To the surprise of absolutely no one, both Alabama and Florida were picked to win their respective divisions and meet up in Atlanta for the SEC Championship—again. That said, what was more surprising was those who would finish behind them in their quest for the same goal.
Here is the predicted order of finish as dictated by the media in attendance at SEC Media Days in Hoover, AL:
Eastern Division (First Place Votes)
1. Florida (153) 1030
2. Georgia (15) 791
3. South Carolina (8) 790
4. Kentucky 462
5. Tennessee 450
6. Vanderbilt (1) 194
Western Division (First Place Votes)
1. Alabama (157) 1034
2. Arkansas (6) 726
3. Auburn (10) 691
4. LSU (1) 653
5. Mississippi State 320
6. Ole Miss (3) 293
Two things jump out when looking at this list, 1) Mississippi State has been picked to finish ahead of Ole Miss, and 2) Someone actually gave Vanderbilt a first place vote—the hell?
That first point is both a hat tip to what Dan Mullen has been able to accomplish in Starkville over the last three-years and a kick in the stomach to where some people believe Houston Nutt is heading with his program over in Oxford.
The pick is only mildly surprising given the momentum the Bulldogs have coming into this season. They are deep sleepers in the SEC West this season and though no one is looking for them to challenge for the title, they are expected to steal a win or two more than last season—earning a bowl bid in the process.
Even still, they will face the Rebels in Oxford this year and the Bulldogs haven’t won a contest there there since 1996 (College Football Warehouse). Can Dan Mullen live up to the expectations of being picked to finish above his teams fiercest rival?
It’s a tall task given the holes he needs to fill on both sides of the ball—moat glaringly at the running back position. Anthony Dixon is gone and there are legitimate questions about just how capable his replacement will be this season. Throw in some hefty questions about the consistency of quarterback Chris Reif and it’s just as easy to see Mississippi State having another down year in 2010.
As for Houston Nutt, he lost Jevan Snead (if you consider that a big deal given his poor performance in big games last season) but he did have two talented, yet, inexperienced quarterbacks battling it out at the start of spring. However, now he may face a quandry of his own as Raymond Cotton could be seeking a transfer.
If does happen, Nutt would be left with a whole lot of Nutt-hin’ as I don’t know that many are sold on Nathan Stanley.
Add to that, what players will be able to replace the production of both Dexter McCluster and Shay Hodge on offense? Stanley may be better than Cotton but is he that much better—really? Especially if he has no one to hand it off to in the backfield or pass it out to down the sidelines?
There is certainly just as much room to worry if you are an Ole Miss fan but I don’t know that those finely dressed students who congregate in The Grove need to be worried enough to consider hiding from what Mississippi State will have to offer.
Dan Mullen may be a fine coach but the players have to play the game and his team is definitely not without its weaknesses—I’d call the two even at worst.
Now, about that lone first place vote for Vanderbilt. My guess is the one media representative who did so was really giving his opinion on interim coach, Robbie Caldwell. He (Caldwell) certainly was the most refreshingly entertaining coach to appear at the event this year—I give him an A++ for the “turkey insemination” story alone.
That said, if that lone media vote was actually serious, well…honestly…I just don’t know what to say.
A full transcript of Houston Nutt’s Media Day session can be found here.
A full transcript of Dan Mullen’s Media Day session can be found here.