Glenn Guilbeau / GANNETT Louisiana
HOOVER, Ala. In the Bizarro World known as Southeastern Conference Media Days, No. 1 is bad and just about any other number is good.
Reporters at the 30th annual propaganda laced series of press conferences and predictions have been voting the order of finish in the titan league since 1992 at these shindigs, and most of the time they have been wrong. They are 4-18 to be exact. The only times they have been correct were in 1994 and '95 with Florida and in 2007 and 2008 with LSU and Florida, respectively.
Alabama got the vote of death on Thursday. The last five times the Crimson Tide received the dreaded No. 1 tag in 1993, 2000, 2010, 2011 and 2013, it did not win the SEC title. 'You've never picked us right, but I'm rooting for you this year,' Alabama coach Nick Saban said sarcastically.
LSU was picked to finish third. The last time the Tigers won the SEC was in 2012, and Alabama was the pick to win it. At first, Georgia coach Mark Richt did not like being picked second in the SEC East to South Carolina.
'I'm not going to start cheering, 'We're No. 2,'' he said. Then he realized he was in Bizarro World when a writer reminded him of the media's losing record. 'Now, that I think of it, that's good,' Richt said. 'I don't really care where we're picked. I think in the end, it will be Georgia.'
Saban playfully jabbed reporters for their 4-18 prediction record.
'I know if we lost this many games, you would be on me,' he said. 'You've also not picked the right team the last five years in a row.'
The Crimson Tide did not care that it was not picked to win the SEC in 1992, 1999, 2009 and 2012 because it won the championship in those seasons after Florida, Tennessee, Florida and LSU were picked.
'Every year that we've been fortunate enough to win the championship, you picked somebody else to win it. So just to let you know, we're evaluating you,' Saban said as he left the podium to a round of laughter.
After Alabama in the West, the media picked 2013 SEC champion Auburn No. 2, followed by LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Arkansas. After South Carolina and Georgia in the East, it was Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
Alabama apparently has the talent to win the SEC title as it led the league with nine selections to the pre-season All-SEC first team, including tailback T.J. Yeldon, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Sammie Coates and safety Landon Collins, who went to Dutchtown High in Geismar just outside of Baton Rouge. LSU, meanwhile, placed just one player on the first team in left tackle La'el Collins.
The Tigers who were voted to the second team of the All-SEC pre-season team were offensive guard Vadal Alexander, cornerback Tre'Davious White of Shreveport and kicker Colby Delahoussaye of New Iberia. Third team Tigers were defensive end Jermauria Rasco of Shreveport, linebacker Kwon Alexander, safety Corey Thompson, cornerback Rashard Robinson and punter Jamie Keehn.
'We know we have to do our best every week and win every game and leave everything on the field,' LSU middle linebacker D.J. Welter of Crowley said.
Alabama, meanwhile, will have to return to the style of play that won it national championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
'We have to reestablish our identity as a team at Alabama,' Saban said. 'It's going to take every player to have a tremendous amount of buy-in for us to be able to do that. I think you basically need to check your ego at the door. Our situation as a team is a lot different this year than it's been the last couple of years when we were coming off successful, championship seasons. The challenges were so different in terms of trying to deal with success and complacency.'
Now, apparently, Alabama must deal with 'failure' as it finished 11-2 with the 0-2 ending amid poor defense in the 34-28 loss to Auburn and 45-31 loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. The Tide loses six defensive starters. While it returns seven offensive starters, it will be breaking in a new quarterback in junior transfer Jake Coker of Florida State.
'Having lost our last two games last year, I think it's a little bit different mindset with our players,' Saban said.
'We have to set a standard for our team and try to use that for our motivation and set a different bar that we didn't set last year,' Alabama senior wide receiver Christion Jones said. 'I'm going to try to lead this team with the other leaders such as Amari Cooper (junior wide receiver) and Landon Collins and try to mold this team onto a different type of path that we sort of mishandled last year.'
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