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Alabama picked to win SEC football championship

Pat Dooley USA TODAY Network
Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) hurdles Auburn defensive back Jeremiah Dinson (20) during a Southeastern Conference game Nov. 30 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

Alabama is the clear-cut favorite to win the Southeastern Conference this year, but — as usual — there is a division between Georgia and Florida.

With no SEC Media Days this summer, the USA Today Network held its own among the SEC coverage team members virtually, and Alabama was the unanimous pick not only to win the West but the overall SEC crown.

In the East, it was a dead heat, with Florida and Georgia finishing in a tie when the votes were tabulated (at 97 points). Georgia did have one more first-place vote than Florida.

Tennessee (72) was a distant third in the East voting, followed by Kentucky (64), South Carolina (45), Missouri (33) and Vanderbilt (15).

Points were compiled on a 7-6-5, etc., basis, with seven points going to the predicted winner of the division.

In the West, the race for second behind Alabama was close, with defending national champion LSU getting the nod with 78 points to Auburn's 76 and Texas A&M's 71.

Ole Miss was fifth (40 points), followed by Mississippi State with 34 and Arkansas with 15.

The beat writers also selected preseason honors and an All-SEC team heading into the season, which begins Saturday, Sept. 26.

Florida coach Dan Mullen was named the preseason coach of the year, with Mark Stoops of Kentucky finishing second.

In preseason player of the year balloting, Alabama running back Najee Harris was the pick, with four players tying for second.

The preseason newcomer of the year was quarterback K.J. Costello of Mississippi State, the transfer from Stanford expected to take the reins in the Mike Leach offense. LSU freshman tight end Arik Gilbert finished second in the voting.

Not surprisingly, Alabama led the way with eight players being selected on the preseason All-SEC team. No other school had more than three, and fourth-ranked Georgia had only two. No second or third team was selected by the voters.

As for the Crimson Tide, Harris, receiver DeVonta Smith and linebacker Dylan Moses were unanimous choices.

The other unanimous picks were Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, LSU defensive back Derek Stingley Jr. and Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith.