Blueprint for How an SEC East Team Can Win the National Title

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterOctober 9, 2012

We may be in the midst of a power shift within the SEC.

Florida's second-half comeback over LSU last weekend and South Carolina's domination of previously No. 5 Georgia have launched both programs into the legitimate national title discussion.

But just how realistic is it?

The Gators and Gamecocks have had varying degrees of success over the last few years, but these particular players—for the most part—haven't succeeded on the game's biggest stage yet.

That's the very thing that makes Alabama so dangerous. The Crimson Tide has been there before, while Florida and South Carolina have not.

That doesn't mean they can't achieve college football's ultimate success, though. They just need to take some big steps along the way.


Don't Get Blinded by the Moment

Both of these teams passed this test with flying colors last weekend, but the spotlight is only going to get brighter as the season progresses.

South Carolina seemed to embrace the big stage on Saturday in the 35-7 win over Georgia. With the nation watching and ESPN's College GameDay in the house, the Gamecocks shut down Georgia's previously potent offense, and quarterback Connor Shaw led them to victory.

Florida's win doesn't look as impressive on paper, but once the Gators took a 7-6 lead on LSU with 5:15 to go in the third quarter, the Gators didn't attempt a single pass for the rest of the game.

Not one.

They went toe to toe with the fast, physical LSU defense and simply overwhelmed it.

But those games pale in comparison to what's in store down the road, if the two teams stay in the title discussion even after their meeting on Oct. 20.

Playing big games goes hand in hand with playing in the SEC, but when the glare from the crystal football gets brighter, teams have to be prepared.


Play Your Brand of Defense

If we've learned anything about South Carolina and Florida this season, it's that the two teams win with defense.

Defense wins championships.

These two teams have the kind of front sevens that can give the talented Alabama offensive line fits, and Alabama will likely be the biggest obstacle standing in the way between either of these two teams and a national championship bid.

These two teams dictate the tempo of games with their defenses, and that has to continue if either is going to win the BCS National Championship.


Don't Take Anything or Anyone for Granted

Now that the SEC is back to a point where two of its primary competitors are being mentioned in the discussion for the crystal football, those two teams have to start acting like it.

It's easy to get excited for a game against a top-five team, but it's entirely different for a team to keep that same level of excitement for games against Missouri or Arkansas.

That's easier said than done, as Florida State proved last week on the road at N.C. State.

This coincides with not being blinded by the moment. Great teams take advantage of the times when the spotlight isn't so bright to get better.


Work on the Specific Areas That Are Holding You Back

Both of these teams are on the doorstep from going from "good" to "great," but before they take that step, some key areas have to be addressed.

For South Carolina, they have to find a downfield threat in the passing game. Bruce Ellington is the only Gamecocks receiver in the top 30 in the SEC in average yards per reception, with 17.46.

He'd obviously be the first choice, but Ellington only has 13 catches on the year. When the opportunity to get better emerges, use it to find a legit deep threat, because you never know when you'll need it.

For Florida, the passing game in general needs some serious work. Jeff Driskel has proven to be the answer at quarterback for the Gators, but he hasn't been asked to go win football games with his arm yet.

The Gators rank last in the SEC in passing offense with 158.6 yards per game—14 yards per game fewer than 13th place Auburn, which is widely regarded to have one of the worst passing offenses in the country.

Don't settle for being in the top five. Aim for the No. 1 ranking. Focusing on areas of improvement is the way to do that.




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