Picking SEC champion like saying price of gold will drop


LITTLE ROCK — The day is near, said the brilliant inventor/businessman, when bars of gold will be as common and as cheap as bars of iron or blocks of steel.

This week, an ounce of the precious metal was priced north of $1,300.

A year ago, the SEC media missed about as badly as Thomas Edison did in 1911.

The media, which has correctly picked the SEC champion only four times since 1992, zeroed in on Alabama to beat Georgia in the championship game. Alabama received 182 votes, Georgia 38. Also receiving votes, South Carolina (18), Texas A&M (4), and LSU (1).

Instead, Auburn, tabbed for fifth in the Western Division, defeated Missouri, selected sixth in the Eastern Division.

Late this week in Hoover, Ala., a more accurate prediction is guaranteed. Replacing James Franklin at Vanderbilt, Derek Mason is the only new coach in the league and he did not inherit the talent that Gus Malzahn did at Auburn.

More than likely, Mason’s first team will achieve along the lines of the other first-year coaches — Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, and Tennessee’s Butch Jones who won a total of 10 games and only two in the SEC, both by the Vols.

For good reason, the media will choose between Alabama and Auburn in the West with LSU a solid third. On the other side of the league, the top vote-getters will be Georgia and South Carolina.

You have to be present to vote in the media poll, but that doesn’t prevent a stay-at-home columnist from offering a ballot. Staying true to an earlier prediction, Arkansas is down for a 5-7 record that includes SEC victories over Texas A&M and Ole Miss and the trickle down from those two games shapes the picks for the Aggies and the Rebels.

From the top down, beginning with the Western Division:

1. Alabama. The defense will catch-up with Auburn’s hurry-up and whoever wins out at quarterback will be battle tested by November when the Crimson Tide plays both LSU and Auburn.

2. LSU. A slightly out-on-a-limb pick. Defense, plus the Tigers have an advantage over Auburn because their Eastern Division opponents are Kentucky and Florida vs. Georgia and South Carolina for Auburn.

3. Auburn. See above.

4. (tie) Mississippi State and Ole Miss. For bragging rights, the Rebels get the nod in Oxford on Thanksgiving weekend.

6. (tie) Arkansas and A&M. The Aggies make a bowl because of a 4-0 non-conference record and the Razorbacks fall short because of a loss at Texas Tech.

Eastern Division:

1. (tie) South Carolina, Georgia, and Missouri. Gutless, maybe. Feasible, yes. A push at running back between the Gamecocks’ Mike Davis and the Bulldogs’ Todd Gurley, but a slight edge at quarterback to Missouri’s Maty Mauk. Missouri could lose to both the other co-champions, but finish 6-2 by beating Arkansas and A&M from the West. Either Georgia or South Carolina or both will lose to Auburn. Based on a mid-September result, South Carolina goes to Atlanta.

4. Tennessee. Peyton Manning, who knows a little something about football, says that second-year coach Butch Jones has his alma mater headed in the right direction. The Vols have some playmakers and Jones has already landed a top five recruiting class.

5. Florida. Will making a minor bowl game be enough to save Will Muschamp’s job?

6. Kentucky. ESPN has called early enrollee freshman Drew Barker a program-saving quarterback. Between Barker and highly touted Patrick Towles, the Wildcats should win a conference game or two.

7. Vanderbilt. Welcome to the SEC, Derek Mason.

SEC CHAMPION

Alabama, on to the College Football Playoff.

Checking the standings against this column in December, the prediction could be as far awry as the one by American producer/director/studio executive Darryl Zanuck. Television won’t last six months, he said. “People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night,” Zanuck said. The year was 1946.

Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email:hleonk42@gmail.com.