SEC Teams Guaranteed to Finish 2012 in the Top 25
It is no secret the SEC has been the most dominant conference in all of college football. It has produced boatloads of NFL talent, has won the last six BCS National Championships and currently has six teams in the AP Poll, two of which are the top two teams.
Even some of the SEC teams that aren't ranked have a great chance to sniff the polls sometime throughout the year. Yes, even the struggling squads in this conference appear to have more talent than many of the other teams across the country.
With three weeks down, and everybody developing a good idea of where each team stacks up, here are five SEC programs that are guaranteed to finish the 2012 season as a ranked team.
What? Who? How? Huh?
We all know how Arkansas has started the year, but are those really the Razorbacks? After all, this is the same exact team on paper that many of you had contending for an SEC crown.
Sure, we can flush those dreams down the toilet, but finishing the season as a ranked team is still extremely possible for all of those fans down in Fayetteville.
Arkansas still has one of the more talented quarterbacks in the country in Tyler Wilson, and to be fair, he was injured in the two losses his team suffered. He gave a Tim Tebow-like speech after the loss to Alabama and seems to be ready to roll next week.
But the real reason Arkansas will be ranked is because this team does not play a ranked team until the middle of November. This gives them a chance to find themselves, earn a few cheap victories and become the competitive team we all thought they would be during the offseason.
Don't give up on the Razorbacks just yet.
I had no idea what to expect from this Florida Gator team heading into the season, as we knew the defense was great, but the offense could not produce points consistently.
Now that running back Mike Gillislee has stepped up in a big way, Florida is averaging over 400 yards of offense.
The defense could certainly be better, as the secondary is allowing over 220 yards in the air, but this is an experienced bunch that returned 10 starters from a year ago.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel still has a ways to go, but he seems to be gaining confidence as the weeks go by, completing 71 percent of his passes and having yet to throw an interception.
The Gators seem to be one of those teams that will continue to get better as the season carries on. And now those games against LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida State don't look as daunting as they once did.
I was a little iffy on putting South Carolina on this list. Yes, I know they are a top 10 team right now, but a three game stretch that includes Georgia, LSU and Florida is enough to knock a team out of the rankings quickly if you're not careful.
Still, the Gamecocks seem to have the formula to win games in this conference. They are tied with Texas A&M for 12 sacks on the season, have forced seven turnovers in just three games and have a proven running back in Marcus Lattimore.
This squad is good enough to win at least one of those games against top-notch competition to keep themselves in the rankings.
The consistent injuries to quarterback Connor Shaw have to be concerning, but this defense is great enough to keep the Gamecocks in every game the rest of the way.
Head coach Steve Spurrier is going to keep this program relevant in 2012.
There are no guarantees in sports, but Georgia will without question be a ranked team when the season is over. The schedule is way too soft for this team not to be ranked when it is all said and done.
If the rankings hold up for the most part, the Bulldogs will only play two ranked teams the entire year. The rest of the schedule consists of teams such as Ole Miss, Georgia Southern, a defenseless team in Auburn, and Kentucky.
Let's also not forget that this team has some of the most talented players in the country such as quarterback Aaron Murray, linebacker Jarvis Jones, and freshman star running back Todd Gurley.
This is why many had Georgia reaching the SEC Championship for the second season in a row.
Really the only concern with this LSU team is the lack of a passing game. But hasn't that always been one of the main issues with the team under head coach Les Miles?
The Tigers defense is still the best in the SEC, as they have two of the best defensive ends in the country in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. The running game is also the best in the conference, averaging over 260 yards on the ground.
This formula sounds extremely familiar.
As for the schedule, LSU will play three of the remaining four ranked teams in Death Valley. Les Miles club could suffer a hiccup or two, but this team is not falling out of the rankings at all in 2012.
Alabama is currently the overwhelming favorite in both polls. It would take an Arkansas-like disaster for this team to fall out of the rankings at this point.
The defense that was supposed to take a step backwards due to losing so much talent has actually gotten better. They are tied for the best in the country with 12 forced turnovers and are allowing just 57 yards on the ground.
The running game is still effective and quarterback A.J. McCarron actually has some jumping on the Heisman bandwagon.
As for the schedule, really the only team that may give Alabama problems is LSU early in November. If Nick Saban and company are able to pass that test in Death Valley, there is a great chance this club will go undefeated and win its third championship in four years.