HOOVER, Ala. — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema told the media "the lower the better" when it came to preseason projections about the Razorbacks.
He got his wish Thursday morning.
Arkansas was at the bottom of the SEC West in the media’s preseason projections, which were unveiled during the final morning of the SEC Media Days. It was a spot the Razorbacks expected after coming off the 4-8 season in 2012.
"We’re the underdogs," Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith said Wednesday. "We don’t have a lot of high expectations. A lot of people are writing us off, so we’re just going to focus on football and how to get better as a team."
Alabama was the overwhelming favorite to win the division title and the SEC championship. Texas A&M and LSU were predicted to finish second and third, respectively. They were followed by Ole Miss, Auburn and Mississippi State.
Georgia was tabbed as the favorite two win the SEC East for the second straight season. South Carolina, Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky followed the Bulldogs in the preseason poll, respectively.
Alabama received 182 of 243 votes to win the SEC title. Georgia (38), South Carolina (18), Texas A&M (4) and LSU (1) also received votes in the media poll.
Saban made sure to point out the media’s preseason championship vote has been correct just four times in the past 21 years
"If I was 4-17 as a coach I would be back in West Virginia pumping my gas at my daddy’s gas station," Saban said. "But I just think it’s crazy to speculate because of the fact each year you have a different type of team."
Arkansas did place three players on the preseason All-SEC team on Thursday.
Center Travis Swanson and defensive end Chris Smith, who were among Arkansas’ representatives at the event Wednesday afternoon, were selected as first-team All-SEC picks. It continues a busy offseason for the two players, who have been included on several preseason watch lists for national awards.
Arkansas kicker Zack Hocker also was a third-team selection Thursday.
McCarron on Manziel
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel said he overslept at the Manning Passing Academy earlier this month, which caused him to be late for a camp session.
Who better to get more details from than Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, who was his roommate at the camp? But McCarron wouldn’t bite Thursday.
"I can’t answer on Johnny Manziel’s part. My name is A.J.," McCarron said. "Everything that has to do with him, he’s his own man. I’m not going to speak on another man’s business. That’s how I was raised."
LSU coach Les Miles said running back Jeremy Hill remains suspended after recently pleading guilty to battery stemming from an April bar incident. Miles described Hill’s situation as a "legal entanglement" that has separated him from the team.
"We’ve visited with Jeremy Hill on a routine basis," Miles said. "He’s not been in any team meetings, not been in any workouts. We’ve not allowed him in our facility.
"It’s been very hard on him, I know. Again, we recognize there’s an ongoing process that’s going to be fulfilled. We’re going to sit on the perimeter and watch. We certainly are respectful of all that have responsibility there."
Doak Walker Watch List
Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams and fullback Kiero Small were among 63 players on the preseason watch list for the 2013 Doak Walker Award.
The two joined other SEC backs like Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon, Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, and Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins on the watch list.
Welcome Back … Maybe
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger will face a unique experience on Sept. 28.
The Watkinsville, Ga., native and former Georgia quarterback will step back into Sanford Stadium to face the Bulldogs. Mettenberger was dismissed after one season and transferred to LSU following a season at Butler (Kan.) Community College.
Mettenberger — who now is entering his second year as LSU’s starter — said he hasn’t been back to Athens much since his departure even though his mother works in the athletic department. He’s not expecting a warm reception when he does return in September either, joking that fans may throw bricks at him.
"I don’t know anybody who has had to go back and play the team that they got kicked off of," Mettenberger said. "It could be easy for myself to go out there and want to throw for 500 yards and eight touchdowns. But you can’t force that."
On air date set
An official launch date and time for the SEC Network has been set. Justin Connolly, a senior vice president at ESPN, announced Thursday morning the network will begin on August 21, 2014 at 6 p.m.
The network will televise three SEC football games each Saturday during the season beginning in 2014. SEC commissioner Mike Slive revealed earlier this week football gameday programming also will include a two-hour pregame show that will travel from campus to campus each week during the season.