At a mix between a country club luncheon and a relaxed press conference on Monday, Tony Barnhart highlighted all 14 SEC football teams and spoke about the future of the conference.
A renowned sports journalist and broadcaster, Barnhart, otherwise known as "Mr. College Football" from CBS Sports and CBSSports.com, predicted the SEC champion will face off against either Clemson, Florida State, Oregon, Stanford or Ohio State in this year's BCS National Championship Game.
His prediction came at a meeting of the Knoxville Quarterback Club at Calhoun's on the River where he also spoke on the current state of affairs in the SEC, including the University of Tennessee football program.
Barnhart stated that though currently undermanned and facing one of the nation's toughest schedules, Tennessee football is on the right track.
"[Head coach Butch] Jones is gonna get to where you want to go," Barnhart said.
Barnhart said it takes time for first-year coaches to adjust to SEC football.
"You've gotta get more skill players," Barnhart said, speaking to a room full of Tennessee fans. "But [recruiting] is going well."
One man in charge of developing skill players is current UT running backs coach, Robert Gillespie, who also spoke at the meeting. Gillespie said there's a certain amount of pride that goes along with being a running back in the SEC, and that Jones continuously talks about upholding that standard of excellence.
"Any running back that wants to be the best in the country can do it here," Gillespie said.
Barnhart spoke about Tennessee's upcoming opponent, Georgia, who defeated LSU 44-41 in a thriller last week.
"Georgia is pretty good ... as good as anyone you're going to see offensively," Barnhart said. "Defense is where they're vulnerable."
Barnhart continued with the rest of the SEC East, stating that Kentucky is "woefully undermanned," Florida and South Carolina are still in contention, and Missouri and Vanderbilt as teams to watch out for.
Moving on to the upper-tier of the SEC West, Barnhart said that even though Alabama has some issues this year, they still find a way to win games. Texas A&M is a team that will need two losses from Alabama if they are to reach the SEC Championship in Atlanta, something Barnhart doesn't see happening. Rounding out the top teams in the SEC West, LSU's fate is in its own hands, Barnhart said.
On a larger national scale, Barnhart expects there to be increased discussion about rule-making autonomy between conferences and the NCAA, with issues such as pay for student athletes being addressed in the next few years.
Title IX is one reason Barnhart said he doesn't believe there is a pay-for-play system that is applicable to college sports at the moment. However, there are ways to circumvent the law, such as with "full cost of attendance scholarships."
"There will be a change in the layout of the NCAA," Barnhart said.
Change could be coming to the SEC as well. With the impending introduction of the SEC Network, universities may push towards nine conference games a season. This could put traditional rivalry games, such as Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn, at risk. As a traditionalist, Barnhart hopes it doesn't come to that.
The Knoxville Quarterback Club meets at Calhoun's on the river every Monday at noon. Upcoming guest speakers include Lloyd Carr, Pat Dye, Butch Jones and possibly Archie Manning. Individual membership fees range from $75-$175.