HOOVER, Ala. – Ole Miss was tabbed the unofficial “Best of the Rest in the West” when the preseason poll was released at SEC Media Days Thursday, the final day of the event.
A total of 243 writers and broadcasters cast ballots.
Ole Miss was fourth, while Mississippi State was picked sixth.
Alabama was the overwhelming favorite to win the Western Division and the overall championship. The two-time defending national champion received 182 votes to win the conference title game in Atlanta in what media say will be a rematch with Georgia.
Georgia received 38 votes to win the overall title, followed by South Carolina (18), Texas A&M (4) and LSU (1).
Texas A&M, the only team to defeat Alabama in 2012, returns Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at quarterback and surpassed LSU as the media’s No. 2 team in the West.
LSU loses seven defensive starters off a team that won 10 regular-season games and was picked third.
The Tide, Aggies and Tigers combined for 33 wins last year and were expected to fill the top three spots in the SEC West.
Ole Miss was pegged last in the division a year ago but gained more respect after its 7-6 finish that included a 38-17 win over Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
MSU won its first seven games but stumbled down the finish, a fact not lost on voters who placed Auburn – a team that went 0-8 in the SEC and fired its coach – ahead of the Bulldogs in the fifth position.
Arkansas, now led by former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, was picked last in the West.
South Carolina, with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney a Heisman candidate, was picked second in the East and followed by Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky.