There is still a month and change between now and SEC media days, but as an early-June treat, the conference has released its first set of (unofficial) preseason predictions.
According to Charles Hollis of AL.com, the sports information directors (SIDs) of all 14 SEC schools voted on how their opponents will finish, and Alabama and South Carolina came out as the favorites in the West and East, respectively.
Here is the full list of division predictions:
|1. Alabama||35||1. South Carolina||35|
|2. Auburn||32||2. Georgia||30|
|3. LSU||26||3. Missouri||24|
|4. Texas A&M||20||4. Florida||22|
|5. Ole Miss||15||5. Tennessee||17|
|6. Mississippi State||11||6. Vanderbilt||12|
|7. Arkansas||7||7. Kentucky||7|
Auburn finished neck-and-neck with Alabama for the lead in the SEC West, slotting in slightly behind its rival despite having beaten the Tide in the Iron Bowl last season and won the conference at large.
Interestingly enough, though, not every SID was keen on the Tigers' chances. Per Hollis, they received mostly first-, second- and third-place votes but also one ninth-place vote that stuck out as an outlier.
That wasn't the only outlier, either. As noted by Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, one SID voted defending SEC East champion Missouri No. 13 in the conference—the lowest a team could be voted (as the SIDs were not allowed to vote for their own school):
This is an example of the variance in the SEC East, which also included a fourth-place Florida team that received one vote to finish last in the division. It seems like a free-for-all of sorts that any team could win.
But South Carolina is the small favorite, in large part—one has to assume—because of fifth-year senior Dylan Thompson, who is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the conference despite spending much of his career behind Connor Shaw.
"We feel good with Dylan," said head coach Steve Spurrier, per Hollis. "He's a fifth-year player, and he wants to be our quarterback. He's played in some big games and played very well for us over the years."
As good as Thompson is, however, he was not voted to either of the two All-SEC teams by the SIDs.
Instead, Auburn's Nick Marshall checked in as the SEC's top signal-caller, and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott graced the second-team.