.

It was the eighth straight loss for the Zephyrs, who fall to 41-53 on the season.

Wednesday night's match-up will pit Hayden Penn against Kris Benson with the first pitch scheduled for 7.Candor to interview for UNO jobSouthern University baseball coach Roger Cador will interview for the job at UNO on Wednesday.

The Privateers re-opened their search last month for a replacement for Tom Walter, who departed to takeover the job at Wake Forest.

UNO promoted assistant coach Bruce Peddie to replace Walter without advertising the position.

On June 22, UNO posted an opening for a head baseball coach, saying it would accept applications until July 9.

Cador, 57, who has won 14 SWAC championships in 25 years at Southern, said he didn't consider talking to UNO until some friends convinced him to apply.

Cador's salary at Southern is $83,000 per year along with a $12,000 annual housing allowance.

Southern probably will offer Cador a raise to stay.

NFL NOTES: Former Bills quarterback J.


Losman of Tulane will play for the United Football League's still-unnamed Las Vegas franchise this season.

"I have followed J.P.'s career since his early days with Buffalo where he impressed me with his raw talent, passing accuracy and on-field competitiveness," said Jim Fassel, former Giants coach who'll serve as head coach of the Las Vegas franchise.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the NFL will look into the civil complaint alleging sexual assault against Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger.

A meeting between Goodell and suspended quarterback Michael Vick could take place by Thursday or Friday for his potential return to the NFL.

Vick is reportedly likely to get a conditional reinstatement to the NFL next week.

SOME HITHER, OTHERS YON: Sean Payton, on the Saints' two inconsistent, injury-plagued seasons:"There's a level of urgency for our fans, and I think there's a lot of excitement for this year's team.

That's not to say that wasn't there in years past, but I think this team is ready for the challenge."...For five straight seasons, from 2002-06, the team that finished last in the NFC South came back to win the division championship the following season.

That streak was almost unbelievable when you consider that some pretty bad teams made the worst-to-first jump in that stretch: namely the 3-13 Saints in 2005 and Tampa Bay in 2006.

They went 10-6 and 9-7 respectively, the nest season to win the division.

The trend ended last year, however, when Atlanta, the cellar-dwellers in 2007, went 11-5, coming in just one game behind the NFC South champs Carolina.

Still, the Falcons got into the postseason party, giving superstitious Who Dats some extra hope this season: and that's every team that has finished last in the NFC South from 2002-07 has earned a playoff the next season.

But considering how competitive the division was last season (teams combined for an NFL-best 40-23 record)) and has been since the NFC South was formed in 2002 with only 10 wins separating the four teams, no one should be taking anything for granted...Shaq O'Neal, always the entertainer, has a new reality show set for Aug.

18 on ABC that puts him against top athletes in their own sports.

Filming begins on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, when Shaq takes on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in football.

Future hourlong episodes will match him against Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, retired boxer Oscar De La Hoya, St.

Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, tennis pro Serena Williams and beach volleyball Olympians Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.

While Shaq knows how to cater to the fans and he's currently in his honeymoon period with the Cavs, he also should realize these off the court antics also played a role in the Suns not making the playoffs last season.

Regardless this is a great concept especially in the dead period of TV know as the's Gil Brandt's scouting report on LSU offensive tackle Ciron Black: "Fifth-year player who has started 40 straight games at left tackle.

Played a school-record snaps in 2007.

He is a better run blocker than pass protector.

He is a good, but not a great worker.

When you watch tape, you expect more than you see."...

An opponent breaks down the Saints: "Who doesn't like Drew Brees? I mean he does an excellent job of distributing the ball to his playmakers and he's got as many as anybody in that division, from Reggie Bush to Pierre Thomas to Colston to Devery Henderson.

Anytime anyone one of those guys gets touches, he's got a chance to go 20-plus yards with it.

Brees is as good as there is at coming to the line, seeing what you're doing and manipulating it.

They've got him coached-up there, and you can see it on the field.

He's running the show there.

As far as backs go, Bush is what he was when he came out.

He's one of those dynamic guys who you have to have a situation and a role for.

He's never going to be one of those guys that rips it up between the tackles.

He's a perimeter guy, and as that he's outstanding.

There's no other word for it.

Forget about going plus-20; he can go plus-80 at a moment's notice.

I think the line they have is very good.

I really like their guards.

Jahri Evans may be the best in the division, and the (Carl) Nicks kid really played outstanding."...

It's official.

That magical run the Saints made to the NFC title game three years ago, now can be classified as an indisputable fluke.

The Saints' 15-17 record the last two years makes it so.

But with that said, no team in the NFL may be primed for another surprising run to glory than the Saints...That's it for now.Contact Ed Staton at [email protected]

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