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 HOOVER, Ala. (AP) -Poor LSU. The superstar quarterback, the dangerous receivers and even the offensive coordinator are gone and a one-time starting tailback joined the exodus earlier this week.
Poor LSU? The Tigers were still overwhelming picks to win the Southeastern Conference Friday at the league's media days, easily outdistancing defending national champion Florida.
``We're just as talented as we were last year,'' All-America defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey said.
Seriously? That team included No. 1 overall NFL draft pick JaMarcus Russell at quarterback and three fellow first-rounders, receivers Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis and safety LaRon Landry.
Plus, offensive playcaller Jimbo Fisher left for Florida State, tailback Alley Broussard quit on Tuesday because his ``heart was no longer in it'' and prized quarterback prospect Ryan Perrilloux's status on the team remains uncertain after an arrest in May.
For some programs, all that might add up to a rebuilding year. The Tigers' biggest issue right now might be dealing with huge expectations after back-to-back 11-win seasons and a Sugar Bowl rout of Notre Dame.
They received 54 of 80 first-place votes from reporters who cover the SEC. Florida got only seven, edging Arkansas (five) and Auburn (four), followed by Alabama (three), South Carolina (three), Tennessee (two) and Georgia (two). The Gators were picked to win the Eastern Division, LSU the West.
``It's not something you can be awarded,'' coach Les Miles said of the preseason projections. ``There's no prediction that's ultimate. That just sells papers.
``The only thing you can do is earn what you get.''
Like Florida with Tim Tebow, the Tigers are chasing the title with a new starter at quarterback.
Senior Matt Flynn is set to replace Russell but has only one career start, when he led LSU to a win in the 2005 Peach Bowl.
``He's our No. 1 guy, hands down,'' receiver Early Doucet said.
His chief competition's status is in doubt. Perrilloux, the 2004 USA Today national offensive player of the year, was arrested for trying to use his older brother's driver's license to get on a riverboat casino in Baton Rouge.
Miles said he would make a decision on the 20-year-old sophomore's status before preseason practice starts next week.
``Ryan is currently suspended from the team and we'll look at this matter in the next week and make a decision,'' Miles said.
Flynn is hardly a rookie, having seen action in 38 games. Miles said that should make the transition easier.
``Any time you have a quarterback in his first season as a starter, there will be some period of adjustment,'' Miles said. ``I think it will be minimal with Matt Flynn.
``Matt Flynn is a guy who is really deserving, really has competed for the opportunity to play against a quality quarterback in JaMarcus Russell, and now it's his turn.''
Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer was in a similar position once after Peyton Manning left for the NFL. Tee Martin had waited for his turn, and wound up leading the Volunteers to the national title in 1998.
``We didn't really ask a lot outside of what Tee Martin was capable of doing from a physical standpoint early in the season,'' Fulmer said.
He doesn't have that problem this season with senior Erik Ainge, who set a school completion percentage mark last season. The Volunteers were picked to finish second in the East.
The Tigers, meanwhile, return eight starters from the nation's top defense, led by Dorsey and preseason All-SEC picks linebacker Ali Highsmith and defensive back Chevis Jackson.
``We've got a lot of young guys ready to come up and play big-time football,'' Dorsey said.
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