SEC polls may not hold true

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 5, 2003

A suggestion to Southeastern Conference football fans:

Save the following predictions made by sports reporters at last week’s SEC Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover until the end of the season, when you will be able to tell just how much, or how little, the voters know.

Eastern Division: Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Western Division: Auburn, Louisiana State, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Mississippi State.

Plus the voting for the conference champion &045; Auburn is favored, followed by Georgia, Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Florida and Arkansas, with Alabama not eligible since the Tide has this season remaining in its NCAA probation period.

The guess here is that these predictions will be pretty well skewed by the results of the 2003 season.

After all, the word &uot;poll&uot; comes from the old word &uot;pol,&uot; the top of the head, which indicates that the predictions don’t come from the entire brain, just off the top of the head of reporters, many of whom have never worn a football helmet or jersey.

That definition is why I don’t believe polls or believe in them.

Can you say &uot;polled Hereford,&uot; which means hornless, or, perhaps in this case, clue-less? Perhaps the most accurate thing in the SEC poll is that Vandy will uphold its tradition by finishing at the bottom of the Eastern Division, but even that is no guarantee.

Speaking of guarantees, things have reached a pretty pass in Tuscaloosa when coach Mike Shula’s contract calls for a bonus if Alabama wins six games. Six games out of 13, with opponents such as South Florida, Kentucky, Northern Illinois, Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State and Hawaii! That’s six right there that such fall to the Tide.

How in the hallowed names of Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Red Drew and Bear Bryant did the expectations fall so low? Alabama should win at least six despite the coaching musical chairs of recent months and its NCAA problems.

Auburn, likewise, has its patsies in Vandy, Western Kentucky, Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe.

In addition to Mississippi State, if the Tigers are to meet expectations in the SEC they must do well against Tennessee, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama.

Strength of schedule is a relative thing, but Auburn, as usual, is looking at one of the toughest in the SEC. Could it be an omen that the veterinarians at Auburn are having problems with the health of the eagles?

That is a reminder of a story, told in jest by a strong Tiger fan, that several years ago one of the eagles starved to death because a star player’s assignment was the feed the eagle between classes and, since he never went to a class, he didn’t feed the poor bird.

Meanwhile, hold on to those predictions. The season is just over three weeks away.

(Hoyt Harwell is a retired Associated Press Correspondent who covered major sports in Alabama for 26 years. Harwell lives in Hoover. E-mail: