Roll Tide! Once again Alabama is the favorite to win the SEC Championship. This is the second straight year they are the favorite.
Guess what the Tide success rate is at winning the SEC when they’re the favorite under Nick Saban. Try 0 for 3 so far. Guess what the success rate for the Tide is when they’re not the favorite during that time. Try 2 for 4.
Since the beginning of the 2009 football season, Alabama has won the SEC championship every year that it was NOT predicted to win it, which is only twice.
So being the favorite this year shouldn’t be welcome news.
This is nothing new, though, for the conference. Only four times since the league expanded in 1992 has the media SEC preseason favorite actually won the SEC Championship: Florida in 1994 and 1995, LSU in 2007, and Florida in 2008.
Not only is the media a mere 4 for 22 in its preseason predictions, but like Alabama recently, it is actually kind of wacky how things shape up each year. Let’s start from the beginning.
The 1992 season opened up with Florida as the clear-cut favorite to win the conference. Alabama won it. The pollsters then picked Alabama to win it in 1993. Florida won it.
Okay, so they fixed things the next two years, and correctly predicted Florida to win it in 1994 and 1995. But 1996? The Gators’ reign was predicted to end by Tennessee, who was the new favorite. Well, Florida won it again. Then, Florida was the favorite the next two years, and Tennessee won both years. Tennessee went back to being the favorite in 1999, and Alabama won it. So the pollsters picked Alabama in 2000. The Tide slumped to a 3-8 season, and the trophy went to Florida.
So in 2001, Florida opened the year No. 1, and the title went to LSU. Tennessee was the favorite in 2002, and the title went to Georgia. Georgia was the favorite in 2003 and 2004, and both times they lost it, first to LSU then to Auburn. Then in 2005, when Georgia wasn’t the favorite, they won it again, despite Tennessee being the favorite.
Auburn was predicted to win it in 2006, and the title went to Florida. That made for 11 straight years the media got its pick wrong.
At least they got it right in 2007 and 2008 with LSU then Florida. But when Florida was the favorite all year in 2009, Alabama won it. Then Alabama was the favorite in 2010 and 2011, and Auburn and LSU won it respectively. When LSU was the favorite in 2012, Alabama won it again, and when Alabama was finally the favorite again in 2013, Auburn won it.
As you can see, it almost seems like when a team is in the midst of a dynasty in the conference, during those few years, the only times they win it are when they’re not predicted to win it.
The pollsters are a little bit better at predicting the division winners, going 20 for 44, but that’s still not great, and they were padded with a 6 for 6 start on that the first three years. Those years are even more proof that there is some sort of curse to being the preseason SEC favorite. The pollsters got the championship game right each of the first three years, when it was Florida and Alabama each time. However, with a 50/50 chance, the preseason SEC favorite was 0 for 3 in those outings.
Of course, as I’m writing this, we know that there’s actually no football God determining this, and this is one of those stats that, like the Madden Curse, it’s fun to talk about. Perhaps one of the reasons the pollsters are usually so wrong is because often times, 12 times to be exact, the pollsters go based off of the previous season and pick the conference champion from that year. They are 2 for 12 when doing that.
Picking the previous year’s champion is not smart in the SEC because it’s hard to repeat. The only two they got right were Florida in 1994 and 1995, and it was easy then because the Gators were so dominant over the rest of the conference.
Alabama fans obviously don’t have to worry about this poll as some superstitious determining factor making their team miss out on another SEC championship. But no place is like the SEC when it comes to the difficulty of picking the conference champion, especially when there are five or six teams every year who think they have a shot.