Published September 5, 2012 - 6:20pm
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When it comes to the state of the conference, it’s tough to beat 2011 where both participating teams in the BCS Championship Game hailed from your conference. January 9, 2012 was simultaneously the height of SEC domination as well as the height of anti-SEC sentiment around the country.
As we entered the 2012 season, the media fawned over the resurgence and sex appeal of the current USC Trojans roster. With NFL talent and west coast star power, the Trojans represent the nation’s best opportunity to end the SEC streak of six straight national championships.
Moreover, as the Trojans added to their roster with Penn State refugees, the SEC suffered talent losses coupled with some not-so-flattering headlines.
Of course, college football fans know the SEC was going to be legitimate in 2012, but as kickoff approached, the sentiment was indeed trending down. Anecdotally, the conversations I heard about the upcoming season seemed to be filled with doubt that the SEC would again take it down in January.
This all changed with week 1.
Once the focus turned back to actual on-the-field events, the SEC immediately regained its status at the top of college football.
First, the talent losses in studs like Crowell, Rogers and Mathieu were replaced smoothly with names like Gurley, Cordarrelle and Odell. Winning games is just part of the equation. When it comes to college football domination, you need guys to shine in playmaker fashion.
Tennessee is back on the SEC’s radar (they were back on our radar before kickoff) after soundly beating a decent NC State team on a neutral field. However, the excellence of Tyler Bray and the emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson are what bump the significance of this victory up a notch.
Georgia’s win over Buffalo is nothing to be excited about. Todd Gurley’s sick performance in his first game suited up in the red & black is absolutely something to be excited about.
And then there was the Crimson Tide.
The significance of the dismantling of the Michigan Wolverines on national television cannot be overstated.
Alabama utterly dominated a “resurgent” top college football program with a team that just sent more 1st round players to the NFL than any other team. An Alabama defense with plenty of new starters made a Heisman hopeful look like John Brantley.
The ramifications of this Arlington beatdown are many. Due to the enormous exposure of this marquee matchup, even if Alabama drops a game in the SEC, many voters will have a hard time not voting for Alabama ahead of other teams. Moreover, should a team like LSU win the west over Alabama, they too will share in the voter admiration simply because Alabama made such a huge statement against a top team out of the Big Ten to start the season.
The response in the aftermath of Arlington was immediate. Alabama quickly overtook both polls and is now the consensus #1 ranking in college football.
LSU, Georgia, Arkansas and South Carolina also maintain top ten rankings in both polls. Half the top ten is SEC.
If the SEC is not poised to make a run at a 7th straight BCS Championship, then I don’t know what I’m missing.
We’re fully prepared to watch the media fawn over the men of Troy for the duration of the season, but remember, they have to get past Oregon not once, but twice, on their way to battle a representative of the SEC. Both USC and Oregon are exceedingly fun to watch, as any high octane offense typically is, but we’re all aware of the track record of such teams against the merciless gridiron warriors of the South.
The Big Ten? Well, I think Arlington showed where the Big Ten stands. A few weeks ago, ESPNRadio hosted a “round table” with radio personalities Colin Cowherd, Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo. During the segment, one of the guys said “the Big Ten is a year away.” Rusillo responded with: “a year away from what? Not getting made fun of anymore?” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Phil Steele of course picked the Seminoles from Tallahassee, Florida to go all the way this year, and with their line up of ACC games (we refuse to actually call it a schedule), it’s quite possible. The ACC is likely to be very ACC-ish this year. By that I mean incredibly uninteresting.
Oklahoma didn’t impress in its opening weekend win over UTEP, but the Sooners will likely be in the conversation as we move further along. One other team from the Big 12 to pay attention to is West Virginia. The Mountaineers should do very well in the Big 12 and might even win it, but I don’t like the chances of a team like West Virginia against a tough SEC Champion.
The nation wants to see Lane Kiffin and the USC Trojans dethrone a representative from the SEC. Dethroning the SEC as a result of the polls not putting an SEC Champion into the BCSCG just isn’t the same. It needs to be settled on the field.
As an SEC fan, you can’t argue with such a championship matchup. A Saban-led NFL-like defense (though his offense isn’t too shabby either) against the Kiffin-led NFL-like offense would be ratings gold come January.
I’m not so naive, however, to simply pencil in Alabama as the SEC’s best this year even though they currently represent that slot. A long season of in-conference battles awaits and we all know, running the table in the SEC is one of the most difficult tasks in American sports.
After a week of play, we can rest assured that the state of our conference remains strong. It just took getting our boys back on the field of play where they belong.
Here’s to another season in the SEC.