The Southeastern Conference has dominated college football for sometime now. They’ve won the last seven BCS National Championships which has been spread over four teams. Alabama, Florida, LSU and Auburn have all claimed titles during that stretch and this year is set up to be the same scenario.
Alabama is the clear favorite to win a fourth national title in the last five years but the SEC around them is still very tough. The majority of SEC teams return their quarterbacks to the field and that list includes Heisman Trophy Winner Johnny Manziel, Florida’s Jeff Driskel and Georgia’s Aaron Murray.
Perhaps the more impressive thing about the SEC is the teams that used to always be considered ‘bottom-feeders’ have made themselves competitive and forces to be reckoned with in 2013. Ole Miss had an amazing recruiting class that many listed in the top ten in the nation while Vanderbilt comes off of a bowl appearance. Mississippi State and Kentucky will also pose difficult challenges for fellow-conference opponents.
It’s going to be hard to knock Alabama with returning quarterback A.J. McCarron and a host of other guys that includes T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper but there will be teams looking to take advantage of any slip-ups. LSU, South Carolina and Georgia could all represent the SEC in the final BCS National Championship Game.
Let’s assume for a minute and I know the SEC folks would scoff at the idea, but let’s talk about teams outside the SEC that could end the South’s dominance. Teams listed with current odds from Bovada.
Ohio State 13-2 The Buckeyes have everything set up for them. They come off a 12-0 season in which they were banned from a bowl game but not anymore. Braxton Miller returns to QB and Urban Meyer has proven he wins titles pretty quickly. The schedule could not be better either with a weak non-confernce slate followed by home games with Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa. The only tough road game is the finale at Michigan.
Oregon 13-2 The Ducks enter their first season without former Head Coach Chip Kelly who is now in Philadelphia. Former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich takes over a talented Oregon team with Marcus Mariota and D’Anthony Thomas both back. The Ducks have to travel to Washington, Arizona and Stanford but the rest of the schedule sets up nicely.
Stanford 16-1 The Cardinal comes off a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin and returns QB Kevin Hogan. They get the Ducks in Palo Alto as well as Notre Dame at home too but must go on the road to USC and Oregon State. If the Cardinal can find a replacement for running back Stepfan Taylor they could be a factor.
Florida State 20-1 The offensive line and secondary will be strengths this year but the ‘Noles must replace quarterback E.J. Manuel and defensive end Bjoern Werner. FSU opens the season with a conference game at ACC-newcomer Pitt and has road games at Clemson and in the Swamp against Florida.
Louisville 22-1 Let’s be real. The Cardinals must go undefeated to even have a shot but that isn’t unrealistic with QB Teddy Bridgewater returning from a team the whipped Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The ‘Ville goes on the road to Kentucky, South Florida, UConn and Cincinnati. If they can get through those, a BCS Title Game bid will be a possibility.
For any team outside the SEC to have a shot they will need to take care of their own business. With the imperfect system however, they’ll also have to have some help too and that means SEC teams knocking off each other. Even with that it still might not matter.