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Our expert picks: No surprise — Alabama, Tennessee as division winners

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We’re two weeks from the first SEC game, Las Vegas has set its college football lines and now our experts have spoken. They say it will be – surprise, surprise – Alabama-Tennessee in the SEC championship game, with the majority saying the Tide again will move on to the playoffs.

Tennessee was the unanimous pick in the East, Alabama the unanimous choice in the West. The only other unanimous picks among our four voters: LSU second in the West and South Carolina last in the East.

Tennessee led the way in the East Division voting, followed in order by Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Vanderbilt tied for fourth, Missouri and South Carolina. In the West, Alabama was followed by LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi State.

Here's a breakdown of the selections.

Tony Barnhart's picks

East Division
1. Tennessee
2. Florida
3. Georgia
4. Kentucky
5. Vanderbilt
6. Missouri
7. South Carolina
The skinny: On paper, Tennessee has all of the bases covered: Veteran quarterback, great running backs and a defense with at least three potential All-SEC players. But the Vols have to beat Florida at home on September 24. Lose and it opens the door for the Gators or Georgia.

West Division
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Ole Miss
4. Texas A&M
5. Arkansas
6. Auburn
7. Mississippi State
The skinny: Logically, Alabama should not repeat with a new quarterback, a bunch of new assistants and a road schedule that includes trips to Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU. But you can't ignore the Saban factor.

SEC offensive player of the year: LSU RB Leonard Fournette. He led the nation in rushing yards per game (162.75) on 300 carries last season. He won't get as many carries this season, but he will make more big plays.
SEC defensive player of the year: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett. He has 20 sacks in his first two seasons and will become a superstar under new DC Bob Shoop. He needs 12 sacks to tie Reggie White's school career record.
SEC newcomer of the year: Georgia QB Jacob Eason. Tall and talented, Eason will be Bulldogs' the starting quarterback at some point this season. He's the most talented young quarterback at Georgia since Matthew Stafford.
The SEC and the playoff: The winner of the Alabama-LSU game on November 5 will go on to win the SEC championship and earn a spot in the College Football Playoffs. The question is whether the loser will get in if it finishes 11-1.

Frank Frangie's picks

East Division
1. Tennessee
2. Florida
3. Georgia
4. Kentucky
5. Missouri
6. Vanderbilt
7. South Carolina
The skinny: This year, I think all the promise is legit. Tennessee has the best roster in the division and the Vols have messed it up enough times that they finally have learned how not to. Florida and Georgia are upwardly mobile programs – Florida may have the best defense in the league – but Tennessee has the complete team. Complete enough to beat the Gators for the first time in 12 years.

West Division
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Ole Miss
4. Texas A&M
5. Arkansas
6. Auburn
7. Mississippi State
The skinny: I know the Alabama-LSU game is in Baton Rouge, but at some point, you have to prove it. And that is the situation LSU is in – prove that it can beat the Tide. After those two, it's wide open, with Trevor Knight and Texas A&M the wildest of wild cards.

SEC offensive player of the year: Tennessee QB Josh Dobbs. This will be the year his passing will improve, making him a complete player. I'll stop short of calling him the right-handed Tebow, but the similarities are uncanny – fantastic athlete, big, strong, fast, smart, charismatic kid, great leader. It is his time.
SEC defensive player of the year: Florida CB Jalen Tabor. A future top-10 overall pick, he has the size to play the run and jam big wideouts that his first-round running mate last year, Vernon Hargreaves, didn't have. Great break on the ball, too. I'd be surprised if he didn't have six or seven interceptions.
SEC newcomer of the year: Texas A&M QB Trevor Knight. Not a newcomer in college football, but a newcomer to the league. In that offense, he just might have a magnificent season.
The SEC and the playoff: Tennessee will shock the world, win the league championship game against Alabama and appear in the playoff.

Mike Huguenin's picks

East Division
1. Tennessee
2. Florida
3. Georgia
4. Vanderbilt
5. Missouri
6. Kentucky
7. South Carolina
The Skinny: The Vols have the best offense and special teams in the division, and the defense is good enough. There is no question about the talent on the roster, but there remain questions about the staff coaching that talent. If the Vols get it sorted out, they will win 10 games and the SEC East for the first time since 2007. If UT doesn't win the division this season? Yikes.

West Division
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Texas A&M
4. Ole Miss
5. Arkansas
6. Mississippi State
7. Auburn
The skinny: There are legitimate offensive questions about Alabama regarding the quarterback, tailback and line. But having a high-quality defense means you can win despite some offensive questions. Besides, every team in this division is flawed (some way more than others), and Nick Saban with a flawed team beats any other coach in this division with a flawed team.

SEC offensive player of the year: Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly. The designation is not "most talented offensive player." If it were, the pick would be LSU RB Leonard Fournette. But Kelly threw for 4,042 yards last season, and I think he sets the SEC single-season passing record this season. That should earn him offensive MVP honors.
SEC defensive player of the year: Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett. This is a case of the most talented guy winning the award. Garrett has 24 sacks in his two seasons, and I think he gets to 15 sacks this fall. The Aggies' defense made noticeable strides last season and will again this season, and Garrett is the ringleader of that defense.
SEC newcomer of the year: Texas A&M QB Trevor Knight. Knight will be the least-talented starting quarterback in Kevin Sumlin's five-season tenure as Aggies coach. But for the first time in those five seasons, Sumlin won't have a drama queen/diva at quarterback. Knight doesn't need to be great, just steady. And if he is steady, the Aggies can win 10.
The SEC and the playoff: Until someone in the league beats Alabama in the SEC championship game, you have to go with the Tide to win the league and, thus, garner a playoff berth.

Jimmy Hyams' picks

East Division
1. Tennessee
2. Georgia
3. Florida
4. Vanderbilt
5. Kentucky
6. Missouri
7. South Carolina
The skinny: Tennessee has the most overall talent and the best quarterback in the division, so the Vols should win their first East title since 2007. Georgia's talent is solid but the quarterback play is a concern. Florida will have one of the SEC's best defenses, but I think the offense will struggle and the Gators won't win every close game, as they did a year ago.

West Division
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Ole Miss
4. Texas A&M
5. Auburn
6. Arkansas
7. Mississippi State
The skinny: It's just so darn hard to pick against Alabama, no matter how many players Nick Saban loses. And it's just so darn hard to pick Les Miles to beat Saban. I would take LSU if I thought QB Brandon Harris would have a good year. Chad Kelly will make Ole Miss a tough out. Texas A&M could be the league's sleeper if QB Trevor Knight comes through.

SEC offensive player of the year: Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly. Not only did he pass for more than 4,000 yards last season, he ran for 500 more. He has a nice group of receivers as targets.
SEC defensive player of the year: Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett. I would expect another double-digit sack season from Garrett, who has been a menace to opposing quarterbacks since he stepped on campus. He could be the first SEC player taken in the 2017 NFL draft.
SEC newcomer of the year: Georgia QB Jacob Eason. It's tough for a true freshman to succeed at quarterback in such a defense-minded league, but I think Eason will make a huge impact at Georgia, even if he might not start until a few games into the season.
The SEC and the playoff: I think the SEC champion will make the playoff, which means I think it will be Alabama again. The Tide has done a great job of getting production out of first-year starting quarterbacks, the receiving corps is outstanding, the defense again will be stingy and Saban knows how to win big games.

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© 2016, GridironNow.com Staff. All rights reserved.

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