Let’s take a trip around the country and look at the three spring favorites who have the shot to knock off the SEC next January and end the string of championships. Of course, there is a very slim chance that will actually happen, based on the last seven in a row. The SEC can close out the BCS era with eight straight championships. Playing for all the marbles is tough and involves considerable luck, but winning it has proven even tougher for non-SEC teams. Let’s take a look at the three that have most cause for concern to the conference in 2013, shall we?
2012 record: 12-1
Alabama vs. Oregon would have been a title bout for the ages in 2012, but Stanford and Notre Dame crushed the Ducks’ dreams. They certainly would have given Alabama a much better game than the Irish – heck, anyone would have. Oregon has the best shot of any non-SEC team to win the championship as it stands right now in 2013. The Ducks return 15 starters and are certainly not intimidated by the SEC speed with their high-flying, sexy offense. Oregon defeated their opponents by a cool 28-point margin in 2012, and the offense merely loses RB Kenjon Barner and returns Heisman candidates Marcus Mariota and the electrifying De’Anthony Thomas.
Of course, how Chip Kelly’s departure affects the offense and team remains to be seen, and new head coach Mark Helfrich is certainly the wild card of the entire Oregon championship outlook. But something tells me the offense will not skip a beat. It will come down to beating Stanford.
2012 record: 12-2
And speaking of the Cardinal, they’re built very similarly to Notre Dame in 2012 and constructed very similarly to SEC teams. A strong, power-based running game and punishing front seven scares Oregon to death, and that’s what Stanford brings to the table each and every Saturday.
Head coach David Shaw showed no letdown replacing Jim Harbaugh and replacing his star quarterback Andrew Luck either, and the Cardinal notched another BCS bowl appearance and a 12-2 season. The next star quarterback for Stanford is Kevin Hogan, and the defense returns seven starters.
Had Stanford knocked off the Irish last season, they could have faced off against the Tide in Miami. This year, the Cardinal gets Notre Dame and Oregon at home.
3. Ohio State
2012 record: 12-0
Ohio State will run the Big Ten because it’s like taking candy from a baby. The Buckeyes could open as the No. 2 overall team in the country in the preseason polls, and they return a Heisman favorite Braxton Miller and eight other starters on offense.
But just because Ohio State may run straight through the Big Ten without blemish doesn’t mean they’re championship caliber. Oregon and Stanford are both better football teams with better defenses, and even Urban Meyer will tell you the chasm between his undefeated ’12 team and even a two-loss South Carolina team. The Buckeyes’ defense loses four starters on the defensive line, and how big of a step this unit takes in year two under Meyer will be the Buckeyes’ tell-tale sign.
Meyer does understand, though, what type of talent the Buckeyes must have to compete with the SEC, but I’m not sold it will happen this season.
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