Cros-Check: The SEC has dominated the BCS, but can they keep it up?
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 22:08
It’s been the Southeastern Conference’s world, and others are lucky they’re allowed to live in it. For the past six years, an SEC school has won the BCS National Championship. This dominance peaked during last year’s run-up to the championship game between Alabama and LSU, the first national championship game to pit two teams from the same conference against each other.
Sadly, the on-field product failed to match the magnitude of its hype, with the Tide trouncing the Bayou Bengals 21-0 in one of the more boring championship games in recent history.
But despite producing a lackluster game, the SEC’s dominance was clear and may remain that way by the time the 2012 season comes to a close. But three schools from three different conferences are coming for the crown and will provide the stiffest competition SEC schools have seen in years.
One huge reason to believe this may be the year the crystal ball trophy will escape the SEC’s clutches is that USC is finally back. The Trojans have faced two years of NCAA sanctions that have rendered them unable to compete for a national championship. Now USC is back in a familiar place, atop the preseason AP poll.
Heisman-favorite quarterback Matt Barkley will man an offense that could be unstoppable, even if pitted against a vaunted SEC defense. With the addition of former-Penn State running back Silas Redd, USC filled its only offensive hole. The defense wasn’t spectacular in 2011, but if it can remain on par with last year’s effort, allowing 24 points per game, the offense will be sufficient enough to mask that deficiency.
Two inevitable matchups with the always-explosive Oregon Ducks could be the only bumps in what should otherwise be a clear path to an undefeated season for USC.
While USC’s offense could prove to be too much even for the nation’s best defenses, Florida State will look to fight fire with fire, as nine starters return from last season’s second-ranked rushing defense and fourth-ranked scoring defense.
The Seminoles will return a total of 18 starters to produce one of the more experienced teams in the NCAA. Senior quarterback E.J. Manuel will attempt to make another leap forward from an above-average junior year, passing for 2,666 yards while throwing 18 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.
Unlike USC, Florida State will face multiple tests throughout the season, including a date in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech. If FSU can get through its schedule and the ACC Championship Game unscathed, it could be the only team with a resume good enough to knock a one-loss SEC team out of championship contention on Selection Sunday.
One last team that has a chance to end the SEC’s reign will have an opportunity to make waves on Saturday, when Michigan takes on Alabama. Saturday’s contest could be the most meaningful first-week matchup in years. If Michigan can pull off an early season upset, it will accomplish two enormous goals: elevating itself into a front-runner spot for the national championship and putting an SEC power into a must-win situation from week one.
When it comes to Michigan, only two things need to be said: defense and Denard Robinson. The reigning Sugar Bowl Champions will return eight defensive starters from last season’s sixth-ranked scoring defense. Also returning will be Robinson, one of the most versatile players the NCAA has seen, leading Michigan in both passing (2,173 yards) and rushing (1,176) last season.
Aside from Florida State, Michigan may be the only team outside the SEC that can play to an SEC team’s strength and come out on top, which the Wolverines can prove Saturday.
While the SEC remains the NCAA’s best conference and capable of capturing its seventh title in as many years, a few historical powers have returned from obscurity to steal its crown.
The SEC has to lose sometime, right? Even Rome met its demise eventually.