South Carolina was picked to finish fourth in the SEC East in the preseason media poll at SEC Media Days. The Gamecocks received one vote to win the SEC East this season after being chosen as the East champion last July. USC managed to follow up that predication by going 3-5 in league play this past season.
Georgia was picked as the SEC East champions by the media, followed by Tennessee and two-time defending SEC East champion Missouri. Florida, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt followed the Gamecocks.
The Bulldogs will likely be ranked amongst the top 10-12 teams in the country when the Associated Press poll comes out next month. UGA head coach Mark Richt has "no idea" who the Bulldogs quarterback will be this season but whoever wins the job will be surrounded by a strong offensive line that returns four starters and All-SEC back Nick Chubb. Perhaps the best group of linebackers in the country resides in Athens along with a talented, but inexperienced, line in front of them. All of that, plus a top-to-bottom weak Eastern division, makes the Bulldogs an easy pick to win.
The predicted SEC East runner-ups may be the conference's hottest team. Tennessee is riding a wave of momentum after their young talents led a late-season charge. Excitement and expectations lie ahead for the Volunteers. They will boast one of the most talented starting-22s in the league but depth again will be an issue in Knoxville.
Most expected Georgia and Tennessee to be ranked 1-2 in some order for this poll. The two-time defending SEC East champion Missouri Tigers fell in the third slot this July. Facing yet another big departure from their dynamite defensive line, can Gary Pinkel reload again? I wonder how much this ranking and the amount of first place votes they received (20) were ‘benefit of the doubt' votes after being underestimated the last two seasons. I'm not advocating for the Gamecocks or the Gators or anyone else to be in this spot but I wonder how Missouri's presence in Atlanta the last two Decembers affected voters this week. While the defensive line suffered losses again, it appears the Tiger secondary and linebackers are for once the strength. Combine that with a returning quarterback and backfield as well as four returning seniors on the offensive line, I'm actually surprised more voters didn't talk themselves into a three-peat.
The Gamecocks were next, coming in fourth with one vote to win the SEC Eastern division. It's an honest ranking and right where they should be. The coaching staff probably appreciates it too. If you ask any member of the staff they'll tell you the team last year read into themselves a little too much this time of year. Can't do that this summer. Voting numbers indicate the media sees a drop-off after Georgia-Tennessee-Missouri. The margin between South Carolina and Florida is about the same as Tennessee and Missouri.
We all know the storylines heading into the season regarding USC (if you don't, you'll find out soon).
South Carolina offers more unknown than just about any team in the conference. After three consecutive 11-win seasons, the program delivered a disappointing encore in 2014. Is more of the same on the way or was that just a hiccup? With so much unknown on both sides of the ball, it's likely that voters in Birmingham didn't know what to expect from this season's group. When this many foreign elements surround, people will trend to bad results. Based on the current conditions of the program, a middle-of-the-road ranking is welcomed, reasonable, and correct.
As was evidenced by last summer's choosing of the East champion, these picks are sure to go wrong. In the 23 year history of the poll, the media has correctly picked the SEC champion five teams (but did so last year - Alabama).
Auburn was picked to win the SEC championship but Alabama was picked to win the SEC West. The three preseason All-SEC teams will be released tomorrow.