As we move closer to the start of the 2014 college football season, the media is going to start rolling out its picks for the top teams and players in each conference. The SEC, which has been king of the college landscape for a decade, got the royal treatment on Thursday.
Coming on the heels of the SEC Media Days, all of the conference beat writers gathered together to release their picks.
On the team front, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Alabama is once again the favorite to win the conference with a strong conglomerate behind the Crimson Tide, via Bleacher Report's SEC Lead Writer Barrett Sallee:
Alabama picked to win the SEC ahead of Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia and LSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Miss. St. in that order.— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 17, 2014
Going deeper into the process, Michael Casagrande of Al.com provided point totals from the media vote. It turns out that Alabama's lead over the rest of the conference is wider than you might think.
|SEC East||SEC West||SEC Champion|
|South Carolina (1,895)||Alabama (1,915)||Alabama (154)|
|Georgia (1,777)||Auburn (1,735)||Auburn (75)|
|Florida (1,362)||LSU (1,453)||South Carolina (32)|
|Missouri (1,263)||Mississippi (1,069)||Georgia (19)|
|Tennessee (893)||Mississippi State (890)||LSU (9)|
|Vanderbilt (619)||Texas A&M (791)||Mississippi (2)|
|Kentucky (-)||Arkansas (351)||Arkansas & Mississippi State (1)|
Alabama's 154-point total as SEC champion is more than the seven other teams that received a vote combined.
No team reloads better than Alabama. Nick Saban had the top recruiting class in the country with 21 players rated at four stars or better, according to 247Sports.com. He does have to develop a new quarterback with AJ McCarron graduating to the NFL and rebuild a defense that lost Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and C.J. Mosley.
You can also see the impact Johnny Manziel had on Texas A&M, which is predicted to finish second from the bottom in the SEC West just ahead of Arkansas.
The defending conference champion Auburn Tigers aren't far behind Alabama, predicted to finish second, but the team is in a state of flux right now. Star running back Tre Mason went to the NFL and quarterback Nick Marshall being cited for tinted windows and marijuana possession, according to Rick Karle of Birmingham's WBRC Fox 6.
From WSFA TV: AU QB Nick Marshall given citations for tinted windows & having less than 1 ounce of pot in Reynolds, GA. Never arrested.— Rick Karle (@RickKarle) July 11, 2014
Despite the recent run in with police, Marshall's stock doesn't appear to have taken much of a hit. Sallee also posted the list for All-SEC teams with the Auburn quarterback leading the first-team offense.
First-Team All-SEC offense pic.twitter.com/k1OGmuOb1M— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 17, 2014
First-Team All-SEC Defense pic.twitter.com/FD2YBmQ57i— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 17, 2014
As you can see, Alabama also leads the SEC in first-team players with a total of eight. Running back T.J. Yeldon will take on an expanded role with McCarron no longer around, combined with his 1,235-yard, 14-touchdown performance last year, made him a no-brainer.
According to Fox Sports college football analyst Bruce Feldman, Yeldon wasn't the leading vote-getter for the All-SEC team:
One of the biggest surprises is LSU only having one preseason first-team player (La'el Collins), though it did have 10 total players make it including the second- and third-team. There's a lot of competition in the field, but Les Miles has done a fantastic job bringing high-impact talent to Baton Rouge.
Keep in mind this is just a preseason ranking, meant to be taken as a prediction of what is expected to happen. The media certainly isn't infallible, Casagrande mentions that only four times in the last 22 years has the preseason favorite won the actual conference championship and not once since Florida in 2008.
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