Even Georgia winning the national championship last season didn’t stop Alabama from taking its seemingly annual top spot on the ? AL.com Preseason SEC football poll.
The Crimson Tide was the pick of 11 of the SEC’s 14 football information directors to win the championship in 2022, in the vote composed by AL.com/The Birmingham News for the 76th consecutive year. Alabama, which, as we must remember, beat Georgia for the SEC title last year before falling to the Bulldogs in the national championship, is the preseason favorite in this poll for the 10th straight year.
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Georgia is a distant second, with the other three votes in first place to win the SEC. Kirby Smarts Bulldogs in the SEC East and Nick Sabans Crimson Tide in the West are also easy favorites in their respective divisions, each receiving six out of seven votes for first place (voters couldn’t pick their own team).
Before we delve deeper into the vote, we must first acknowledge a major change in this year’s SEC Post-Spring Report. And it’s one that’s tinged with a significant amount of sadness.
For the first time in more than three decades, the great Charles Hollis has not compiled a poll this year. Charles, a dear friend and mentor to many in the field, including this author, passed away unexpectedly last November.
The Birmingham News began publishing its annual post-spring SEC football report in 1947, and only four writers have held the ballot since then. The Venerable Zipp Newman ran the show from 1947-64, first as a sports editor and later as a sports editor emeritus.
The equally legendary Alf Van Hoose took over the annual poll in 1965 and ran it until 1984. Hollis and his close friend and equally experienced colleague Kevin Scarbinsky shared or traded editorial duties from 1985-92, with Charles assuming sole management of the poll. took over in 1993 and stayed on track for the next 28 years, even after retiring as a full-time sportswriter.
That brings us to now.
A lot has changed.
Much remains the same.
The Sabans Alabama machine is predicted to continue its historic championship run, being named first on 11 ballots and second on the other two. That gives the Crimson Tide 167 points, ahead of Georgias 158 (three votes for first place, nine seconds and a third).
Points were awarded in reverse order of voting (13 for first, 12 for second, 11 for third and up to one point for 13th place). Again, because voters were told to ignore their own teams, there were only 13 votes per ballot.
Alabama returns this year’s Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Bryce Young, and arguably the nation’s most dominant player in outside linebacker Will Anderson. As usual, Crimson Tides’ roster is populated with all-star candidates, from Young and guard Emil Ekiyor on the offensive side of the ball to Anderson, fellow linebacker Henry TooToo and security Jordan Battle on the defensive.
Also note that Alabama welcomes five high-profile transfers, all of which should have an immediate impact. Running Jahmyr Gibbs (Georgia Tech), wide receivers Jermaine Burton (Georgia) and Tyler Harrell (Louisville), offensive tackle Tyler Steen (Vanderbilt) and cornerback Eli Ricks (LSU) should keep the Crimson Tide from stepping back in time .
Georgia, on the other hand, faces a bit of a reload job. There is too much talent in Athens to call it a rebuild after the departure of a record 15 players to the NFL draw. Still, quarterback Stetson Bennett returns, as does tight end Brock Bowers, offensive tackle Broderick Jones, defensive lineman Jalen Carter and linebacker Nolan Smith, among others.
The Bulldogs have been stacking top-tier recruiting classes since Smart arrived in 2015, so there’s no shortage of up-and-coming shiners. Running back Kenny McIntosh, wide receiver Kearis Jackson, cornerback Kelee Ringo and safety Chris Smith are among those former four- and five-star prospects who will no longer have to share game time with deceased veterans in 2022.
The only teams besides Alabama and Georgia to receive a second vote in the SEC overall poll were Texas A&M (two votes) and LSU (one vote). The Aggies (144 points) were third, followed by Arkansas (116), Kentucky (111), Tennessee (106) and LSU (94).
Ole Miss starts the second half of the overall poll with 85 points, followed by Florida (77), Auburn (61), Mississippi State (55), South Carolina (53), Missouri (34) and Vanderbilt (13). Pity the poor Commodores, who were elected last on all 13 votes.
In SEC East, Georgia was picked to win the division for the sixth straight year. The Bulldogs (36 points) got all six of the first-place votes they were eligible for, while Kentucky got the other.
Kentucky and Tennessee came in second in the voting with 28 points. The Wildcats got one vote in first place, two seconds and three thirds, while the Volunteers got four seconds and two thirds.
Florida checked in fourth with 22 points, followed by South Carolina (16), Missouri (11) and Vanderbilt (6). Again, the Commodores were named last in every vote.
In the West, Alabama is the pick for the seventh year in a row and for the 13th time in 14 years. Only Auburn in 2015 broke the preseason Crimson Tides streak during Saban’s glory days (although in a whim of votes Alabama was the pick that year to win the SEC championship).
Alabama received all six first-place votes it also qualified for in 2022, with LSU somewhat surprisingly getting the other. The Crimson Tides 36 points outperformed Texas A&M’s 30, which came second on all six ballots except his own.
Arkansas (22 points) was third, ahead of LSU (19), Ole Miss (15), Auburn (13) and Mississippi State (12). The Razorbacks got the other second place.
Here’s what the SEC general vote looked like in tabular form, followed by the SEC East and SEC West:
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NEXT MONDAY: SEC’s 14 Football Information Directors Pick Their Season All-SEC Team
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