For the sixth consecutive season and ninth of out of the last ten, the SEC media named Alabama as the preseason favorite to win the SEC West. However, there was a major shake-up in the usual predictions. LSU, the only team picked to win the West other than the Bama this past decade (in 2012), finished fifth in the preseason poll.
The results of the media poll were as follows, with first place votes in parenthesis:
1 — Alabama (263): 1971
2 — Auburn (19): 1664
3 — Mississippi State (2): 1239
4 — Texas A&M: 1091
5 — LSU: 1025
6 — Ole Miss: 578
7 — Arkansas: 412
LSU hasn’t finished fifth or below in the SEC West standings since 1999, and has not been so low in the preseason poll since 2000. LSU has come in at third in the preseason poll in four of the past five years, moving up to second in 2016, but this is the worst preseason rank for LSU since coming off the debacle of 1999.
You could make a case this is the equivalent of 2010, when LSU ranked fourth out of six teams. Other than that, LSU has always ranked in the top three in the past two decades. 2010 is probably the closest recent comparison to this year’s performance in the SEC Media Days poll.
Hey, how did LSU do in 2010, anyway?
Not much. Other than going 6-2 in the conference, 11-2 overall. The team finished the season ranked in the top ten thanks to blowout win in the Cotton Bowl over Texas A&M, back in their Big 12 days. That win kicked off LSU’s current seven-game win streak over the Aggies.
That 2010 team was able to play the No One Believes in Us card, the most overplayed hand in all of sports. But there’s a reason coaches throughout history keep dipping into that well: it works.
Ed O, Dave Aranda, and Steve Ensminger should be giving each other high fives right now. They have been looking for a motivational hook for this season and then the assembled SEC media gives them one on a silver platter.
LSU is picked to finish fifth place. LSU hasn’t finished in fifth in the SEC West since 1999. The coaches should laminate this prediction and put it in every player’s locker. It should be in everyone’s playbook.
This is what everyone thinks of you. No one believes in you.
People have been writing the epitaph for the LSU Tigers for so long that it is pretty easy to tune out. But this comes through like a thunder clap. This is an LSU team that can actually play the No One Believes in Us card.
And instead of going for anger or acting aggrieved, it was as if the staff expected this. The players showed up to media days and consistently deferred to the media and talked about how hard their job is and how much they work at predictions. It’s up to the players to change the perceptions, not for the media to pump up the team’s ego.
Don’t get mad, prove them wrong. LSU spent the week coolly telling the media that they can say whatever they want to say, because they will show their quality on the field. This team is carrying itself with an almost eerie confidence, like they know something no one else does.
LSU has the worst preseason expectations in a generation, and I could not be more excited about it.