After months of hearing from bloggers, respected observers and Paul Finebaum that he couldn't win the SEC in Oxford, you have to imagine Mississippi Rebels head coach was relishing a chance to answer his critics.
And at least when it comes to the most repeated meme -- Houston Nutt overperforms when not expected to do well, as Ole Miss was last year, and underperforms when expected to do well, as the Rebels are this season -- he got that chance Thursday at SEC Media Days.
"Secondly, there's a perception, whether it's fair or not, that you have been a better coach when you're not picked to do well than when you are picked to do well, as you are this year. What is your take on that?"To give you an idea of his eagerness to answer that question, Nutt essentially ignored the first part of the question -- whether it was hard not to vote for Jevan Snead for All-SEC quarterback, a practice forbidden by conference ballot rules -- and launched into a lengthy dissection of the second.
"If you look at the times we were picked high, we had some major injuries, major," Nutt said. "Not as an excuse, but part of it. It's a blow."
Nutt appears to be cognizant of the problems of success but welcoming of the expectations.
"Last year, the same group of experts picked us towards the bottom," he said. "Same group of experts now picking us toward the top. We tell our team: 'What does that mean?' Doesn't mean anything. You are going to be hunted."
Then again: "The great teams expect to be picked No. 1. That's kind of where we want to get to. You want to get to, 'Hey, we want to be picked first in our conference. It's an awesome statement."
As usual, Nutt had a unique solution to the increasing attention on his team: Allow his program to be the focus of a reality TV show.
"I want the cameras on them," he said. "I want them to get used to it. I want them not to flinch. I want them to not draw attention to themselves."
This is a man who obviously has not watched much reality TV. The stars of the Real World are not exactly known for their hesitance to draw attention to themselves.
In any case, players also seem to be aware of the danger of believing their own hype in a fearsome division that also has Alabama and LSU among the title contenders.
"We need to be unsatisfied," said safety Kendrick Lewis. "We're going to get the publicity. We can't buy into it."
For Snead, the solution is to make the effort in practice as consistent as the predictions for the field are inconsistent.
"We're just going to do the same thing this year: Prepare as hard as we can," he said.
For football, at least. There might be nothing anyone can do to brace the players for the media onslaught they're about to experience. Even if they're asked to eat bugs to avoid being voted off the team.