LEXINGTON — Not surprisingly, Alabama again is the team to beat in the Southeastern Conference.
The Crimson Tide was picked to win the league title by media members during this week’s SEC Media Days in Atlanta. Alabama received 193 votes, while Georgia, the predicted winner in the SEC East, got 29 votes.
Although the defending national champion, Alabama coach Nick Saban said he isn’t sure what to expect going into his 17th season in Tuscaloosa.
“You can describe our team as we have a uniform in Alabama, it doesn’t change much, it doesn’t reveal anything, and it’s kind of who we are,” he said earlier this week. “So that’s a lot about where our team is right now. And we’re going to work hard as coaches to help develop that so that we may be able to have the kind of team that I think we might be capable of if we can get people to buy into the roles that they have and develop as we need them to.”
Kentucky received one first-place vote and was chosen to finish fifth in the Eastern Division. South Carolina was second in the division behind Georgia. Florida was third, followed by Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. UK coach Mark Stoops, the second-longest tenured coach in the SEC behind Saban, is eager for the Wildcats to take the next step.
“We’re all looking to improve,” he said. “We’re all doing anything and everything we can every day to get that edge to take the next step. And, you know, for me. You’ve heard me talk about this before, but there were so many broad strokes for so long. You get tired of the broad strokes because it’s the little things that are going to make a difference. But when there’s so much to do, it’s overwhelming, and you got to grind it out every day. And it takes some time. But again, I feel good about where we’re at and getting to that point and taking it to another level.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said tee Bulldogs are still riding high from last year’s national runner-up finish in Smart’s second season at the helm.
“The momentum we created from last season has been tremendous for us through recruiting, through spring. That wouldn’t be possible without the players, coaches and our support staff embracing adjustments, change. It’s not easy to go through that. After the first season going 8-5, we didn’t change a whole lot, but we definitely demanded more. And I think when you do that, you got to have a staff. You got to have a group of players who can embrace that change. And they certainly have embraced that. We would not have created that momentum without that embracement.”
Kentucky running back Benny Snell was named to the All-SEC first-team at running back. Teammates linebacker Josh Allen and safety Mike Edwards were named to the second-team. Tight end C.J. Conrad was named to the third-team on offense.
Stoops said Snell has been “extremely consistent” during his first two seasons with the Wildcats and is looking forward to “Benny being Benny.”
“I think what is most impressive about him is that attitude, that chip on his shoulder, playing the game the way it’s supposed to be done, it’s like that every day,” Stoops said. “Whether it’s in the weight room, the training session in the summer, every practice, every scrimmage, he goes hard. He’s very physical. Our local media certainly talk about that a lot.
“He is one of those guys that, once in a while in practice, he’s so playing physical when we’re not totally live, but you’d rather have it that way. He’s been very consistent. I think it will help us with the new quarterback situation that needs to be resolved.”
In the SEC West, Auburn was second, followed by Mississippi State, Texas A&M, LSU, Ole Miss, and Arkansas.