For the first time in recent memory, Vanderbilt is picked to finish higher than Tennessee.
The Southeastern Conference Media Days preseason poll was released on Thursday morning and the Commodores were predicted to place fourth in the SEC East – one spot ahead of the rival Vols. It was the first time since 2009, when they were the choice to finish fifth, that they were pegged to do better than sixth.
Vanderbilt went 5-3 in the SEC finished fourth in the division last season.
Tennessee went just 1-7 and was sixth among the seven teams in the East, and coach Derek Dooley was fired last November, one day after a 41-18 loss to Vanderbilt.
Georgia was picked to win the East again and two-time defending national champ Alabama pegged to win the West and the SEC championship.
Vanderbilt also placed four players on the All-SEC teams, headlined by first-team selections Jordan Matthews (wide receiver) and Carey Spear (kicker). Cornerback Andre Hal was named to the second team and offensive lineman Wesley Johnson was tabbed to the third team.
Matthews, a senior from Madison, Ala., caught 94 passes for a school-record 1,323 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last year. Spear, a senior from Mayfield Village, Ohio, set a school record with 20 field goals on 24 attempts and made all 27 extra points.
Hal, a senior from Port Allen, La., ranked second in the SEC last year with 16 passes defended, including two interceptions. He also had 48 tackles, including 36 unassisted. Johnson has started all 38 games of his career at four different positions on the offensive line. The Montgomery Bell Academy product did not allow a sack last year.
Tennessee had six players earn preseason All-SEC honors.
Linebacker A.J. Johnson was the lone first-team selection. Offensive linemen Ja’Wuan James and Antonio “Tiny” Richardson (Pearl-Cohn) were named to the second team. Offensive linemen Zach Fulton and James Stone (Maplewood) were tabbed to the third team. Defensive lineman Daniel McCullers also landed on the third team.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
SEC CHAMPION, PTS
South Carolina, 18
Texas A&M, 4
EASTERN DIVISION, PTS
(first-place votes in parentheses)
1. Georgia (149), 1,570
2. South Carolina (75), 1,474
3. Florida (19), 1,300
4. Vanderbilt, 858
5. Tennessee, 694
6. Missouri, 577
7. Kentucky, 331
WESTERN DIVISION, PTS
1. Alabama (225), 1,681
2. Texas A&M (11), 1,333
3. LSU (7), 1,324
4. Ole Miss, 883
5. Auburn, 579
6. Mississippi State, 516
7. Arkansas, 488