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Alabama draws vast majority of media picks to win third straight SEC football title

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Nick Saban's thoughts on how conference realignment could divide college sports (1:25)

Nick Saban contends that conference realignment could affect competitive balance significantly in college athletics. (1:25)

Alabama is the runaway favorite to win the SEC football title for a third consecutive season, according to a media poll released Friday.

The Crimson Tide received 158 of 181 votes to win the conference title. Georgia was next closest with 18 votes, South Carolina received three votes, and Vanderbilt and Texas A&M tied with one vote each.

Friday marked the seventh consecutive year in which Alabama has been picked to win the SEC championship, though the media has correctly predicted the champion only nine times since 1992.

Georgia, which was picked to win the East, lost to Alabama in the SEC title game last season but won the rematch in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in January.

At SEC media days this week, Georgia coach Kirby Smart insisted that the program was built for sustained success.

"People ask the question: How does it feel to be the hunted?" Smart said. "We will not be hunted at the University of Georgia, I can promise you that. The hunting we do will be from us going the other direction. We're not going to sit back and be passive."

Led by first-team selections in tight end Brock Bowers, offensive lineman Warren McClendon, defensive lineman Jalen Carter, linebacker Nolan Smith and defensive back Kelee Ringo, Georgia had nine total players on the preseason All-SEC team.

Alabama led all teams with 19 preseason All-SEC selections, including quarterback Bryce Young, running back Jahmyr Gibbs, wide receiver Jermaine Burton, offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor Jr., cornerback Eli Ricks, safety Jordan Battle and linebackers Henry To'oTo'o and Will Anderson Jr. as first-team picks.

Young, who threw for 47 touchdowns last season, is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Anderson led the country in sacks (17.5) and tackles for loss (34.5) and won the Bronko Nagurski Award, which is given to the best defensive player in college football.

"To have two players that make such a significant impact on our team as those two guys, I don't recall ever having a circumstance like that," Alabama coach Nick Saban said Tuesday. "We've had some great impact players, but never one on offense, one on defense of that caliber."