HOOVER, Ala. - Told that his team was picked to win the Southeastern Conference championship in the league’s annual preseason poll, Alabama coach Nick Saban surprised almost no one when he said it doesn’t mean a whole lot to him.

“Let me first say that you (media) are all a lot smarter than we are as coaches, because I could never pick who is going to win the SEC,” he said. “Let’s start with that.”

Similarly, Saban dismissed predictions about a possible national championship.

“It means nothing, basically,” he said. “We’re more concerned about the standard of excellence that we can play to.”

In another matter, Saban said that while Trent Richardson will naturally take over for Mark Ingram as the team’s No. 1 tailback, former Dutchtown standout Eddie Lacy will be next in line.

“It’s always been our philosophy not to run one guy 30 times in a game, but to play two backs all the way through ? wherever we’ve been,” Saban said. “Eddie will be the other guy that gets an opportunity to do that.”

Mathieu and Simon

Miles created a bit of a stir by saying that sophomore Tharold Simon will likely man the cornerback spot opposite All-SEC junior Morris Claiborne, meaning sophomore Tyrann Mathieu will likely continue to see most of his playing time in nickel back or dime back formations.

“He probably played two-thirds of the season there,” Miles said of Mathieu. “I can’t imagine things have changed much.”

In LSU’s media guide, Mathieu is listed as the starter at right corner while Simon is listed as Claiborne’s backup at left.

Bolden: film student

Ole Miss tailback Brandon Bolden considers himself something of a latecomer when it comes to running with a football. That’s why the former Scotlandville High standout said he spends plenty of time watching film - not just of himself or modern-day stars, but also of college football’s all-time greats.

“I really didn’t start playing running back until 10th grade,” he said. “Ever since then, I’ve watched almost every running back since 1962 until now. I’ve just become a student of the game.”

Bolden, a senior, was named third-team All-SEC running back. He led the Rebels in rushing (976 yards) and receptions (32) last season.

A challenge at Vandy

Like so many men who came before him, Vanderbilt first-year coach James Franklin is charged with finding a way to succeed in the rough-and-tumble SEC.

With its tougher academic requirements and thin recruiting base, Franklin conceded that Vandy is not exactly a tough sell, but certainly a unique one. What’s his pitch?

“Don’t commit to the logo on the helmet. Don’t commit to the jerseys,” Franklin said. “Make the decision for the right reason, which is ... an education that’s going to set you up for the long haul.”

Nutt wants to push limit

Houston Nutt isn’t wild about the a new SEC rule that limits programs to 25 signees each year.

But as the fourth-year Ole Miss coach said Friday: “Well, it’s the rule. And I’ve always followed the rules.”

Nutt earned his reputation as a chronic over-signer while at Arkansas and Ole Miss. Over the past four seasons, he signed 31 players (2008), 37 players (2009), 25 players (2008) and 28 in February, when the SEC had a 28-player limit in place.

Nutt said he wishes the SEC would’ve kept the 28-player rule for one more year.

“You simply don’t know who’s going to qualify,” he said. “You may wake up on signing day, and that 18-year-old may say, ?You know what? I’m thinking about going somewhere else.’”

Record attendance

The SEC credentialed a record 1,050 media, staff and attendees (coaches and players) for this year’s media days, breaking the mark of 923 set in 2009.

The last word

“Those people that sign their name ?Slick Willie’ don’t necessarily have legitimate opinions.”

- LSU coach Les Miles, on his dislike for anonymous

message-board posts