Published August 14, 2012 - 11:44am
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Everyone around the country always looks to dethrone the SEC. The never-ending flame burns with envy.
SI.com looked at the last six SEC teams to win the BCS National Championship and identified the most common traits present in the SEC’s dominance: speed and elite defensive linemen. We knew that already.
Next, teams around the country with those common traits were identified.
And here are the five most promising candidates, with a little blurb about each, as well as my take:
Texas Longhorns, Big 12
In the three years since losing Colt McCoy in the first quarter of the title game and falling 37-21 to Alabama, Mack Brown has reinvented the Longhorns into a virtual SEC clone. They run the ball (202.6 yards per game last year) and stop the run (No. 6 nationally). They boast a pair of potential first-round defensive ends in Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor and a trio of young tailbacks (Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and freshman Johnathan Gray) any team would covet.
My take: Texas isn’t there yet as a team. Sure, they boast a good running game and crazy talent, but they do not even have a starting quarterback yet, as Case McCoy and David Ash are battling for the job and have looked sub-par thus far. Texas is .500 in the regular season in the past two years in the Big 12. Not sure how big of a step this team can take in a year.
Oregon Ducks, Pac 12
This year Kelly may have his scariest running game yet with veteran tailback Kenjon Barner, the supremely explosive Thomas and a pair of quarterbacks, Marcus Mariota and Bryan Bennett, who are both more dangerous runners than Darron Thomas. The defense, led by defensive end Dion Jordan, linebacker Michael Clay and safety John Boyett, will be Oregon’s most athletic in recent memory.
My Take: Oregon does have a ton of speed and skill position guys just like every year, but the Ducks’ smaller offensive line would get manhandled once again by several SEC defensive lines. Do you care to refute that? Oregon is 1-2 against the SEC, including back-to-back losses against Auburn and LSU spanning over 2010 and 2011. But we will either see Oregon or USC win the Pac 12.
USC Trojans, Pac 12
The Trojans are loaded on offense, with quarterback Matt Barkley and receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee arguably the best in the country at their positions. And the addition of 1,241-yard Penn State rusher Silas Redd to go with Curtis McNeal means Lane Kiffin’s team should be more balanced. The running game could be the key to avoiding a fate like Sam Bradford-led Oklahoma’s 14-point showing against Florida in 2008.
My Take: USC makes the most sense of any of the contenders. They are balanced and multiple on offense and would give any defense fits. I would love to see an undefeated USC team taking on a one-loss or undefeated SEC team. There is just too much talent on that roster for USC to not win the Pac 12.
Michigan State Spartans, Big Ten
An influx of athletic defenders (ends William Gholston and Marcus Rush, linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, cornerback Johnny Adams) has helped Dantonio produce a swarming unit. The 2011 Spartans held foes to 2.8 yards per carry, seventh-best nationally, and return eight starters. Meanwhile, power back Le’Veon Bell leads a physical rushing attack. On the downside, Michigan State must break in new quarterback Andrew Maxwell and inexperienced receivers, but this team will win with defense first.
My Take: Michigan State saw what happened when they played a three-loss Alabama in 2010, but did beat Georgia outright in the Outback Bowl last year. I’d be fine with any Big Ten team in the championship. It’s just one more chance to jab the little brother. Breaking in a new quarterback is always tough, though. This team reminds me the most of an SEC team with their defense-first mentality and running game.
Florida State Seminoles, ACC
Judging by recruiting ratings, Jimbo Fisher — who previously worked under both Nick Saban and Les Miles — has assembled more talent than any non-SEC program other than USC. That’s particularly true on defense, where defensive ends Bjoern Werner and Brandon Jenkins, defensive tackle Everett Dawkins and cornerback Xavier Rhodes helped hold foes to fewer yards per rushing attempt (2.35) last year than even Alabama’s historic unit. This year’s defense is more experienced.
My Take: If FSU doesn’t meet expectations with that much talent on the roster this season, you have to take a good look at Jimbo. Sure, he can get the talent, but can he develop it? He must have missed that day at LSU when Nick Saban lectured his staff about player development. We’re always up for an undefeated ACC champion taking on any SEC team in the championship.
Others to watch from SI.com:
Oklahoma, Big 12
Michigan, Big Ten
West Virginia, Big 12
Wisconsin, Big Ten
It’s only a matter of time before an SEC team loses in the national championship. We know that. The ‘Golden Age’ won’t stay around forever. But we only have two years left in the BCS – 2012 and 2013 – before the new playoff is here.
Several teams are primed to make a run for the SEC this year, with the favorites being LSU, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas and even South Carolina.
There is plenty of talent coming back in 2013, too.
Here’s to seven in a row.