Todd Van Emst
The Tigers have plenty of motivation going into the season.
The SEC's preseason coaches poll was released Tuesday morning, and it gave Auburn a nice chip for its shoulder heading into the season. The coaches picked the Tigers to finish last in the SEC West.
John Pawlowski's team brings back several key contributors from an offense that led the conference in hitting last season with a .304 team batting average, but pitching and defense are unknown commodities for the Tigers. Auburn finished ninth in the SEC in 2012 with a team ERA of 3.92, and several new faces will break into the rotation this year. Fielding is likely the biggest concern, as the Tigers led the conference with 84 errors a season ago.
Arkansas, preseason No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll and a popular pick by many to reach the College World Series in June, was tabbed as the West favorite, receiving 12 first-place votes. LSU and Mississippi State were selected second and third, and each team received one first-place vote.
In the East, Vanderbilt was picked as the heavy favorite, as the Commodores also garnered 12 first-place votes. Florida ranked No. 2, while Kentucky and South Carolina placed third, each picking up a No. 1 vote.
With nine votes to win the league championship, the Razorbacks were selected as preseason SEC favorites. Vanderbilt took three votes, and Kentucky and LSU received one vote.
The Georgia Bulldogs, picked to finish fifth in the East, may be a tad overrated going into 2013. The Dawgs will be relying heavily on freshman and sophomore pitching, and their projected closer, Pete Nagel, will have to sit out the season due to an elbow injury. Texas A&M, the No. 5 team in the West, is probably the most underrated club. Like their football counterparts, the Aggies are entering their first season of SEC play under the radar, but they have the talent to be a top-10 team.
The complete results of the preseason poll are as follows. Teams are listed with total points and first-place votes in parentheses. Seven points awarded for a first-place vote, six for second-place, etc. Coaches weren't allowed to vote for their own teams:
1. Vanderbilt 89 (12)
2. Florida 67
t-3. Kentucky 59 (1)
t-3. South Carolina 59 (1)
5. Georgia 41
6. Tennessee 29
7. Missouri 23
1. Arkansas 90 (12)
2. LSU 75 (1)
3. Mississippi State 59 (1)
4. Ole Miss 54
5. Texas A&M 51
6. Alabama 26
7. Auburn 24
SEC Champion: Arkansas (9), Vanderbilt (3), Kentucky (1), LSU (1)