The big news coming out of Media Days today is that the media's picks for the conference standings are out. As expected, Alabama was picked to win the West and Carolina the East, with 'Bama getting the nod as the favorite for the conference title. What may be a bit of a surprise is the margin by which Carolina was picked: with 114, Carolina received three times as many divisional first-place votes as the runner-up, Georgia. Carolina is not only the favorite, in other words: it's the consensus favorite by a wide, wide margin.
Media Days is often considered a kind of unofficial beginning to the season, and reading these projections certainly makes me feel like we're a lot closer to the beginning of the season than we were yesterday. With that feeling comes the need to face the elephant in the room for Carolina fans: was last year a fluke, one-time event, or is Carolina primed to defend its first division title with another fine run and to take its place among the SEC's elite? Although I've heard plenty of Carolina fans here and elsewhere express high hopes for the coming season, I can't help but feel anxiety that this season is going to bring a return to the constant heartbreak that has so long characterized the life of Gamecocks fan. However, with Carolina getting this kind of love from the media, perhaps it's time to agree with Spencer Hall and recognize that this Carolina team can credibly be taken to be the favorite in the SEC East and a reasonable pick for the SEC Title.