How Sports People See SEC In 2010

The Birmingham News had its 64th spring Southeastern Conference football poll results Sunday morning. The newspaper has been polling those men (mostly) who provide information on their teams. Once called sports publicity directors, then sports information directors, now media relations directors, they answer a questionnaire each year following spring practice.

It's a good bet that more often than not the voters have selected Alabama as the team to win the SEC championship. The Crimson Tide is once again the pick this year. In fact, it was unanimous, all 11 votes by the people who study this for a living. (They could not vote for their own teams.)

Also not a surprise was Florida being picked to win the SEC Eastern Division and finish second to Bama for the overall championship.

There was not a trendy selection this year. Last year voters in a number of polls were taken with Ole Miss because of quarterback Jevan Snead and tailback Dexter McCluster. The Rebels were a bust and this year are picked next-to-last in the SEC West.

Just for the record, the News hd the West with Alabama followed by LSU (which got Bama's first place vote) and Arkansas tied for second, Auburn fourth, Ole Miss fifth and Mississippi State sixth. In the East it was Florida first, Georgia (which got Florida's first place vote) second, third South Carolina, fourth Tennessee, fifth Kentucky, and sixth Vanderbilt.

There weren't a lot of surprises in the annual poll, but one would have to say that the voters' choices of tailbacks on the pre-season All-SEC team was a surprise. Not that 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram was selected. But the other tailback on the first team is Bama's back-up tailback Trent Richardson.

Was anyone surprised that Kevin Scarbinsky wrote a column on Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban and managed to put in a jab of Alabama basketball? Scarbinsky just can't help himself. He could write a column on the Hungarian water polo team and would find a way to criticize something about Alabama athletics.

In the overall voting by sports information men, the overall strength of teams had Alabama first (all 11 possible votes), followed by Florida (with the Tide's vote), 3. LSU, 4. Arkansas, 5. Georgia, 6. Auburn, 7. South Carolina, 8. Tennessee and Ole Miss tied, 10. Mississippi State, 11. Kentucky, 12. Vanderbilt.

Wide receiver Julio Jones, guard Barrett Jones, tailbacks Ingram and Richardson, defensive end Marcell Dareus, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, and safety Mark Barron were Alabama players on the first team pre-season All-SEC team. Second team members from the Tide are tackle James Carpenter and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.

The newspaper tabbed Hightower as the top outside linebacker in the league. Hightower was an inside linebacker before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the fourth game of last season. He was back at inside linebacker in the spring, replacing Rolando McClain at middle linebacker. But he is going to be used on the edge as a pass rusher this year, hence his position as an outside linebacker in the News account.

One thing we learned is that approximately 23 per cent of Birmingham News readers are Auburn fans. How else explain Auburn getting that percentage of votes to win the SEC West. (Alabama got 72 per cent.)

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