Alabama enters the final month of the season with a one-game lead on Auburn in the SEC West and in the driver's seat to claim back-to-back SEC West titles.
Who could be standing in head coach Nick Saban's way of claiming back-to-back conference titles if he gets back to Atlanta?
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.
Despite trailing Missouri in the SEC East, the Gamecocks have a very good shot at claiming the division title thanks to a bye week before their SEC finale against Florida and the difficult stretch runs facing Missouri and—to a slightly lesser extent—Georgia.
Spurrier versus Saban in Atlanta?
|Stat||Nick Saban||Steve Spurrier|
|Overall Conference Championships||4||7|
|SEC Championship Game Appearances||5||8|
Saban is widely regarded as the top college football coach in the game, and going against Spurrier—a man who held that title in the 1990s and has been chasing another conference title since taking over the Gamecocks in 2005—would make for a riveting matchup.
The Gamecocks are out of the race for the BCS National Championship Game after their loss to Georgia in September and the upset loss to Tennessee in October, but this is a different South Carolina team.
After some early-season struggles, the defense has given up more than 400 total yards once over its last five games (404 in the win over Missouri on Sept. 26), have 66 tackles for losses this season—the third-best mark in the SEC—and have picked off four passes over the last two games.
It seems odd to say that South Carolina's defense is playing well, since one of the primary storylines this season has been the lack of game-changing plays from star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney knows that it's not a one-man show.
"We all depend on each other. Everybody's got an assignment out there to do, regardless of who makes plays or not," Clowney said in quotes released by South Carolina. "I'm not going to make a lot of plays, they might not make a lot of plays, but everybody around the ball gets to the ball and we just stick together."
The improving defense would be interesting to watch go up against Saban's offense.
Despite some early-season struggles, Alabama has given up only 32 tackles for loss this season—the fewest in the SEC—and has rushed for more than 200 yards in four of its last five games.
On the other side of the ball, Alabama's defense hasn't missed a beat, leading the SEC in rush defense (101.88 yards per game) and has only given up three touchdowns to teams not quarterbacked by Johnny Manziel.
Could the Crimson Tide be the team that slows SEC leading rusher Mike Davis? If anybody can do it, Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart can. But Spurrier's been around the block a time or two and would have some tricks up his sleeve for the Crimson Tide if they meet in Atlanta.
Who would win this hypothetical SEC Championship Game?
The SEC Championship Game won't be like the one last season, when Alabama and Georgia went toe-to-toe with a BCS National Championship Game berth on the line for both teams. But while it would lack national ramifications for both teams, it'd make up for in a coaching matchups for the ages.
Saban vs. Spurrier for SEC supremacy would make for the ultimate SEC Championship Game given the current landscape of the conference.
It'd be a matchup of the past and present, with major ramifications for the future of both programs.
An Alabama win would mean that Saban not only built a dynasty, but is succeeding in maintaining it—a much bigger accomplishment. If the Gamecocks get there and spring the upset, it'd be a major step forward for the South Carolina program. No longer would it be on the periphery of the SEC East discussion, it'd be the 800-pound gorilla in the division.
Get your popcorn ready.