College Football 2012: Top Squads to Dethrone the SEC
The SEC has owned the landscape of college football, having won the last six BCS National Championships.
Many are wondering if a seventh will soon be on the way, but there will be a few challengers stacked with a ton of talent.
As tough of a task as it will be to handle the SEC, many believe this is the season in which a team from outside of the best conference in America finally wins it all.
Breaking it all down, here are your best bets to knock off and dethrone whoever ends up winning the gauntlet of the SEC.
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Everybody's favorite to represent the non-SEC teams in the BCS title would be these USC Trojans.
Led by Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee (don't forget Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal), many forget about a talented defense in the back seven that is arguably just as fast as any out there outside of SEC country.
They have the perfect schedule to compete for a BCS title, due to the possibility of playing the Oregon Ducks twice.
A 12-1 Trojans squad could perhaps still appear to play in Miami Gardens, but there really is not another squad on the slate that should threaten them outside of a Thursday night trip to Salt Lake City.
An undefeated USC would likely be first or second, depending on whether the SEC champions are undefeated, but clearly this is a team to be reckoned with due to all of their superstar talent on the offensive side of the ball.
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The Seminoles enter the 2012 season with another year full of hype and many are not biting this time around (Sports Illustrated has them outside the top 10).
However, this truly is the first time in quite a while where the folks in Tallahassee can say they have the stars aligned up front on defense.
There are studs loaded everywhere on the defensive side of the ball, and there truly are no weak links—albeit Greg Reid's dismissal will test their depth (this hurts more on special teams).
Throw in a schedule that is finally perfect (no Oklahoma, West Virginia backed out) and perhaps this is the season where E.J. Manuel finally puts it all together offensively.
The key is for him to remain healthy, since they do not have a superstar running back, but the depth is there as they have a ton of speed running behind a young offensive line.
Jimbo Fisher has the pieces in place and while taking on the Hokies twice won't be easy, only Clemson and Florida posses the talent to move the ball against one of the most dominant defenses in the country.
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The Texas defense should rank as one of the best in the country, thanks to their ability to harass the passer and blanket opposing receivers as well.
Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor rank among the elite pass-rushing duos in the country, and they have some beef up front to help them go bonkers in the Big 12.
Ashton Dorsey is just one of the many stud linemen Texas has, but the secondary really should propel the Longhorns to a BCS bid.
The defensive back who has caught everybody’s attention is Quandre Diggs, and yours truly expects him to break out with an All-American safety by his side (Kenny Vaccaro).
The Longhorns can perhaps only go as far as David Ash (hamstring) takes them. He must avoid the critical mistakes that often hurt the team last season, but the overall talent is much scarier than last year's.
One of the bigger issues was the inability to score points (55th, 28.08 PPG), and an improved running game (Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron) should really take this team far.
Note: Both Oklahoma and West Virginia deservedly are ranked ahead of the Longhorns in the Coaches Poll, so throw them in here as well.
Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE
Michigan State is a team on the verge of breaking through in the BCS, as they have come extremely close the last two seasons.
It is now or never for Sparty, but they have all the tools on defense to lock down on even the best of offenses in the country.
On paper they are simply loaded, with four Bednarik defenders that any program would be pumped to have line up on Saturdays.
William Gholston, Denicos Allen, Max Bullough and Isaiah Lewis are just a few of the defenders who are all that and then some in East Lansing.
Get a good, clean look at Pat Narduzzi’s defense, because it's as stout as it gets. I didn’t even mention Marcus Rush at defensive end or Johnny Adams at corner; the names and talents are simply endless.
Mark Dantonio has completely turned this once-bottom feeding program in the Big Ten into BCS bid contenders.
The Spartans are still looking for that first-ever BCS bowl and this season will likely be it, with a horse of a running back in Le’Veon Bell, among many future household names.
Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE
The SEC is dominant at the line of scrimmage, and the Badgers have been able to control the line of scrimmage for years.
Throw in the most productive running back in the country and Wisconsin will once again be challenging for both a Big Ten title and an appearance in the BCS.
Throw in two SEC-caliber linebackers in Chris Borland and Mike Taylor and all of a sudden this vaunted defense from a season ago should rank among the better ones in the conference.
They need major production from whoever gets the starting gig at quarterback (Danny O'Brien or Curt Phillips) but their offensive line and backfield could make any average Joe look like a stud.
Clearly, two losses will exclude them from the BCS title and they may even have to run the table. However, Bret Bielema has been magnificent in Madison thus far, posting 31 wins in the last three seasons.
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The Michigan Wolverines are ranked eighth in the Coaches Poll and they have Alabama in the season opener, so the opportunity is to break through even more than they did last season.
Greg Mattison and Al Borges were quite the tandem of assistant coaches for Brady Hoke, but the 2012 slate is brutal.
The Maize and Blue are losing all of their top linemen on both sides of the ball, outside of potential Outland Trophy contender Taylor Lewan.
Depending on how long the suspension for running back Fitzgerald Toussaint is, Michigan has one of the better backfields, with Denard Robinson running wild as well.
Alabama and Notre Dame in the non-conference won't be fun, but road trips to Nebraska and Ohio State equals the toughest schedule in the Big Ten.
Throw in Iowa, Michigan State and perhaps a tilt with Wisconsin in the Big Ten title, and it may be tough just to reach any sort of BCS bowl (let alone Big Ten title).
While a letdown could be the future of this squad, the future remains bright with the talent only getting better in time.
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Certainly they may have their issues to deal with during the season thanks to Will Lyles drawing the attention of the NCAA, but one cannot deny the talent the Ducks possess.
De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner are two speed demons that any NFL defense would not enjoy tracking down, but will they be able to knock off the Trojans to potentially get a crack at the SEC?
Everybody is talking about the Ducks' offense, but they have one of the better defenses in the country heading into the season under Nick Aliotti.
Chip Kelly has taken his Ducks to three straight BCS bowls and they have already appeared in one BCS bowl.
With rumors swirling around as to whether or not Kelly eventually heads off to the NFL and whether or not the NCAA infraction committee does anything down the road, Oregon has the potential to be the first team to dethrone the SEC in the BCS National Championship.