Four SEC teams capable of winning BCS title

There are currently four SEC teams in the Top 10 — two out West and two from the East — capable of capturing the conference’s seventh straight BCS national championship. These programs are anchored by elite head coaches with proven balance and elite talent on both sides of the ball. We’ll see if SDS readers agree with my assertion a third of the way through the season:

Georgia: Even with Connor Shaw and Marcus Lattimore in the same division, it’s safe to pinpoint Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley — at least this season — as the SEC’s best offensive tandem. The pair has combined for nearly 1,500 total yards of offense and 16 touchdowns during the Bulldogs’ 4-0 start and highlight the division’s most prolific unit on offense. Surprisingly, however, Georgia’s defense is performing nowhere near the level it’s capable of playing and until it does, we won’t be able to see just how dominant this Bulldog team could become. Outside of the second half against Missouri and Saturday’s Vanderbilt game, Georgia has been gashed up front particularly by non-BCS conference schools Buffalo and Florida Atlantic. Georgia’s defense — full of NFL-worthy playmakers — is only going to get better as the season progresses, but it’s not good enough right now to beat the Gamecocks in Columbia in two weeks, a site South Carolina has won 23 of its last 26 games.

LSU: Inexperienced quarterback Zach Mettenberger or did he? His game-clinching first down throw could have been picked off had Auburn’s linebacker jumped the route. Instead, a  tackle was missed and Tigers ultimately took enough time off the clock to win the game. His numbers have been pedestrian — 4 TD and 2 INT — and he’s yet to beat (or play) a ranked team so it’ll be interesting to see how Mettenberger performs over the next month against South Carolina and Florida, teams with elite defenses. LSU’s defense is still its calling card and could ultimately be the determining factor in whether or not the Tigers win a second straight SEC title. The inconsistent offense though is what will lead to two, maybe three, SEC losses this season. Is LSU’s passing game good enough to excel when the opposition shuts down the run? For Les Miles’ sake, hopefully it never gets to that point.

South Carolina: There’s something special brewing for Steve Spurrier this season on the heels of South Carolina’s best campaign in school history. He’s finally got a quarterback and one of the best defenses in the country to back him up. If South Carolina wins trips to LSU and Florida, the Gamecocks will be a serious threat for the BCS title game. A potential Top 10 matchup with Clemson and an SEC Championship Game against Alabama may prove too tough to overcome, but the Gamecocks have the players to do it. South Carolina has beaten the Tigers three consecutive years and snapped Alabama’s 20-game win streak and reign at No. 1 in 2010. The Gamecocks’ upcoming affair with the Bulldogs is the most highly-anticipated matchup in the series in recent memory. The victor, in my opinion, will win the East and perhaps something more. Don’t be surprised if Jadeveon Clowney starts getting some Heisman love in November if the Gamecocks are still undefeated.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide are the overwhelmingly favorite at this point with the nation’s toughest defense and the game manager A.J. McCarron at quarterback, but I’m interested in seeing how this team plays down the stretch against tougher competition. Michigan is obviously not the Top 10 team we all thought and Arkansas could finish 2012 with a losing record. Upcoming games against Tennessee and Mississippi State, two teams who flex talented offenses, should be a good measuring stick for Nick Saban’s group. The LSU game on Nov. 3, as always, is for BCS ranking supremacy and could dictate who reaches the big game in Miami at the end of the season if the Tigers get past Florida and South Carolina. Alabama isn’t as invincible as some may think, but I’ve yet to find the chink in the armor and neither have opposing coaches.

Where’s Florida? The Gators’ offense simply isn’t potent enough to win the necessary games down the stretch to finish the regular season unbeaten and win in Atlanta. South Carolina and Georgia both have more playmakers on that side of the ball and each have quarterbacks more reliable than John Brantley Jeff Driskel. Could that change in a few weeks? Sure, but as it stands, the Gators will likely go 5-3 in league play with losses to LSU, UGA and South Carolina.

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