Arkansas picked third in SEC West, gets first-place vote

Arkansas, or at least the Arkansas fanbase, has long preferred to play from a place of an underdog, to play with a chip on their shoulder.

That may be fading under coach Sam Pittman.

The Razorbacks were picked third in the SEC West at the end of SEC Media Days on Friday. Arkansas had been picked last in the division each of the last three seasons.

One unnamed voter even gave Arkansas a first-place vote for the division. And while that’s probably a homer vote, in recent years, it would have been absurd. It’s far less so this year.

Arkansas went 9-4 last year in Pittman’s second season at the helm. A win over Penn State in the Outback Bowl capped things and gave the Hogs their best season since 2011.

The return of four preseason All-SEC players and quarterback KJ Jefferson is the biggest on-field reason for the respect, but Pittman is the biggest reason overall.

Here’s a look at the whole set of predictions from the SEC, starting with the West.

1. Alabama (158 SEC champ votes)

Nick Saban

Nick Saban

(Brianna Paciorka/Knoxville News Sentinel/USA TODAY Network)

No surprise whatever. Out of the 183 first-place votes placed for the overall league crown, the Crimson Tide picked up 158 of them.

2. Texas A&M

October 16, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; A detailed view of Texas A&M Aggies helmets during the second half against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Aggies were not a shock at No. 2 in the division, either. They grabbed SEC West first-place votes to Alabama’s 177.

3. Arkansas

July 20, 2022; Atlanta, GA, USA; Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman shown on the stage during SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas has not been expected to be this good since the heart of the Bret Bielema era, at least.

4. Ole Miss

Mississippi Head Coach Lane Kiffin returns to Neyland Stadium before an SEC football game between Tennessee and Ole Miss in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.
Kns Tennessee Ole Miss Football

The question on most minds is how much last year’s Ole Miss success was a product of Matt Corral.

5. LSU

LSU Football Head Coach Brian Kelly speaks to the media following the first spring practice under him. Thursday, March 24, 2022
Lsu Spring Practice 03 24 22:

The Brian Kelly era is guaranteed to be much different than the Ed Orgeron era. Off the field. On it? Remains to be seen.

6. Mississippi State

Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers (2) looks to pass downfield against Texas A&M during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

Are the Bulldogs anything more than a dynamite offense? Feels like a fairly important year for the Mike Leach team.

7. Auburn

Auburn Tigers head coach Bryan Harsin during the A-Day spring practice at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, April 9, 2022.

Auburn hasn’t been picked last in ages. The drama surrounding the Tigers and coach Bryan Harsin is no longer fever-pitched, anyway.

1. Georgia (18)

Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) kisses the trophy after winning the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Alabama Crimson Tide Versus Georgia Bulldogs On Monday Jan 10 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship At Lucas Oil Stadium In Indianapolis
Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

The national champions return their quarterback and plenty more. Deserved recognition.

2. Kentucky (4)

Mark Stoops

Mark Stoops

(Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports)

Coach Mark Stoops may have the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft as his quarterback.

3. Tennessee

Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel during a game between Tennessee and Missouri at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo. on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021.
Kns Tennessee Missouri Football

Tennessee football is feeling positive for the first time in forever.

4. Florida

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – NOVEMBER 27. Anthony Richardson #15 of the Florida Gators celebrates after defeating the Florida State Seminoles 24-21 in a game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

The Anthony Richardson era at quarterback has Gators fans excited.

5. South Carolina

October 2, 2021; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Shane Beamer (right) celebrates a blocked punt by defensive back Jahmar Brown (8) against the Troy Trojans in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

It sounds funny, but follow me. South Carolina was better faster than most anyone thought it would be under Shane Beamer.

6. Missouri

Missouri quarterback Brady Cook tosses a ball on the sidelines during an NCAA college football intra-squad spring game Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The Tigers at least have Vanderbilt in the SEC East.

7. Vanderbilt

November 20, 2021; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores head coach Clark Lea stands on the sidelines during the second quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt should be better this year, but they need quarterback consistency in the worst way.

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