Five years after colliding in the most exciting Southeastern Conference football championship game, Alabama and Georgia have been picked to meet again.
The league office on Friday released the voting from SEC media days, and the Crimson Tide were predicted to win a fourth consecutive league title. Alabama received 217 votes to win the championship, with division nemesis Auburn a distant second with 11 votes and Georgia third with six.
Nick Saban's Tide defeated Florida in the past two SEC title games by a combined score of 83-31.
"They've just done an outstanding job," Gators coach Jim McElwain said at media days. "When it comes to closing the gap, I think each year is its own and certain things happen that you don't have control over. What you hope happens is you've taken care of a lot of the details along the way, so that when something comes up, you can still be successful.
"That's the great thing they've done in that program. They're right now at the top, and, you know, it's up to the rest of us to go get them."
Alabama received 225 first-place votes and 1,683 total points in the Western Division, with Auburn second with 13 first-place votes and 1,329 points. LSU was third, with Arkansas, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Ole Miss rounding out the projected order of finish.
Ole Miss's Rebels are ineligible for the league title this year due to a self-imposed bowl ban.
Georgia received 1,572 points to nudge out Florida's 1,526 in the East, while Tennessee was a distant third with 998 points. South Carolina, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Missouri rounded out the East's projections.
This marks the third time Georgia has been picked to win the East since last claiming the division in 2012. When asked this week about the likelihood the Bulldogs would be the East pick, Florida safety Marcell Harris said, "We hear that every year."
Alabama defeated Georgia 32-28 in the 2012 title game, with time expiring on the Bulldogs at Alabama's 5-yard line.
With a fourth straight league title, Alabama would match what coach Steve Spurrier, quarterback Danny Wuerffel and the Florida Gators accomplished from 1993 to 1996. Alabama set the standard under Bear Bryant with five consecutive SEC titles from 1971 to 1975.
"I think this is going to be one of the youngest teams that we've had probably since maybe 2012," Saban said, "especially on defense, where we lost a ton of really, really good players. I think we had seven guys drafted off the defense, all in the first four rounds, so it's going to be a challenge to replace those guys.
"We're going to be very young on that side of the ball, but it's also something that we're excited about as coaches to try to help those guys develop to play the kind of football that will allow them to be individually and collectively successful defensively."
Alabama has a starting quarterback returning for the first time since 2013, with Jalen Hurts having been named last season as the SEC's offensive player of the year. Hurts was among the record 10 preseason All-SEC first-team representatives from the Crimson Tide, joining receiver Calvin Ridley, tackle Jonah Williams, guard Ross Pierschbacher, defensive linemen Da'Ron Payne and Da'Shawn Hand, inside linebacker Rashaan Evans, safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison and punter JK Scott.
The Crimson Tide, who had 16 total representatives on the first, second and third All-SEC teams, set the previous record for first-team picks in 2011 with nine.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
QB Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State (121)
RB Bo Scarbrough, Alabama (151)
RB Kamryn Pettway, Auburn (141)
WR Antonio Callaway, Florida (152)
WR J’Mon Moore, Missouri (91)
TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina (115)
OL Isaiah Wynn, Georgia (116)
OL Jashon Robertson, Tennessee (108)
OL K.J. Malone, LSU (101)
OL Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State (101)
C Bradley Bozeman, Alabama (155)
QB Austin Allen, Arkansas (102)
RB Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt (105)
RB Sony Michel, Georgia (30)
WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina (64)
WR Jauan Jennings, Tennessee (42)
TE DeAndre Goolsby, Florida (76)
OL Lester Cotton, Alabama (96)
OL Greg Little, Ole Miss (94)
OL Javon Patterson, Ole Miss (87)
OL Koda Martin, Texas A&M (69)
C Will Clapp, LSU (66)
DL Cece Jefferson, Florida (151)
DL Marlon Davidson, Auburn (120)
DL Christian LaCouture, LSU (107)
DL Denzil Ware, Kentucky (78)
LB Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama (156)
LB Skai Moore, South Carolina (128)
LB Tre’ Williams, Auburn (103)
DB Tray Matthews, Auburn (126)
DB Donte Jackson, LSU (123)
DB Carlton Davis, Auburn (109)
DB Dominick Sanders, Georgia (109)
DL Marcell Frazier, Missouri (77)
DL Jabari Zuniga, Florida (76)
DL Dontavius Russell, Auburn (70)
DL Rashard Lawrence, LSU (54)
LB Jordan Jones, Kentucky (91)
LB Lorenzo Carter, Georgia (82)
LB Oren Burks, Vanderbilt (58)
DB Anthony Averett, Alabama (104)
DB Marcell Harris, Florida (83)
DB Mike Edwards, Kentucky (71)
DB Tony Brown, Alabama (62)
P Johnny Townsend, Florida (99)
PK Eddy Piniero, Florida (106)
RS Evan Berry, Tennssee (117)
AP Derrius Guice, LSU (133)
P Trevor Daniel, Tennessee (58)
PK Gary Wunderlich, Ole Miss (94)
RS Antonio Callaway, Florida (84)
AP Kerryon Johnson, Auburn (66)
School (Votes for 1st) Points
Georgia (138) 1572
Florida (96) 1526
Tennessee (3) 998
South Carolina (5) 897
School (Votes for 1st) Points
Alabama (225) 1683
Auburn (13) 1329
LSU (4) 1262
Arkansas (1) 796
Texas A&M 722
Mississippi State 633
Ole Miss 379
South Carolina 1