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2013's Biggest Threats to Dethroning the SEC's BCS Championship Reign

Trey HunterContributor IIIJanuary 16, 2013

2013's Biggest Threats to Dethroning the SEC's BCS Championship Reign

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    The SEC has produced the last seven BCS national champions and there won't be many threats to dethroning the conference in 2013.

    Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Florida have chewed up and spit out teams from the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and even an Independent during their championship reign. They've taken down Notre Dame, Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma and Ohio State (twice).  

    Can any team compete with the level of play in the SEC or is there a team outside the conference that can steal The Coaches' Trophy away from Alabama, who's won three of the last four titles? 

    It can be done, but the chances of it actually happening are thin to none. And it's actually leaning more towards the none-side of the argument.

    So who's it going to be? Who's going to get their shot in 2013? Will Notre Dame get another chance at the title next year or will another team from one of the AQ conferences get a shot at knocking off the SEC?

    The answers to these questions are still up in the air, but here are the biggest threats to dethroning the SEC's BCS championship reign in 2013.  

Ohio State

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    The Ohio State Buckeyes went 12-0 in Urban Meyer's first season in Columbus and will likely enter 2013 as the favorite to win the Big Ten. 

    Can the Buckeyes contend for a championship and get their third shot in seven years at taking down the SEC? Athlon Sports has them no. 2 in their early polls, but according to ESPN Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett, Meyer himself thinks right now, there are too many holes to fill.

    The Buckeyes at least have a talented quarterback returning to campus. Braxton Miller returns after compiling 3,310 total yards and 28 total touchdowns in 2012 and CBS Blogger, Chris Huston has him as an early Heisman frontrunner for 2013.

    The Buckeyes return four offensive line starters and two running backs as well, so their offense is set. However, the defense took a hit. 

    Although they return their leading tackler, Ryan Shazier, they lost two key defensive linemen Johnathan Hawkins and John Simon. Big Ten defenses aren't what they used to be, and Alabama proved against Notre Dame that there's nothing like the defenses in the SEC. In order to dethrone the champs, Ohio State must fill a few holes on that side of the ball. 

    If they went 12-0 once, they can do it again. Their schedule is weak with nonconference games against Buffalo, San Diego State, California and Florida A&M to start the season. Plus the Big Ten featured just four teams in the final AP Poll.

    It's hard to see Ohio State going 25-0 in Meyer's first two seasons, but they should be one of the favorites to dethrone the SEC in 2013.    

Stanford

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    The Stanford Cardinal defeated Wisconsin 27-24 in the 2013 Rose Bowl to claim their second BCS bowl win in three seasons.

    After their Rose Bowl victory, ESPN's Kevin Gemmell listed Stanford, proving their staying power in the Pac-12 as one of the best conference moments in 2012.

    Since winning two of three BCS games, they’ve proven their staying power as title contenders as well.

    Stanford lost seven offensive starters from their final depth chart including Zach Ertz and Stepfan Taylor, two of their best playmakers in 2012. However, they return quarterback Kevin Hogan, four offensive line starters and a plethora of young backs including highly touted redshirt freshman Barry Sanders, Jr.  

    Defense was Stanford's strong suit in 2012. They gave up just 17.2 points per game with third team All-Americans Trent Murphy and Ed Reynolds. Both Reynolds and Murphy return to lead a group with eight returning starters including every starter from the defensive line.

    The Cardinal enters the offseason ranked No. 6 in Athlon Sports' early 2013 preseason polls. Their schedule is fairly tough with road games at Oregon State and USC and home games against Arizona State, Oregon and Notre Dame. Not to mention the Pac-12 Championship. 

    Can the Cardinal run the table or finish with one loss and earn a right in the BCS Championship Game? It's possible. With Chip Kelly taking the Philadelphia Eagles job according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen and the Associated Press, the Pac-12 becomes Stanford's for the taking.

    Now, can they take down an SEC team for the title? It remains to be seen. But with their balance of offense and defense, the Cardinal should contend for a chance to dethrone the SEC.    

Notre Dame

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    The Irish capped off a perfect regular season with a 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game. But, with a bright coaching staff and enough returning talent, they should contend for the title again in 2013. 

    Notre Dame enters the offseason ranked No. 7 on Athlon Sports' early poll for 2013. They lost key players including Heisman finalist Manti Te'o, running backs Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood and tight end Tyler Eifert.

    Although the Irish lost their running back tandem and the best tight end in school history, they should be fine on offense. They return two key receivers, three offensive linemen and quarterback Everett Golson.

    The Irish defense will likely be one of the best in the country even with the loss of Te'o. They return eight starters from last year's group including Stephon Tuitt who could be one of the premier defensive ends in the nation next year. They also return nose tackle Louis Nix who finished with two sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in 2012.

    Their schedule isn't cupcake status, but it's not the toughest they've seen in recent years. They have key games at home against Oklahoma, Stanford and Michigan State. Their toughest road test will be at the Big House when they take on Michigan, Sept. 7. 

    Like Ohio State, if Notre Dame went 12-0 last year, they can do it again in 2013. Is it likely? Probably not, but it could happen. ESPN's Matt Fortuna predicts the Irish to make a BCS Bowl, but will lose a few games.

    They may lose a game or two next year, but they enter the season as an early favorite to dethrone the SEC in 2013.  

Clemson

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    The Clemson Tigers proved they can hang with the SEC after defeating LSU 25-24 in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl.

    They also proved they could be BCS Championship Game contenders in 2013.

    Clemson is ranked no. 9 in Athlon Sports' early 2013 preseason poll and ESPN's Heather Dinich predicts the Tigers to win the ACC title with quarterback Tajh Boyd as a Heisman finalist.

    Boyd compiled 4,410 total offensive yards in 2012 with 36 total touchdowns. He leads an offensive unit that returns four offensive line starters and wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

    Clemson's loses four key players on defense including defensive end Malliciah Goodman who finished with 9.5 sacks last season. They gave up 155.9 rushing yards per game in 2012, but with three of four defensive linemen returning and two linebackers, they should improve at stopping the run.

    Brent Venables will have to plug holes in the secondary with the losses of cornerback Xavier Brewer and safety Rashard Hall. If the Tigers want to contend for national title in 2013, Venables' defensive unit must learn and improve on the run.

    The ACC hasn't sent a representative to the BCS Championship Game since Florida State lost to Oklahoma in the 2001 Orange Bowl. Can Clemson be the first ACC team to play for the title in 12 years? They would have to run the table because it's possible a one-loss SEC team has the potential to bounce an undefeated ACC team out of the championship picture.

    Clemson should be the heavy favorite to win their conference and with their offense and Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, they should be one of the few contenders to dethrone the SEC in 2013.  

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