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The SEC in the College Football Preview Magazines

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The first wave of college football preview magazines have hit the shelves and just about all of them are calling for a banner year from the Southeastern Conference. Every one expects an SEC team to contend for the 2011 BCS National Championship and all but one predicts the league's representative will bring the crystal fooball home for the seventh year in a row.

All rankings in the top 25 are bold. Those in the top 10 are highlighted in red and those between 11 and 20 are highlighted in blue.

Preview Magazine 2011 Preseason National Rankings
Phil Steele Sporting News Lindy's Athlon
Alabama 1 3 2 1
Arkansas 13 11 10 16
Auburn 21 24 42
Florida 32 20 18
Georgia 9 16 14
Kentucky 63 60
LSU 7 1 4 8
Ole Miss 62 69
Miss State 36 15 21 27
S. Carolina 14 19 11 21
Tennessee 52 37
Vanderbilt 84 79

Sporting News only provides a top 25 list. Phil Steele only provides a top 52 list.

The consensus is clearly that Alabama and LSU are the cream of the conference and Arkansas ain't too shabby either. Past that it's a bit puzzling. Georgia is ranked as high as No. 9 by Phil Steele but doesn't even make The Sporting News' top 25. While not in anyone's Top Ten, South Carolina gets solid marks across the board by the mags.

Just about everyone speaks well about Mississippi State but varied pretty wildly when it came to ranking the Bulldogs. Sporting News and Lindy's seemed to think Auburn's fall from grace won't be as bad as many seem to be predicting. Lindy's and Athlon believe Florida is a Top 20 team while Phil Steele and Sporting News disagree.

Now let's see how they each broke down the conference...

With one exception, the pre-season mags all agree on the bottom half of the conference. Every title concurred that Tennessee, Kentucky and Vandy will bring up the back of the SEC East in that order. There was consensus about the middle of the SEC West - Arkansas at No. 3 and Mississippi State at No. 4 - while everyone but Phil Steele put Ole Miss right above Auburn in the division cellar.

The larger disagreements were at the top of the divisions. Alabama was everyone's top pick in the SEC West except for The Sporting News. And there was almost no agreement on the order of top three in the East. But each and every one agreed whoever represented the West on Dec. 3 in the Georgia Dome would best the Eastern team and head to New Orleans play for the national championship.

Phil Steele
1st Alabama Georgia
2nd LSU S. Carolina
3rd Arkansas Florida
4th Miss. State Tennessee
5th Ole Miss Kentucky
6th Auburn Vandy

SEC Championship: Alabama over Georgia

Phil Steele is big on the SEC this year. He's got three teams in the Top Ten and is bullish on just about everyone but Florida and Auburn. "No question this is y far the best league," he writes. He cites Auburn's loss of 34 scholarship players and penchant for close wins last season as proof of a major dropoff for the Tigers.

Sporting News
1st LSU S. Carolina
2nd Alabama Florida
3rd Arkansas Georgia
4th Miss. State Tennessee
5th Auburn Kentucky
6th Ole Miss Vandy

SEC Championship: LSU over South Carolina

This is easily the contrarian prediction for the 2011 season. Not only does The Sporting News have LSU besting Alabama in the West, they opine the Tigers will represent the SEC in New Orleans on Jan. 9. They also go against the convention by picking Georgia as No. 3 in the East and outside of their entire Top 25. The magazine seems to be putting a premium on the the loss of offensive talent in Tuscaloosa and Athens.

Lindy's Sports
1st Alabama S. Carolina
2nd LSU Georgia
3rd Arkansas Florida
4th Miss. State Tennessee
5th Auburn Kentucky
6th Ole Miss Vandy

SEC Championship: Alabama over South Carolina

Lindy's probably has the most conservative predictions for the 2011 season of all the preview magazines. Concerns on various offenses among the top teams doesn't dampen the title's confidence in the respective defenses. And while the magazine expects Auburn to end up with a W/L in the .500 range, they still believe the Tigers are a top 25 team.

Athlon Sports
1st Alabama Georgia
2nd LSU Florida
3rd Arkansas S. Carolina
4th Miss. State Tennessee
5th Auburn Kentucky
6th Ole Miss Vandy

SEC Championship: Alabama over Georgia

If you live in Gainesville, this is the magazine for you. Athlon is high on the Gators and believes the available talent is abundant enough to smooth the transition of the new coaching regime. The questions about Stephen Garcia and the fact South Carolina dropped five games last season prompted the magazine to put the Gamecocks behind Florida in the East.

UPDATE 06/10: Here is Stassen's comprehensive breakdown of the preseason magazine reports. HT @DrSaturday.