Media pick LSU to win conference title
HOOVER, Ala. — Les Miles spent part of his summer attending the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha with his daughter, Smacker, and watching Arizona and South Carolina go at it for the College World Series title.
Now he turns his full attention back to football, with a team that’s once again expected to grab the gold.
Miles’ LSU Tigers were tabbed Thursday as the prohibitive favorite to repeat as Southeastern Conference champions by voting media members covering SEC Media Days.
In addition, LSU had seven first-team all-conference selections and 13 selections overall, both SEC highs.
When it comes to predicting who will win the SEC, reporters covering Media Days have been notoriously consistent in missing the mark.
They were right in 2007, though, when LSU captured both the SEC and BCS championships. LSU fans have to be hoping they’ll be proven right again.
The 2007 season was the only other time since 1992 that the Tigers were named the preseason favorite to win both the SEC West and the conference overall.
LSU received 129 of 222 first-place votes, easily outdistancing reigning BCS national champion Alabama (65 first-place votes) and Georgia (14).
LSU got 139 first-place votes in the SEC West and 1,449 points overall. Alabama had 72 first-place votes and 1,379 points.
Miles returned with his players to Baton Rouge after their interview sessions Wednesday afternoon and wasn’t around to comment on his team’s selection, but did talk while at Media Days about expectations for the season overall.
“I think it’s fair to say that in all three phases we’ll have an opportunity to play very well,” said Miles, who is entering his eighth season at LSU. “Again, if we take it a day at a time, a game at a time, try not to get too far in front of ourselves, I think our football team can achieve greatly.
“I can tell you they’re looking forward to coming off of last year. They’ve had a great spring, a great summer, and they’re looking forward to taking the field again.”
Six of LSU’s 14 returning starters captured seven first-team slots in all three phases of the game, led by Tyrann Mathieu.
The junior cornerback, who finished fifth in the 2011 Heisman Trophy balloting, was the SEC’s only first-team selection at two positions: defensive back and return specialist.
Mathieu was joined on the first team by senior offensive tackle Alex Hurst, junior defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, junior safety Eric Reid and sophomore punter Brad Wing.
Junior offensive tackle Chris Faulk made the second team, as did senior senior center P.J. Lonergan and kicker Drew Alleman. Lonergan tied for the second-team center spot with Reese Dismukes of Auburn and T.J. Johnson of South Carolina.
Running back Spencer Ware, defensive tackle Bennie Logan and cornerback Tharold Simon, all juniors, were named to the third team.
Alabama had the second-most first-team selections and overall selections with five and 12, respectively. The Tide was led by center Barrett Jones, the 2011 Outland Trophy winner and three-time preseason first-team All-SEC pick.
Crimson Tide running back Eddie Lacy of Dutchtown was named a second-team running back. South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore (the leading vote-getter with 201 points) and Arkansas’ Knile Davis were in the first-team backfield along with Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson.
Alabama was followed in the SEC West standings by Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Georgia is projected to repeat as SEC East champion, earning 132 first-place votes and 1,434 points as compared to 72 first-place votes and 1,358 points for South Carolina. The Gamecocks were followed by Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
The prediction of LSU and Alabama at the top of the SEC West standings sets up the expectation that the Tigers and Crimson Tide will again meet in an epic encounter as they did last November in Tuscaloosa.
LSU won that game 9-6 in overtime to remain No. 1, but Alabama stayed in the national title picture, eventually coming back to smash the Tigers 21-0 in January in the BCS national championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
With the likelihood that the Tigers and Tide will again be ranked in the top five when the preseason polls are released, the stakes loom large again for this year’s meeting, 7 p.m. Nov. 3 in Tiger Stadium in a prime-time showdown on CBS.
“It’s taken on a story line for itself,” Alabama tight end Michael Williams said of the LSU-Bama series. “The game is close every year. You have two teams who will themselves not to lose. You have two great coaching staffs. We take it one game at a time, but when that game comes you can tell. It’s something special.”
The Tigers open the regular season with three straight night games for the first
time since 1980, starting with North Texas at 6 p.m. Sept. 1 on ESPNU.
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