If we were to consider what it will take to knock off No. 1 Alabama in their pursuit of a second national title in as many years, we must take into account the implications of a reformed BCS and what it would mean for the Crimson Tide to suffer a loss this season.
Despite a close and rather unimpressive loss to LSU in the regular season a year ago, neither team was impacted enough to keep them from a controversial rematch in the National Championship come January.
This year, with a newly implemented playoff system pitting the top four teams against one another in a single elimination playoff, one loss could be even less impactful, and, for this reason, the end of a reign in Tuscaloosa is going to take a group effort.
While Alabama will likely face stiff competition from the likes of rivals like LSU and other teams in the NCAA such as Oregon, the remainder of their schedule is no easy task and they will have to prove their grit against several upstart teams out to stem the Tide.
Although they are (3-2) on the season, Tennessee has been a thorn in the side of SEC competitors this year. In particular, this past weekend against fifth-ranked Georgia, where the Bulldogs nearly outlasted the Volunteers in a 51-44 shootout.
Despite an (0-2) SEC record, had junior quarterback Tyler Bray not fumbled late in the fourth quarter Saturday, it is possible Tennessee may have been able to complete the improbable upset. While Tennessee held tough throughout, even managing a 20-point second quarter, the Volunteers rarely played with a lead as Georgia rushers Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley each surpassed 100 yards rushing and combined for five scores.
The competition has not been stellar, but Mississippi State currently stands undefeated (at 4-0) after the month of September.
However, while their only SEC competition has been against a weak Auburn team, Miss. St. has allowed more than 10 points only once in their four games, outscoring their opponents 144-53. With games against (1-4) Kentucky, (3-2) Tennessee, and (3-1) Middle Tennessee before heading to Tuscaloosa, the Bulldogs figure to be battle-tested, but could realistically remain undefeated when they meet Alabama at the end of October.
Arguably one of the most exciting teams remaining on Alabama’s schedule is Texas A&M.
Playing in their first season in the SEC, the Aggies have only managed one conference victory against a diminishing Arkansas team, but played well in their season-opener against Florida—now ranked in the top 10—losing by only three points.
Since that time, the Aggies offense has produced 1,092 yards of pass offense and will be going up against a 10th-ranked Alabama defense that has nine interceptions already this season, which is tied for second most according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Behind junior quarterback Connor Shaw, the South Carolina Gamecocks have meticulously built a dominant football team over the past three years.
Having been blown out by Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers in the 2010 SEC Championship, I look for the Gamecocks to return to this game in 2012 where they could end up meeting Alabama. I also expect South Carolina to greatly benefit from the new BCS playoff format, which could result in multiple games between these two teams, much like with LSU a year ago. Already with 440 yards rushing, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore looks poised to eclipse 1000 yards on the season and his explosiveness will be difficult to contain, much like Trent Richardson’s was for Alabama’s opponents a year ago.
Assuming key players remain in the NCAA come 2013, we could see the kind of success from the Gamecocks that Alabama has enjoyed and a matchup between them could be the collision of two titans.
My pick out of the ACC this year is likely Florida State, but to most it seems that general inclination would be to disregard a team from the ACC with the potential of a National Championship featuring Alabama from the SEC and Oregon out of the Pac-12.
While it would certainly stand to reason that the production from Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas would be enough to blow out opponents, Oregon’s total offensive production is nearly the same as that of Florida State—2,753 total yards versus 2,722—respectively. Although the Seminole defense has struggled in the past two weeks against No. 9 Clemson and unranked USF, FSU has still posted two shut outs through the first three weeks of the season, including one against ACC opponent Wake Forest.
The schedule picks up for Florida State as we get into the Fall, but with the resilience FSU showed against Skip Holtz’ USF Bulls on Saturday paired with the gradual decline of LSU out of the top five, it seems as though the Seminoles will have a legitimate opportunity to earn their way into postseason play and potentially earn a chance to dethrone Alabama.