HOOVER, Ala. — One of the most anticipated aspects of SEC media days each year is the release of the predicted order of finish, as voted on by the more than 1,000 credentialed media members on hand at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel.
This year's vote is...strange.
Auburn was picked to win the conference with 96 first place votes, but division foe and intrastate rival Alabama was picked to win the SEC West with 1,405 total points. Auburn was picked second in the division with 1,362. Georgia was picked to win the SEC East in a landslide with 1,498 points.
|SEC Media Conference Champion Voting|
|SEC Media Division Title Predictions|
|SEC East||SEC West|
|Georgia (1,498)||Alabama (1,405)|
|Tennessee (1,231)||Auburn (1,362)|
|Missouri (1,196)||LSU (870)|
|South Carolina (830)||Arkansas (821)|
|Florida (768)||Ole Miss (732)|
|Kentucky (534)||Texas A&M (628)|
|Vanderbilt (243)||Mississippi State (482)|
When asked how Auburn can be the pick for the conference champion and Alabama can be picked in the division, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was as confused as everybody else.
"I don't know...y'all have had a long week," he said.
What does this mean?
Buckle up because the SEC is going to be a wild ride this season.
The only team that didn't receive at least one vote to win its division was Vanderbilt. Yes, even Kentucky—which lost six straight games to close the season and missed the postseason—earned a vote to play in the SEC Championship Game.
There is quite a bit of uncertainty in the West, especially at the top. It's safe to assume Auburn—the pick to win the title—is in an all-or-nothing situation in the minds of voters. Those who think head coach Gus Malzahn's Tigers are going to be good are buying in big-time while those who don't seem to feel the same way view them out of contention all together.
Meanwhile, Alabama clearly received the benefit of the doubt. The Crimson Tide have a defense that gave up far too many big plays defensively and have only two returning starters on offense, but the track record of head coach Nick Saban replacing stars with stars is too impressive to be ignored.
What does the vote mean? Not much. The combined media vote has been accurate just five times since the divisional split in 1992 but did nail it last year when Alabama was picked to win the conference.
The preseason vote is a strong indication that the ride to find out if it's going to be a two-year winning streak for the media will be long, winding and unpredictable.
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.
Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.