SEC ranked nation's top conference

The Sporting News College Football Preview has ranked the Southeastern Conference as the nation's top conference in 2003. The SEC is tops, followed by the Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big East.

According to the magazine, "Auburn and Georgia are the league's elite and likely will play twice, including the SEC Championship Game. We think Auburn will run the table, but it wouldn't be a surprise if both Auburn and Georgia were 12-1 following that SEC title game.

"The league will land two BCS spots, and LSU, Tennessee and Florida are all capable of winning 10 games. The Gators and Vols must bounce back from disappointing seasons for the SEC to legitimize its spot at the top."

The Sporting News also selects Auburn as its preseason #1 ranked team, followed by Ohio State, Oklahoma, Michigan and Miami (Fla.). Other SEC teams ranked in the top 25 include Georgia (11), LSU (13) and Tennessee (16).

In a collection of pre-season magazines (Athlon, Lindy's, College Football News, The Sporting News, Street & Smith's), 10 SEC players received first-team All-America mention. The list includes: OT Shawn Andrews, Arkansas; OT Antonio Hall, Kentucky; DE David Pollack, Georgia; RS Derek Abney, Kentucky; QB Eli Manning, Ole Miss; OL Justin Smiley, Alabama; LB Karlos Dansby, Auburn; OL Stephen Peterman, LSU; OL Wesley Britt, Alabama; DB Corey Webster, LSU.

According to six pre-season SEC polls, Georgia and Auburn will meet in the SEC Football Championship Game in Atlanta on Dec. 6.

In the Eastern Division, Georgia is favored to win by Athlon, College Football News, The Sporting News and the Birmingham News. Tennessee is predicted to win the East by Lindy's and Street & Smith's. In the Western Division, Auburn is a unanimous selection of all six publications sampled.

In a compilation of five pre-season national polls (using a 1-25 point system, 1 for 1st place, etc.), Oklahoma is predicted to win the national championship, followed by Miami (Fla.), Ohio State, Auburn and Texas. The Sooners are predicted to win the national crown by Athlon, Lindy's and Street & Smith's. Ohio State is predicted to repeat as national champs by College Football News while Auburn is tabbed number one by The Sporting News.

Other SEC teams in the pre-season national top 35 compiled from the five aforementioned polls, Georgia is ranked 9th, Tennessee 13th, LSU 14th, Florida 22nd, Alabama 26th and Arkansas 35th.


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