The circus known as SEC Media Days will descend on Hoover, Alabama, next week, and one of the highlights of the event will be the predicted order of finish of the assembled scribes, radio hosts and television talking heads.
While it's great to see the predictions, it's more of an exercise in comedy than fortune telling. The media has predicted the league champion correctly just six times in the 25 years since the divisional split in 1992, though it did nail Alabama in 2014 and 2016.
What about division predictions, though?
We looked back at the media predictions since the 2012 expansion to determine which teams are perennially overrated and underrated leading up to each season. Teams are ranked based on their final standing within the division relative to where they were picked in the preseason media poll. In the case of ties, head-to-head results and standard SEC tiebreaker procedures were used to prevent ties being factored into the final standings.
|Team||Overall hype performance||Average per season|
Alabama Crimson Tide
Ole Miss Rebels
South Carolina (-6): Surprisingly, South Carolina has been the most overrated team in the SEC since the move to 14 teams. The biggest reason was the end of the Steve Spurrier era. The Gamecocks were picked to win the division in 2014 only to finish fifth, and then they finished dead last in Spurrier's final season after being predicted fourth.
LSU (-5): The offseason co-king of the SEC is LSU, which is a big reason why former coach Les Miles was fired midseason in 2016 and replaced by new full-time coach Ed Orgeron. Since 2012, LSU has never exceeded its preseason expectation in the West, only matched it once (third place in 2013) and cratered with a fifth-place finish in 2015 after being tabbed third by the media.
Georgia (-4): The media has been more right than wrong about Georgia over the last five years. It properly pegged the Bulldogs as champs in 2012, runner-up in 2014 and third-place finishers last year. However, in each of the odd-numbered years since expansion, the Bulldogs have finished two spots behind their expectation. If you're into trends, that doesn't bode well for 2017.
Tennessee (-2): Tennessee's second-place finish last year was a slight disappointment on paper for the preseason favorites, but the Vols haven't been as volatile as one might expect. They haven't chimed in more than one spot higher or lower than their predicted finish since the division split.
Auburn (-2): Tigers fans must like roller coasters because that's what it's been like for Auburn over the last five years. They finished four spots higher than predicted last year and in the SEC Championship year of 2013 but three spots worse when the finished in the cellar in 2012 and a whopping five when they revisited the cellar in 2015. What's more, Auburn was actually picked by the media to win the whole SEC despite being picked second in the west in 2015. Go figure.
Arkansas (-2): The media is very good at nailing the Razorbacks. Their preseason prediction has been accurate in three of the last five seasons. The Hogs overperformed by one spot in 2014, but the media missed by three spots during the John L. Smith disaster of 2012 when they were picked third and finished sixth. Smile.
Texas A&M (+1): The annual Texas A&M swoon in November has become stuff of depressing legend in College Station, Texas, but Kevin Sumlin's Aggies haven't been terrible during their SEC existence. Johnny Manziel's Heisman Trophy run in 2012 helped them out-perform their expectation by two spots, but his return cancelled out those two games the following season when the Aggies finished fourth in the West.
Kentucky (+2): The media successfully picked the Wildcats to finish last in the East in 2012 and 2013, fourth in 2016. Mark Stoops' crew was underrated by one game in 2014 and 2015 but has been picked higher than sixth in the division just once since the 2012 expansion (2016).
Alabama (even): Brace yourself some breaking news ... Alabama is properly rated. The Crimson Tide have been picked to win -- and have successfully won -- the SEC West in each of the last three years. They lost the division after being picked to win it on the Kick Six in 2013 and topped preseason favorite LSU in 2012. Nick Saban's crew hasn't been picked or actually finished lower than second in the West since it finished fourth in 2010.
Ole Miss (even): The Rebels were the biggest surprise in the SEC in 2014 and 2015 when they out-performed their preseason expectation by a total of four spots. But all of that that goodwill went out the window last year when Hugh Freeze and Co. finished in the basement after being predicted third in the West.
Missouri (+3): The Tigers have been one of the hardest teams in the conference to peg in July. They obliterated their sixth-place expectation in their division-championship season of 2013 and were picked fourth the following July prior to making a return trip to Atlanta. The 2015 season proved to be a regression to the mean when the media overhyped the Tigers by three spots, and last season's visit to the East cellar continued that trend.
Vanderbilt (+3): Two seasons have contributed to Vanderbilt being underrated over the last five years: a fourth-place finish under former coach James Franklin in 2012 and another fourth place finish for the Commodores, who finished 2-6 in the conference, under Derek Mason in 2015. In the other three, the Commodores either have been correctly placed or one spot off.
Florida (+4): In golf terms, the Gators have been five spots "over par" since Jim McElwain took over in 2015 and led them to consecutive East titles. But the 4-8 (3-5 SEC) disaster in 2013 under Will Muschamp that resulted in a fifth-pace finish in the division changes their status a bit since 2012. Recently, though, there's no doubt that Florida is the most disrespected team in the SEC.
Mississippi State (+7): Dan Mullen has established himself as one of the top coaches in the conference, and his ability to exceed the preseason expectation is a big reason why. The Bulldogs have never disappointed or matched their hype since 2012, they've only surpassed it. The crown jewel was the 2014 season when former quarterback Dak Prescott led them to a second place finish in the West and trip to the Orange Bowl.