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SEC Predictions 2017: Talent and Talent Alone

Something something something Alabama is still number 1.

NCAA Football: SEC Media Days Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in that part of the summer where we talk about inane predictions because we don’t really have much else to talk about. SEC Media days came and went without much of a mention. It’s just not the same without the annual Les Miles vacation update. The media made their predictions, not so unpredictably selecting Alabama to win the West and the conference over East Champion Georgia. Hardly a controversial pick.

So I conducted my own research and as Chief Recruiting Expert for ATVS (I just gave myself a promotion), I naturally deferred exclusively to talent for my predictions. It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Bud Elliott’s blue star ratio theory, so why not extrapolate that out for predictions?

So here’s your pretty chart:

And here are your standings:


SEC West SEC East
SEC West SEC East
Alabama Georgia
LSU Tennessee
Auburn Florida
Texas A&M South Carolina
Ole Miss Missouri
Arkansas Kentucky
Mississippi State Vanderbilt
SEC Talent Standings

Off the bat, the media and talent picks for champions align. Bama is, of course, the most talented team in the league. Georgia isn’t just the most talented team in the East, but actually 2nd in the league. Those are your divisional champs in the eyes of the media and by measuring talent alone.

The Rest of the West

After that, things get murky. LSU ranks ever so slightly ahead of Auburn in talent level, which gives them the nod in my predictions, while the media gave them an extra 9 1st place votes. I’d say that’s pretty much a toss up. Here’s where that whole being human thing starts to kick in. The media doesn’t have much faith in Texas A&M, but they aren’t terribly punished (4th in talent, 5th in media rankings). Ole Miss, however, is consumed by their black cloud of scandal. The media ranks them dead last in the West, despite talent that’s nearly equitable to Florida or Tennessee and not far behind Texas A&M. Despite the talent, I can’t find it within myself to disagree with the media too much on this. There’s just too much of a swirl around that program to see much positive coming from this season.

The other major divergence is the media’s perception of Arkansas and their talent level. By talent, only State ranks lower than Arkansas, and the difference is mostly negligible. Yet, the media has the Hogs finishing 4th in the division, even with a single 1st place vote. Not sure I buy this confidence. I think the Hogs will finish 6th, just ahead of damaged Ole Miss.

The Least of the East

The East is a different discussion. The media gave Florida 96 first place votes, placing them firmly as the 2nd best team in the division. Tennessee was only given 3, and South Carolina 5, to illustrate the gap. Yet, in talent rankings, Tennessee is the 2nd best team in the division. Their top 4 mostly align, even if the talent and their perception diverge on Florida/Tennessee. South Carolina sits comfortably 4th in both ratings.

The bottom 3 teams are where the media show a real divergence from talent standings. Though admittedly, there’s not much difference in the talent rankings between Mizzou, UK and Vandy. The media really hates Mizzou, ranking them dead last in the East and only a few more points than sanction-embattled Ole Miss. Kentucky’s late season upset of Louisville wasn’t enough to earn any confidence that they could climb the standings in 2017.

The real moral of the story here is that the SEC East is very, very bad. LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M would all be ranked ahead of the East’s 2nd place team based on talent. Tennessee and Florida would follow those three, but lowly Ole Miss ranks as the 8th most talented team in the conference right now. It’s not a good look when Ole Miss ranks ahead of over half your division.

What’s the Flaw?

Well, naturally, recruiting rankings aren’t science. Since these rankings spend no time looking at current production, there’s obviously opportunity for teams to absorb credit for players that aren’t significant contributors. Alabama, for example, gets a boost from Robert Foster, a former 5-star recruit. Foster has 21 catches for 205 yards and 2 TDs in his career. Hardly 5-star production.

By that same token, under-ranked players that become significant contributors aren’t benefiting their schools. Marquis Haynes was a 3-star DE who was voted to the 1st Team All-SEC defense.

In the end, I think those values mostly even out to keep the representation pretty fair.

In Conclusion

These are the most accurate set of predictions you will find in any publication anywhere and you can take that to the bank and smoke it. Don’t bother reading anyone else. This is exactly what will happen. You don’t even need to watch this season. Just google it on January 13th or something.