While there is alleged strength in numbers, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, numbers just multiply the same mistake again and again. That’s arguably part of the narrative that emerged from 2017 SEC Media Days. The preseason picks and All-SEC teams should send some of the SEC’s alleged analysts back to school. Here’s a look at 10 ways the media picks were just plain wrong.
1. Picking Tennessee to finish No. 3 in the East …
2. And picking Kentucky to finish No. 5.
Sure, history is a lazy way out. But if you watched these two teams — and then look at who they each lost to — you’d assume the analysts just got them backward.
In the second half of 2016, Tennessee got boat-raced by Bama, lost to South Carolina as a two-touchdown favorite, lost to Vandy, and couldn’t defensively stop Kentucky or Missouri. And the Vols lose their top passer, best runner, top receiver, and best athletes from the defensive line, linebacker corps and secondary.
Meanwhile, Kentucky returns the vast majority of starters from a team that won four SEC games for the first time in seven years and knocked off intrastate rival Louisville and their Heisman winning QB in the regular season finale.
Neither UT nor UK will go to Atlanta, but if I had to buy stock in Butch Jones or Mark Stoops, I wouldn’t be buying Jones.
3. For that matter, drug test the people who picked South Carolina, Vandy, or Arkansas to win the SEC.
This is just ridiculous. Arkansas is not going to win the SEC. You could play this season 10,000 times and Arkansas would not win the SEC. Ditto Vanderbilt. Picking South Carolina goes from insane to just eccentric enough to be discouraging. Still, if we’re going to presume that the media both a) know something about football and b) are actually trying, it would help their chances if people didn’t do things like this.
4. QB selections
Jalen Hurts isn’t arguable at first-team, and Austin Allen had the kind of season that should probably have him on the list. Nick Fitzgerald’s incredible dual-threat season gets him the third spot, and on one hand, that makes sense (1,375 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns). But on the other hand, he’s not much of a passer — his 124.3 QB rating was eclipsed by a long list of players last season including Sean White, Danny Etling, Austin Appleby and Stephen Johnson.
There’s a lack of foresight in play here. Jarrett Stidham has never played an SEC snap, but he has the skills and the supporting cast to shine. Ole Miss’s Shea Patterson will have an amazing season. At the end of the day, Fitzgerald makes sense — which is more than I can say for some of these picks — but those voters will look silly if Stidham emerges as a Heisman candidate or Patterson passes for 4,000 yards — either of which could legitimately happen.
5. Sony Michel?
Yeah, he’s a good back. He rushed for 840 yards and four touchdowns behind Nick Chubb last year after eclipsing 1,000 in 2015. And he’s still behind Chubb this year. The voters bypassed Benny Snell (1,091 yards, 13 touchdowns), Damarea Crockett (1,062 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Trayveon Williams (1,057 yards, eight touchdowns) for Michel.
Player personnel decisions made throughout the All-SEC team revealed an impressive lack of knowledge.
6. O-line? Oh, no
Lester Cotton from Alabama and Koda Martin from Texas A&M were both chosen All-SEC third team. Neither actually started the majority of their games last season. This means voters overlooked solid candidates like Arkansas guard Hjalte Froholdt, who will be one of the best interior blockers in the league, and who started last season.
They also overlooked solid units like Kentucky’s, which paved the way for 234 rushing yards per game with solid players like senior guard Nick Haynes.
7. Rashard Lawrence, meet Zaycoven Henderson
Nothing against the big LSU defensive lineman, but he had six tackles last season. He doubtlessly will be a fine player, but to pick him over, say, Zaycoven Henderson from Texas A&M is an odd call. Henderson had 40 tackles and seven tackles for loss in 2016. That’s right — he had more tackles for loss than Lawrence had tackles.
LSU’s Christian LaCouture was a second-team pick. He is a solid player, albeit one who missed last season — he had 35 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in 2015. But those numbers aren’t as good as a couple of up-and-coming sophomores who got left off — Ole Miss’ Benito Jones (39 tackles, four tackles for loss) and Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons (40 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss). If you’re noticing a theme that the voters appeared to just run down the Alabama, Auburn, or LSU rosters rather than consider deserving players from mid-level teams, you’re not the only one.
Similarly, the leading returning tackler and leading returning tackler for loss is Kentucky’s Jordan Jones (109 stops, 15.5 tackles for loss). So for Jones to be named third team while guys like Alabama’s Rashaan Evans (53 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss) and Auburn’s Tre Williams (67 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss) are picked ahead of him is ludicrous.
10. Pulley-ing our legs
Same song, another verse. The top returning defensive back in pass breakups is Arkansas’ Ryan Pulley, who is also oddly absent from the All-SEC list. Pulley broke up 13 passes, had a pair of interceptions, and added 47 tackles in 2016. To bypass him to instead add a fourth Alabama DB — Tony Brown (32 tackles, two interceptions) — seems like a stretch.