ATLANTA — Alabama coach Nick Saban had little to say Wednesday about the biggest topic of the offseason.
Who will be the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback: Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts?
"I think the number one thing that you will want to talk about is the quarterback controversy that you'd love to create, that you've already created, that you will continue to create…" Saban told reporters Wednesday. "It's still to be determined as to who is going to play quarterback for Alabama."
Tagovailoa has a higher ceiling and led the Tide's second-half comeback over Georgia in January's national title game. Hurts is the incumbent and a former SEC player of the year, and his father has raised the issue of him transferring and becoming the biggest free agent in the history of a sport that doesn't technically have free agency.
"I have no idea," Saban said about whether Hurts will be with the Tide when it opens against Louisville in Orlando. "I expect him to be there."
Saban said both quarterbacks are capable of winning the job, and he'll "create a role for one or both of those guys on our team."
If the Dan Mullen's return to Starkville on Sept. 29 is going to be one of the biggest games in Mississippi history, his former Mississippi State players aren't ready to talk about it.
"We know it's a big-time SEC game," Bulldogs S Mark McLaurin said. "We're just going to have to wait until that day comes."
When it comes, the atmosphere should be intense. SEC head coaches rarely jump from one team to another, and the fact that Mullen will play on the road at his former school in Year 1 is a welcome scheduling quirk.
In the meantime, the Bulldogs are following the cliché of taking things day by day. But how might Mullen be received when he returns to Starkville as the Gators' head coach?
"I don't know," DE Gerri Green said. "He was a great coach. He did a lot of great things for Mississippi State University. I think the fans will probably cheer him on."
College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said there has been "no talk" about expanding the system beyond four teams among the conference commissioners and university presidents involved in the playoff.
Hancock praised the undefeated Knights as a "wonderful football team and a great team to watch" and said their road to the playoff is the same as every other program.
"For the College Football Playoff, things are simple: Play a good schedule, win your games, and you're going to be in the hunt," Hancock said. "That holds true for UCF and Houston and Northern Illinois as well as Alabama, Ohio State, Texas and Washington."
Translation: UCF's schedule wasn't strong enough to earn a spot in the final four, despite a perfect season.
Saban — whose team was awarded an actual national title rather than a self-proclaimed one — said he has a "tremendous amount of compassion" and respect for what UCF accomplished last year. He advocated for removing non-Power Five programs from big schools' schedules to make the playoff field even easier to set…although that wouldn't help Group of Five programs like the Knights.
Mark Richt influence
New Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt has taken tidbits from his time working under the top coaches in the game – Saban, former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and Miami coach Mark Richt.
As the defensive coordinator under Richt at Georgia, Pruitt said he learned to keep things in perspective.
"Probably the biggest thing to me is, there's more to life than football," Pruitt said. "There is. And, you know, one of these days that – you don't care how many championships you win and all that."
"It would be like taking the stage and performing after The Beatles, and no one is going to be in their seats and paying attention to what you're doing." – Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead on speaking on the same day as Saban. Fortunately for Moorhead, he spoke before Saban, not after.
"I guess stepping out of your front door every day and being smacked in the face with the humidity, that's a pretty good 'Welcome to the South' moment. And everything being wrapped in bacon in food, that's pretty good, too." – Moorhead on moving from the Northeast to Mississippi.