If you were a 5-star general in a galaxy far, far away and had your pick of stormtroopers to take on the Death Star, who would you select? Before you start naming all the characters in the bar scene in Star Wars...stop.
We're talking about college football here.
The Death Star, of course, is college football's Southeastern Conference. Its dominance is breathtaking, its superiority seven years and counting. But for the other five BCS conferences, it's getting old.
Back to our original premise: If you could rustle up some coaches to take on the SEC—and of course, you can't have any current SEC coaches on your staff—who would you pick to take on the best of the SEC?
Go ahead and marinate on this a little, but while you do, we selected some outstanding coaches who might just be the perfect team of warriors to take on the SEC and beat it at its own game.
UCLA line coach Adrian Klemm isn't just an outstanding coach, he's a helluva recruiter as well—Klemm was named Recruiter of the Year by 247 Sports.
In his first year as UCLA's offensive line coach/running game coordinator, new rushing records were set by running back Johnathan Franklin. More from his official UCLA bio:
New school rushing records were established for most rushing yards by a back in a season, most rushing yards by a back in a career, most all-purpose yards in a season, most all-purpose yards in a career and most 100-yard rushing games in a season during the 2012 campaign.
Sophomore offensive guard Xavier Su'a-Filo earned first-team all-conference honors and All-America acclaim from several publications. In addition, center Jake Brendel was recognized on Freshman All-America teams.
Baylor quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery has made his mark in the quarterback coaching world. Two years ago, Robert Griffin III won the school's first Heisman Trophy.
Last season, college football fans and analysts wondered how Baylor would recover from losing such a special quarterback. Then Nick Florence stepped in, throwing for 4,309 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Florence finished as the Big 12's most productive quarterback and nabbed the No. 3 spot for FBS' most productive quarterbacks last season.
Montgomery has another challenge in replacing Florence this season but remember this name: Bryce Petty.
This was a fairly easy spot to fill as running backs coach Gary Campbell has been at Oregon for 30 years. With all the coaching changes at Oregon, Campbell has been a constant for good reason.
According to Campbell's official school bio, "running backs have rushed for 100 yards or more 51 times over the past five years, a feat the position has produced 104 times since 1997." More:
Oregon’s unprecedented success as it led the conference in rushing each of the last six years. Furthermore, it has finished the year ranked among the top six in the country in rushing every year since 2007 while setting school single-season records three times in the last four years.
While Chip Kelly got a lot of credit for his spread offense, Oregon's success at the running back position was well in place before Kelly arrived in 2009, and that's due to Campbell's expertise and mentoring.
Tee Martin was our first choice, and lo and behold, he wasn't coaching at an SEC school despite his ties to the conference—Martin played quarterback at Tennessee (class of 2000) and was Kentucky's wide receivers coach (2010-11).
Martin was reportedly rumored to have been approached by an SEC school (Tennessee) in 2011 for a coaching gig, but that turned out to be not true. The following year (2012) he was approached by Tennessee, but he declined to leave USC.
Martin coached receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods to record-setting seasons in his first year (2012) as receivers coach at USC.
This was a tough decision—do we go with Jim Jeffcoat at San Jose State or Randy Hart at Stanford? We went with the latter, but it was close.
Stanford's defense held Oregon to under 200 yards rushing in its 17-14 victory over the Ducks last season.
Stanford also held one of the country's most productive rushers, UCLA's Johnathan Franklin, to just 65 yards in Stanford's final regular-season game last year. It carried that confidence into the 2013 Rose Bowl Game, where it held Wisconsin running back Montee Ball to 100 rushing yards, well below his season average of over 130 yards per game.
Some of our top choices for linebackers coach have left for other schools in the SEC, but one coach who stood out was Bob Diaco, the Fighting Irish's defensive coordinator/linebackers coach.
Diaco was the recipient of the 2012 Broyles Award, given to the top assistant in college football. Although the defense's star linebacker, Manti Te'o, had a less-than-spectacular outing against Alabama in the BCS Championship, his Notre Dame career was outstanding. Te'o finished the 2012 season as a Heisman finalist.
Notre Dame's linebackers were stout against the run, particularly against Stanford and USC in two memorable goal-line stands.
Diaco should be one of the top names to appear in head coaching searches after the 2013 season wraps up.
Except for that one game against South Carolina, Michigan's secondary held every opponent's pass offense to under 200 yards last season. That's pretty impressive.
The Wolverines' pass defense was ranked No. 5 last season and despite their loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide, Michigan did hold Alabama to below its average of 218 passing yards per game.
Mallory has been consistent in the two years he's been in Ann Arbor. After Mallory's hiring, Michigan improved from a nationally ranked No. 112 in pass defense to No. 16 in 2011. More from his official bio:
In 2011, Mallory's unit surrendered only 190.5 passing yards per game, fifth-best in the Big Ten and 16th in the nation. Michigan's defense allowed just 17.4 points per game, which ranked second in the Big Ten and sixth in the nation in scoring defense, and it allowed only 12 touchdown passes.
Yes, Virginia Tech has always had a great special teams unit, but technically, there is no special teams coordinator—head coach Frank Beamer coaches that unit.
Kansas State, on the other hand, has had an outstanding special teams coordinator for the last 18 years in Sean Snyder, and the unit's 2012 season was no exception. More from Football Scoop:
Over half of KSU's punt returns (six) have gone for more than 30 yards, including one touchdown. Snyder's unit ranks among the FBS's top 10 in field goal kicking at 18-of-21 on the season.
At 56-for-56 on the season, Kansas State has the most successful PAT attempts without a miss in college football. The Wildcats have punted 36 times and have surrendered just 15 yards on four punt returns for the entire season, tied for the fifth-fewest total yards in college football.
Kliff Kingsbury was the offensive coordinator for Texas A&M last season, mentoring Heisman-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel.
The Aggies' offense finished the 2012 season with a No. 3 national ranking in total offense—first in the SEC—and beat eventual BCS champion Alabama, 29-24.
Kingsbury was lured out of the SEC to be the head coach at Texas Tech after Tommy Tuberville left for Cincinnati. Since Kingsbury is no longer coaching in the SEC, he's our No. 1 choice for offensive coordinator. True, he's now a head coach, but if we could pick anyone to run our offense, it's the guy who gave us one of the most exciting offenses to watch last season as well as the only team to beat Alabama in the 2012 season.
Kirby Smart (Alabama) and Mark Stoops (Kentucky) were among our first choices, but since they are both coaching at SEC schools, they're off-limits for us.
Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is our choice for defensive coordinator.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer
This was a tough call because our top three—Urban Meyer (Ohio State), David Shaw (Stanford) and Chris Petersen (Boise State)—each had his own attributes that made him worthy of our head coaching choice.
In the end, Meyer won out for several reasons, but the biggest one was hard to ignore: Meyer can beat SEC teams. Meyer's Gators won two SEC Championships and two BCS Championships. Heck, his Buckeyes won the Leaders division last season but due to NCAA sanctions, couldn't play for the Big Ten Championship.
Meyer isn't perfect (over 30 Gators were arrested during his tenure in Gainesville), but he's a proven winner.