HOOVER, Ala. – If there was ever a time to thump your chest while wearing an oversized blazer and tie, this was it.

Tyson Jackson’s expansive chest helps fill his 291-pound frame. Yeah, the first day of the Southeastern Conference media day was weighty, too.

And Jackson felt it. The magnitude of the past two national champions, LSU and Florida, walking through the same Wynfrey Hotel outside of Birmingham, Ala., on the same day was undeniable.

After all, both expect to be an integral part of the first potential three-peat by a major conference since Minnesota and Ohio State collaborated in the early 1940s.

Cue the chest pump.

“It could happen again for either one of us,” Jackson said of a national title. “This lets you know that this is the best conference hands down. It just has that swagger now.”

About 750 credentialed members of the media came to see that swagger, but Florida and LSU coaches talked about anything but.

LSU’s Les Miles made it clear early in his news conference that he doesn’t want to spend time talking about his team’s national championship in 2007. Florida won the title in 2006.

“The ’08 is where we’re at,” Miles said. “We’re not defending. We’re not dealing with the rankings. This is a brand new year.”

Florida’s Urban Meyer said if his players concerned themselves with expectations — which are growing every year under the Meyer regime — they’d be “wasting brain cells and time.”

“To be honest, I felt [the expectations] more last year after the year we had,” Meyer said.

Coaches tend to downplay these things, of course. Jackson knows better.

A collision of the past with what’s at stake this year between these two teams — the legacy of Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, LSU’s potential status as back-to-back champs — could make for the game of the year when LSU visits the Swamp on Oct. 11.

Last year’s memorable 28-24 LSU win in Baton Rouge still resonates with Jackson. This year’s game could be better.

“I’ll always remember what these two teams mean to college football right now,” Jackson said. “We have a tough defense; they have the defending Heisman winner and the complexity of their offense. It’s going to be a great matchup.”

south florida sun sentinel