The media, which has correctly picked the SEC champion only four times since 1992, zeroed in on Alabama to beat Georgia in the championship game. Alabama received 182 votes, Georgia 38. Also receiving votes, South Carolina (18), Texas A&M (4), and LSU (1).
You have to be present to vote in the media poll, but that doesn’t prevent a stay-at-home columnist from offering a ballot. Staying true to an earlier prediction, Arkansas is down for a 5-7 record that includes SEC victories over Texas A&M and Ole Miss and the trickle down from those two games shapes the picks for the Aggies and the Rebels.
From the top down, beginning with the Western Division:
1. Alabama. The defense will catch-up with Auburn’s hurry-up and whoever wins out at quarterback will be battle tested by November when the Crimson Tide plays both LSU and Auburn.
2. LSU. A slightly out-on-a-limb pick. Defense, plus the Tigers have an advantage over Auburn because their Eastern Division opponents are Kentucky and Florida vs. Georgia and South Carolina for Auburn.
3. Auburn. See above.
4. (tie) Mississippi State and Ole Miss. For bragging rights, the Rebels get the nod in Oxford on Thanksgiving weekend.
6. (tie) Arkansas and A&M. The Aggies make a bowl because of a 4-0 non-conference record and the Razorbacks fall short because of a loss at Texas Tech.
1. (tie) South Carolina, Georgia, and Missouri. Gutless, maybe. Feasible, yes. A push at running back between the Gamecocks’ Mike Davis and the Bulldogs’ Todd Gurley, but a slight edge at quarterback to Missouri’s Maty Mauk. Missouri could lose to both the other co-champions, but finish 6-2 by beating Arkansas and A&M from the West. Either Georgia or South Carolina or both will lose to Auburn. Based on a mid-September result, South Carolina goes to Atlanta.
4. Tennessee. Peyton Manning, who knows a little something about football, says that second-year coach Butch Jones has his alma mater headed in the right direction. The Vols have some playmakers and Jones has already landed a top five recruiting class.
5. Florida. Will making a minor bowl game be enough to save Will Muschamp’s job?
6. Kentucky. ESPN has called early enrollee freshman Drew Barker a program-saving quarterback. Between Barker and highly touted Patrick Towles, the Wildcats should win a conference game or two.
7. Vanderbilt. Welcome to the SEC, Derek Mason.