SEC Preseason Power Rankings: Alabama, UGA, Auburn, Then Everyone Else

What you need to know about this research

When was this fielded?: July 31, 2018
Number of respondents: 1,354
Research technique: Online quantitative survey using the MaxDiff Market Research Technique
Who is in this research?: About 70% of the respondents that participated in this research are SEC fans. This isn’t too surprising based on my previous experience. In the previous preseason polls I’ve conducted for the Big Ten, ACC and Big 12, I’ve found that conference-based polls tend to attract fans of that particular conference more so than general college football fans (surprising isn’t it?). When looking at the Power 5 conferences as a whole, the SEC and Big Ten also tend to have more fans than the ACC, Big 12, and Pac 12. Since I’m aiming for an equal mix of SEC and Non SEC fan opinions, I’ve weighted the data to reflect equal participation from SEC and Non SEC fans. In addition, each SEC fanbase is weighted equally to remove the bias that would be created from the heavier participation of the SEC’s larger fanbases such as Texas A&M. While much of the “homer bias” has been accounted for by weighting the data, I want to note that SEC fans easily had more “homer bias” than their counterparts from the Big Ten, Big 12, and ACC. In other words, SEC fans were generally more likely than those of the other conferences to hold more favorable opinions of their team compared to the general consensus. Take that for what you will.

Interpreting The Results

The MaxDiff scores for each team are indexed at 100. For example, LSU’s MaxDiff score of 152 means that team was ranked 52% higher than the average team in the exercise. It is important to note that these scores should not be interpreted as “votes.” See our explanation of MaxDiff if you would like more information.

FanJuicer’s Take On The Results

At the top of the ladder in Tier I are Alabama, Georgia, and Auburn. I expect no one to be surprised to see Alabama and Georgia in Tier I, but some may be surprised to see Auburn here. Auburn makes the top tier in the SEC’s preseason rankings for the same reason that the Miami Hurricanes made the top tier in our ACC preseason rankings: most fans do not see Auburn as being on the same level as Alabama or UGA, but there is a clear consensus that Auburn will be superior to every team not named Alabama or Georgia. As I’ve stated in the other conferences’ Preseason Power Rankings, the tiers produced by a MaxDiff exercise are calculated based upon how fans feel a particular team like Auburn would fare against every other team in the exercise, not just how they would fare against UGA or Alabama. The fact that fans feel Auburn would fare similarly to UGA and Alabama against the teams not named UGA or Alabama places them in Tier I. However, I’ve noted the Auburn Tigers as being a “Tier 1B” team to accentuate that Auburn is still below both Alabama and UGA in the minds of most fans.

The theme for the SEC’s Tier II teams is uncertainty. Each team has an uncertain aspect to their season’s prospects. For LSU, the Ed Orgeron saga continues. Considering the expectations in Baton Rouge, I’m going to posit that Coach O is two losses away from losing his job; a loss to Miami (a very good team by the way), and one other unexpected loss would perhaps spell the end for Orgeron and the LSU Tigers’ 2018 season. Consider this: Miami is one of the ACC’s best teams, and when they square off against LSU on September 2nd, most LSU fans are expecting the Bayou Bengals to bring home a win. For the sake of argument, let’s say LSU loses that game. Let’s also mark LSU’s next game against Southeastern Louisiana as a win. LSU’s next seven games are against Auburn, Louisiana Tech (not a pushover), Ole Miss, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, and Alabama. LSU will be favored to lose three of those seven (Auburn, UGA, and Alabama), and if the Tigers lose four of those seven, would Orgeron be around heading into November? Most would probably say no, which is why I think it is reasonable that Coach O has the most likely odds of being the first SEC coach fired in 2018.

For South Carolina, we should expect a change in offensive identity, especially for a team headed by the more defensive-minded Will Muschamp. Muschamp’s newest offensive coordinator, his fifth in seven seasons as a head coach, is former South Carolina Wide Receivers Coach Bryan McClendon, who was promoted to OC in the offseason. It will be very interesting to see if McClendon’s vision of a more uptempo offense truly aligns with that of his boss. Rounding out Tier II are Texas A&M and Mississippi State, who both bring new coaching regimes to the table.

Prospects for Chad Morris at Arkansas

I asked a follow up question to the 936 SEC fans who participated in this research about new Arkansas Head Coach Chad Morris’ prospects. Respondents were asked if they thought Morris’ win percentage as head man in Fayetteville would be better, worse, or about the same as the 46% figure posted by Morris predecessor, Bret Bielema. The results suggest that SEC fans are optimistic for Morris, but only somewhat. A small majority (53%) believe Morris will improve upon Bielema’s 46%, but respondents were much more likely to say they expect Morris to do “slightly” better than “much” better. In other words, most think Morris will be better than Bielema, but they probably don’t expect the Razorbacks to be making a run at the SEC West in the near future.

Enjoy reading about or participating in this research?
If so, consider joining FanJuicer’s online panel, or following us on Twitter and we will let you know when new sports research studies are available in which you can participate and when new study results have been released.