The voting is in and, as usual, Alabama is the favorite to win the SEC this year.
No surprise, right?
Arkansas finished right in the middle of the West. That’s because most have absolutely no idea what to think of this Razorback team right now.
The people I’ve talked to aren’t ready to put the Hogs up in the rankings but, based on prior history, don’t want to put them at the bottom.
So they simply put them in the middle.
Before we get to the final picks, here’s how I picked it (and, yes, since 1992 I have picked at the top Florida in the East and Alabama in the West … EVERY year):
East: 1. Florida, 2. Kentucky, 3. South Carolina, 4. Georgia, 5. Tennessee, 6. Vanderbilt, 7. Missouri.
West: 1. Alabama, 2t. Auburn-LSU, 4. Arkansas-Ole Miss-Mississippi State-Texas A&M.
Explanations of my preseason picks will come later. Don’t sweat it, that’s just how I think it’s going to end up.
Here’s the official breakdown of the media voting last week:
1. Georgia – 1,572 points (138 first-place votes)
2. Florida – 1,526 (96)
3. Tennessee – 998 (3)
4. South Carolina – 897 (5)
5. Kentucky – 869
6. Vanderbilt – 554
7. Missouri – 388
1. Alabama – 1,683 (225)
2. Auburn – 1,329 (13)
3. LSU – 1,262 (4)
4. Arkansas – 796 (1)
5. Texas A&M – 722
6. Mississippi State – 633
7. Ole Miss – 379
1. Alabama – 217 votes
2. Auburn – 11
3. Georgia – 6
t-4. Florida – 3
t-4. LSU – 3
t-6. Arkansas – 1
t-6. South Carolina – 1
t-6. Vanderbilt – 1
Now let’s translate that.
In the East, it’s traditional thinking to continue the belief that Kirby Smart is a good coach because he was with Nick Saban for so long.
Funny thing about traditional thinking is not a single former Saban assistant has ever beaten the boss. In other words, Saban probably taught these assistants everything THEY know, but not everything HE knows.
In the East, literally you could put Georgia, Florida and Tennessee on one tier, South Carolina, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Missouri on another.
Figure out injuries, goofy bounces, weird officials’ calls and everything else that factors into how a season plays out and you get a result in both of those scenarios.
Alabama still rules the West. Until someone can knock them off, then not fold down the stretch (see Ole Miss in 2015), the Crimson Tide are out in front.
Right behind are Auburn and LSU, who have opened some space from everyone else. Now they have to avoid a collapse if they stumble early, which has been the death knell in the past.
Remember, Les Miles was not fired because he didn’t beat Alabama. He got fired because he lost too many others after losing interest after losing to the Tide.
Auburn has lived with the growing pains of Gus Malzahn learning about being a head coach. He only had one year of college head coaching experience at Arkansas State before getting the Auburn job, replacing another first-time head coach.
Tigers football would also likely benefit if athletics director Jay Jacobs would take away Pat Dye’s office and tell him to go away. Most schools would do that with a former coach that handed them a massive NCAA problem like Dye did.
After those three, the order of finish in the West depends on far too many factors. I don’t care what they say publicly, nobody knows what is going to happen with Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Texas A&M.
You can make a case for any of them to win 10 games … or finish below .500.
Which, of course, is why they play out the schedule every year.