SEC Media Preseason Poll
All-SEC Preseason Team (Coaches)
All-SEC Preseason Team (Media)
University of Georgia president Michael Adams adamantly railed against the lack of a playoff when his team was leapfrogged by LSU in the final BCS Standings after the Tigers won the SEC Championship game over Tennessee. The previous week, the Bulldogs had been ranked 4th and LSU was 7th. Many voters in the Harris and Coaches polls shamelessly manipulated the system by submitting final ballots that would either arrange a particular title game matchup, or eliminate some possibilities from occurring. In the end, LSU met Ohio State and defeated the Buckeyes 38-24.
The computer's preseason forecast had LSU playing USC, making 2007 the 11th time in the 15-year history of the Congrove Computer Rankings that it correctly picked at least one of the national title game contestants.
Adams doesn't have his desired playoff system, but the computer thinks his school will get something better - a championship showdown with Ohio State - and Georgia won't have to win any additional playoff games to get there. It would be the third straight BCS title game appearance for the Buckeyes and, unfortunately for Bulldog fans, the computer picks Ohio State (-3.07) to shake its two-year losing streak to the SEC.
First things first - Georgia has to win its division, and then the SEC Championship, after doing neither last year. In fact, the Bulldogs have missed the conference title game the last two years after making three appearances in four seasons from 2002-2005. Georgia's 2002 SEC title was its first in 20 years, and the Bulldogs repeated the feat in 2005.
The computer has determined that Georgia's path to the East division title will ultimately be decided in Jacksonville on November 1 when the Bulldogs are a 2.67-point favorite to hand Florida its only loss. But that's assuming they can also beat the top two West division teams - Auburn (-4.01) and LSU (-0.98) - at their stadiums. Once the division title is secured, Georgia will have to dispatch LSU (-3.98) again in the SEC Championship.
To stay unbeaten and ensure a trip to the national championship game, Georgia must also deliver on the projected OOC win at Arizona State (-8.19).
Who said it would be easy?
The computer gives Tennessee a moderately secure hold on 3rd, placing the Vols nearly 4 points behind Florida, and almost 6 points ahead of Kentucky. However, two of its' three forecasted losses - at home to Florida (+0.85), and at Auburn (+2.51) - are by very close margins.
Kentucky's 4th-place finish requires it to beat South Carolina (-4.42) in Lexington, and Mississippi State (+0.91) at home. The Wildcats are favored by 1.69 points in their opening showdown with state rival Louisville.
Steve Spurrier appears to be looking at another mediocre season at South Carolina. The Gamecocks are picked to repeat last year's 6-6 mark, and in similar disappointing fashion. After a 6-1 start in 2007, South Carolina lost its final five games. The forecast calls for a 5-1 opening, followed by a 1-5 finish.
The computer puts Vanderbilt at the bottom of the East division with double-digit losses in six of its eight SEC games.
In the West division, LSU and Auburn are forecasted to complete the regular season with identical 6-2 conference records, with each team losing the aforementioned home games to Georgia. The tie-breaker is their heads-up matchup at Auburn where the Bayou Bengals are favored by a fraction of a point (-0.03, to be exact). LSU's trip to Florida (+4.31) delivers its only other projected defeat.
Alabama's 3rd-place prediction includes a 2.28-point home loss to rival Auburn in the season finale. Swing games include a projected loss to Clemson (+1.11) in the opener at Atlanta, a forecasted win at Arkansas (+2.94), and a 3-point victory at home over Kentucky.
Mississippi State, the projected 4th-place finisher. rose to 8-5 last year after six straight seasons of three wins or less. That level of success could be repeated against a favorable slate that omits Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
The two teams picked to bring up the rear of the West division - Arkansas and Ole Miss - are each operating under new, though experienced, head coaches. Bobby Petrino resigned from the NFL's Atlanta Falcons to replace Houston Nutt at Arkansas. Nutt moved from Arkansas to Ole Miss when Ed Orgeron was fired.
The Razorbacks will have to deal with the loss of RB's Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. McFadden was the 4th overall pick by Oakland in April's NFL draft, while Jones was the No. 22 pick by the Dallas Cowboys. The pair combined for 2,990 yards rushing in 2007, and 4,416 all-purpose yards (rushing, passing, receiving, and returns). Additionally, the beefed-up non-conference schedule makes the Hogs visit national title contender Texas and host a strong Tulsa team. Petrino is the x-factor in any Arkansas prognostication for 2008, but he may need a minor miracle to elevate this year's squad to a bowl game.
Meanwhile, Nutt inherits an Ole Miss program that hasn't produced a winning season since Eli Manning's senior year in 2003. Orgeron was 10-25 in his three-year tenure, and only 3-21 in the SEC. Projected home wins over Vanderbilt (-0.33) and Louisiana-Monroe (-0.56) are by the slimmest of margins.
As usual, life isn't easy in the SEC. The computer rates the conference as the toughest in the nation by far, and puts the SEC East more than 4 power points ahead of any other conference or division.