September 3, 2012
If you think back hard enough I am sure you can remember 2005. George W. Bush was inaugurated for his second term in office, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the gulf coast, and a college football season started which would crown the Texas Longhorns as National Champions. In what will always go down as one of the best games in the history of the sport, Vince Young (in his finest hour) put on a one man show in the Rose Bowl to take down Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and USC. There was not an SEC school in sight.
Now, fast forward seven years and take note of the SEC dominance. The last six National Title winning schools: Florida, LSU, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, and Alabama have made everyone believe that the South Eastern Conference is invincible. This year though that will change. Here are five reasons why the National Championship Trophy will be taken to a different conference early in 2013.
1) USC is back
The Trojans enter the season as the smart pick by many to win the National Title and on paper it is easy to see why. Matt Barkley decided to forgo the NFL for one more season in Southern California for exactly this opportunity, the chance to make himself a USC legend. Barkley is the most polished signal caller in the country and he leads an offense that has the weapons to average 45 points a game with little trouble. Barkley has a pair of 1,000 yard wide outs (plus a bunch of potential on the bench) and with Silas Redd’s transfer from Penn State he also has a pair of 1,000 rushers in the backfield. Add in a couch in Lane Kiffin who loves to run up the stats and you have a potent cocktail which is going to be very hard for voters to turn down.
2) Florida State’s schedule
The other team that looks set to cause disappointment to the SEC faithful this season is Florida State. The Seminoles have a ton of veteran leadership back, along with a quarterback who has been largely forgotten about in the vast landscape that is college football in 2012. E.J. Manuel will be looking to lead his Seminoles to a perfect record in the ACC. This feat is entirely possible as the only difficult road game is at Virginia Tech and it falls after a bye week. If the ‘Noles can run the conference slate then the only tricky looking non ACC foe is annual rival Florida, a game that is played in Tallahassee this year.
3) Tyrann Mathieu’s suspension
It may seem weird that the dismissal of a cornerback for his inability to stay clean would be a legitimate reason for the SEC to not win a National Title, but Mathieu is one of those rare players who plays above his position label. The best way to compare the value of Mathieu is to look at him in terms of a Deion Sanders or Devin Hester type player. Sure he would contribute throughout the game just as you would expect from a traditional corner, but it was his penchant for making dramatic, game changing plays which LSU will find themselves devoid of this fall. His two punt return touchdowns, two fumble return touchdowns, and his pair of interceptions all seemed to happen right when the Tigers were in need of a big play and it is easy to see a game slipping away because of his dismissal.
4) No great SEC team
I know this is said every season but 2012 is going to be the year when the depth of the SEC costs the league a chance at a National Championship. Sure there are a bunch of very good teams (Alabama, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina) but none of them have the true standout players on offense that some of the other teams around the country have. In addition some of the middle tier teams, and even perennial doormats like Vanderbilt, look like they may have the ability this year to upset the favorites. With the schedules set as they are it is hard to see any SEC team making it though the league without at least one loss, and if that happens and there are unbeaten teams like USC, Florida State, and perhaps Oklahoma, it is going to very hard to justify putting and SEC team in the National Title game.
5) Voter apathy
For all the reasons mentioned above I think that voter apathy is going to kill the SEC this fall. Though some would claim that the two Alabama vs. LSU games from last year were defensive clinics, others would say they were examples of miserable quarterback play. Simply put neither game lived up the spectacle of what many feel college football should be all about. It feels like the tide is turning away from the SEC and its smash mouth defensive approach in the mind of the voters, and many are just looking for a reason to make USC or perhaps even Oregon the face of college football in 2012.