Spring Preview 2010 - SEC Title = BCS Title?

Posted Mar 24, 2010

The 20 Big Questions Going Into 2010 - No. 14. Should the SEC always get the benefit of the BCS doubt? The league is full of new stars like LSU's Russell Shepard, Bama's Trent Richardson, and Florida's John Brantley to keep the league at the head of the BCS class. This and more in the SEC spring overview.

2010 Spring Preview - No. 14
SEC - SEC Title = BCS Title?

2010 Spring Preview 
- 2010 SEC East Spring Preview 
- 2010 SEC West Spring Preview 
- 2010 SEC Player You Must Know - Kentucky WR Randall Cobb 

- No. 20 Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 1-10) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 11-20) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 21-30) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 31-40) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 41-50)  
- No. 19 Is this it for the Big 12? 
- No. 18 Just how close the Big East has come to a BCS title?
- No. 17 Did ACC expansion work?
- No. 16 Why does the Pac 10 need USC to be good?
- No. 15 Just how hot is the Big Ten for expansion? 

By Pete Fiutak 

I was just in Las Vegas for the first weekend of March Madness and perused the early betting lines and odds to win the 2011 BCS Championship game (for the 2010 season). In today's day and age, for good (at least for SEC fans) and bad (for everyone else), it was easy to tear the sheet in half the long way and forget about most of the teams on the list. (No, Stanford and Connecticut aren't going to win the whole ball of wax.) And it was just as easy to tear the sheet the other way and eliminate another boatload of teams like Missouri and Wisconsin.

Oh sure, I sort of like Nebraska at 14-to-1 considering the improved offense, strong defense, and favorable schedule, but this is about guessing who's going to win the national championship. That means figuring out who's going to win the SEC title.

It really has been an impressive run for the SEC winning the last four national championships and five of the last seven, and Auburn might have made it six in eight years had it gotten a break in 2004, but it hasn't been without a few breaks.

Alabama knocked out Colt McCoy in last year's championship, but that's part of football and has to be let go of by those trying to diminish the accomplishments of a great team. 2007 LSU needed a slew of wacky things to happen so it could play for the title after losing two games; 2006 Florida got its big break when USC gagged away a 13-9 loss to UCLA; and 2003 LSU got on the right side of the debate going from third to second in the BCS rankings thanks to an Oklahoma Big 12 title loss and then catching a bigger break playing the Sooners instead of USC. But the SEC put the ball in the hole once it got the chance in each of the title games, no matter how the teams got there, and after so much success, the big spring question is whether or not the 2010 national championship will be settled in the Georgia Dome on December 4th instead of in Glendale, Arizona, on January 10th.

And that could lead to the big, ugly, elephant-in-the-room theoretical debate that the BCS has avoided so far. What happens when there's a one-loss SEC team and two unbeaten teams from BCS leagues?

Considering what the SEC has done in national championships, would anyone pick anyone but the SEC champion in the title game? Remember, of the five recent national champions from the SEC, only Alabama of last year was able to get through clean, and if you hate the BCS and are looking for a big-time brouhaha, this could be your year.

Say, for argument's sake, that Florida loses at Alabama in the regular season, wins every other game, and then beats the Tide in a rematch in the SEC Championship. In this hypothetical situation, Ohio State and Texas finish unbeaten. There would be little question that the Buckeyes and Longhorns would play for the national title, considering how big those two are, but would everyone truly believe that the best two teams were playing for the championship?

To take this a step further and to what might have been, say Terrence Cody doesn't block a Tennessee field goal attempt in the final seconds of last year's 12-10 Tide win, Alabama loses, but goes on to stomp Florida in the SEC Championship game. Meanwhile, Texas and Cincinnati both go undefeated. Would the Bearcats have gone to Pasadena? Maybe, and no one would've been thrilled with that.

Now the stakes are higher than ever for the SEC because of all the recent success, and the pressure is even greater for Alabama, Florida, and LSU, the three projected top teams in the league. The SEC has also put pressure on the entire system with a case of champion-until-proven-otherwise issue, and unless something happens from out of left field, like a two-loss SEC champion and two juggernaut seasons from big name programs like Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio State or USC, it's the SEC's BCS world and everyone else is standing in line.

The Top Five SEC Players Who Need A Big Spring
1. John Brantley, QB Florida
2. Josh Chapman, DT Alabama
3. Branden Smith, CB Georgia
4. Nick Stephens, QB Tennessee
5. Shaq Wilson, LB South Carolina

The Top 5 Position Concerns/Battles
1. Alabama cornerback
2. Florida receiver
3. Georgia quarterback
4. LSU running back
5. Auburn quarterback

The 5 Biggest SEC Spring Storylines
1. Urban Meyer's health. He has had a month off to try to recharge the batteries, but will that be enough? This is one of the premier coaches in all of sports and one who can take a fantastically talented, but extremely green team to the national title if he's at the top of his game. But if he's struggling to stay healthy and the stress becomes a problem, then his rush to come back will effect more than just this 2010 Gators; it'll effect the entire program (to say nothing of his health and well-being).
2. How fast can Alabama and Florida rebuild and reload? Almost anyone else would be looking at this season as a time to retool with so many personnel losses, but instead, the Gators and Tide will be among the favorites to win the national title. Get them now, because each program is stockpiled with young NFL talent amassed from the recent recruiting classes.
3. Is Georgia ready to rebound and be a player again? The Dawgs missed their turn on the SEC national championship run in 2008, and now the window appears to be slammed shut and nailed down. This doesn't appear to be the year they'll get their groove back with a ton of major concerns on both sides of the ball, but the schedule isn't that bad and there are athletes in place to hope for a surprise.
4. Is LSU ready to rebound and be in the national title chase again? The offense has to be far, far better and the defensive line has to undergo an overhaul, but Les Miles has done a great job of recruiting over the years and he has enough primetime players to challenge Alabama for the West. This isn't a good enough team to go undefeated, but if LSU can win the division, win the SEC, and hope for the right breaks, it would've be a shocker if a third national title in eight years comes to Baton Rouge.
5. Who's ready to take the next step and be back among the top teams between Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Tennessee, and where does South Carolina fit in? All these teams are good enough to beat anyone in the conference on the right day, but can one put it all together to become a player? Arkansas, because of the offense, might have the most interesting mix and the best chance to be on the inside of the velvet rope.

The Spring SEC Team Rankings
1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. LSU
4. Arkansas
5. Auburn
6. Georgia
7. South Carolina
8. Ole Miss
9. Tennessee
10. Kentucky
11. Mississippi State
12. Vanderbilt

The Pre-Spring Call For Player Of the Year

1. Mark Ingram, RB Alabama
2. John Brantley, QB Florida
3. Ryan Mallett, QB Arkansas
4. Jordan Jefferson, QB LSU
5. A.J. Green, WR Georgia