Like It Is:

Alabama still has Saban, and that's enough

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, August 3, 2014
In this Jan. 9, 2012 file photo, Alabama head football coach Nick Saban celebrates with his team after the BCS National Championship college football game against LSU in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
In this Jan. 9, 2012 file photo, Alabama head football coach Nick Saban celebrates with his team after the BCS National Championship college football game against LSU in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

This is the annual column that reveals my vote during SEC football media days, and one thing is consistent.

It is never like the consensus.

The league may not be as strong at the top, but it will be better from top to bottom.

Before getting into my ballot, to refresh the memory, here's how the media voted:

SEC WEST 1. Alabama, 2. Auburn, 3. LSU, 4. Ole Miss, 5. Mississippi State, 6. Texas A&M and 7. Arkansas.

SEC EAST 1. South Carolina, 2. Georgia, 3. Florida, 4. Missouri, 5. Tennessee, 6. Vanderbilt and 7. Kentucky.

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State.

Here's how yours truly voted and why:

SEC WEST

1. ALABAMA Nick Saban. Nick Saban. Nick Saban.

2. AUBURN It would be easy to have gone with the Tigers, who received the second-most overall votes to win the SEC championship behind its arch enemy, and written Gus Malzahn's name three times. It will not be shocking if they win the West. No one found an answer for Malzahn and Nick Marshall last season. New season, new challenges.

3. OLE MISS No, I'm not trying to make the LSU fans mad. The Rebels have recruited well enough to go 9-3 or maybe 10-2 overall.

4. LSU The Tigers lost 10 starters -- nine were taken in the NFL draft -- and like nine other SEC teams they don't have a proven quarterback.

5. MISSISSIPPI STATE The Bulldogs come in riding a three-game winning streak. They have an established quarterback to go along with a total of 16 starters returning. They have a pretty tough road schedule.

6. ARKANSAS The Razorbacks are getting zero respect nationally and regionally, and there is a reason. They didn't win a SEC game last season. Yet, they should be better in Bret Bielema's second season as head coach. They have three really good running backs and Brandon Allen back at quarterback. The offensive line should be better with a year's experience blocking in Bielema's scheme. Defense is still the biggest question mark.

7. TEXAS A&M The Aggies return 12 starters, but none of them is named Johnny Manziel. They return eight from a defense that was last in the SEC last season. Basically, the Aggies lost a lot and they are on the road at South Carolina, Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn. Plus they gave up a home game to play the Hogs in Arlington. It looks like a long season for the Aggies.

SEC EAST

1. GEORGIA The Bulldogs can't possibly have the injuries they had last season when they lost to Auburn on a tipped pass and most likely would have beaten Vanderbilt if Todd Gurley had been healthy, but they finished 8-5 overall and 5-3 in SEC play. Quarterback Hutson Mason is ready after backing up record-setter Aaron Murray.

2. SOUTH CAROLINA Steve Spurrier is dangerously confident about this team, especially his offensive line, which he said had the potential to be the best in school history. The Gamecocks have won an unprecedented 11 games each of the past three seasons but have a tougher schedule.

3. MISSOURI The Tigers had to replace 14 starters, but they have the easiest schedule in the SEC and Maty Mauk at quarterback.

4. FLORIDA This may be Will Muschamp's last chance to prove he is a head coach. Last season's 4-8 mark was unacceptable to many fans. Jeff Driskel is back from injury at quarterback, and time will tell if that's a good thing.

5. TENNESSEE Like Arkansas, it will be improved but that may not mean much for its record.

6. KENTUCKY Mark Stoops has 15 starters back.

7. VANDERBILT Let the rebuilding begin.

Sports on 08/03/2014

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