HOOVER, Ala. – More than 85 percent of the voters in the SEC’s annual preseason media poll picked Florida to again win the East Division, with Georgia the choice to finish second.
The Gators got 153 of 177 votes to win the East in the survey, announced Friday as SEC Media Days wrapped up. Georgia got 15 first-place votes, South Carolina eight and, inexplicably, Vanderbilt one.
Alabama was the media’s overwhelming pick to win the West Division, with Arkansas second.
And in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama will beat Florida, according to the poll. The Crimson Tide drew 143 of 177 votes to win the Dec. 4 game in Atlanta, while the Gators got 17 votes. Two voters picked Georgia to win the championship game.
Now, it should be noted that the preseason media poll does not have a good track record for predicting the SEC champion. Only four times in the past 18 years has the team picked to win the league actually done so.
The media correctly forecast Florida’s championships in 1994, 1995 and 2008 and LSU’s in 2007, but otherwise erred in its preseason prognostication each year since the SEC went to divisional play in 1992.
On 11 of 18 occasions, the team picked to win the league didn’t even reach the championship game.
A couple of interesting things about this year’s predicted order of finish in the East: Georgia was just one point ahead of South Carolina for second place, and Kentucky got the nod for fourth place ahead of Tennessee.
Vanderbilt, despite that one first-place vote, was the overwhelming choice to finish last in the East.
In the West, Auburn was picked third, followed by LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss in that order.
Six Dogs preseason All-SEC
Six Georgia players were named to the media’s preseason All-SEC team Friday, including four on the first team: wide receiver A.J. Green, offensive lineman Clint Boling, punter Drew Butler and placekicker Blair Walsh.
The same four players were on the coaches’ preseason All-SEC first team named earlier this week.
Georgia also placed two defensive players on the media’s second team: outside linebacker Justin Houston and cornerback Brandon Boykin.
The Bulldogs had no defensive players chosen in the coaches’ vote.
Alabama running back Mark Ingram was the leading vote-getter on the media team, but the reigning Heisman Trophy winner was left off a dozen ballots.
Newton’s return to SEC
Auburn coach Gene Chizik is enthused about his new starting quarterback, Cameron Newton, who is from Atlanta.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do on and off the field,” Chizik said Friday.
Newton started his college career at Florida, but was dismissed from the team after being arrested and charged with stealing another student’s laptop computer. He led Blinn College (Texas) to the national junior college championship last season and then transferred to Auburn.
“It’s a good thing that he’s had a little bit of experience in this league [at Florida], just traveling around and being in different stadiums, seeing it, knowing it,” Chizik said. “I think that little thing in itself is big.”
Newton won Auburn’s starting job in spring practice.
“As I’ve told him, he’s got to get on the field now and deliver,” Chizik said. “That’s the last piece of the puzzle and the most critical part. He can do whatever he wants in practice. He’s got to take that to the game field and deliver.”
While some coaches, most notably Alabama’s Nick Saban, have railed against unscrupulous agents this week, Tennessee’s Derek Dooley shifted the burden to the players to avoid temptation to do wrong.
“At the end of the day, it’s the responsibility of the player,” Dooley said Friday. “It’s a responsibility of the player that if somebody comes up and confronts you in public and wants to fight you, you walk away. It’s a responsibility of the player to not break the law. It’s a responsibility of the player to not break the rules of the NCAA.”
Henderson influenced Dooley
Much is made of how Dooley’s coaching style was influenced by his father, Vince, and his mentor, Saban. But Dooley made a point at Media Days to credit someone else, too: Billy Henderson, who was Dooley’s coach at Clarke Central High School in Athens.
Henderson “probably had as big an impact on my coaching style as anybody,” Dooley said. “Just an incredible way with people.”
LSU opens the season against North Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta on Sept. 4. LSU coach Les Miles said he let his team vote on whether to schedule the game. “It was unanimous,” he said. “That gives them ownership in this decision.” … LSU’s fourth-place position in the SEC West preseason media poll didn’t discourage Miles. “I like my team,” he said. “I like us in every game.” … After struggling with end-of-game clock management last season, Miles said LSU has “added that to our game-week preparation. Maybe we’re a little more prepared, a little bit more ready to play in those situations. … It’s not just lip service.” … Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt to the media: “Y’all picked us last. Thank you.” … Dooley, who left his Atlanta law practice at age 27 in 1996 to enter coaching, cites one of the many advantages of the career change: “I don’t have to bill time, thank goodness.” … Dooley wasn’t surprised that his first Media Days question was about his mother, Barbara. “Everybody loves my mother because she subscribes to the theory ’speak first, think second,’” he said. “The exact opposite of my dad.”
(Predicted order of finish in preseason media poll, with first-place votes in parentheses).
1. Florida (153) 1,030
2. Georgia (15) 791
3. South Carolina (8) 790
4. Kentucky 462
5. Tennessee 450
6. Vanderbilt (1) 194
1. Alabama (157) 1,034
2. Arkansas (6) 726
3. Auburn (10) 691
4. LSU (1) 653
5. Mississippi State 320
6. Ole Miss (3) 293
Votes to win SEC Championship Game: Alabama 143, Florida 17, Auburn 7, Arkansas 3, Georgia 2, Ole Miss 2, Kentucky 1, LSU 1, South Carolina 1.