Alabama’s coming into the season at number one and Florida at number three, so you’d think that one of them would take the national title.
But given the strength of the SEC, the subtle (and sometimes glaring) weaknesses of the Gators and Crimson Tide, and the media hoopla, amongst other championship distractions, neither one of these college powerhouses is even going to win the SEC title this year.
It's easy to make fun of Tim Tebow, but his specialized play and leadership for the Gator team carried them last year, and they just got to a bowl game against Cincinnati. When you lose somebody who's not only a good player, but who's willing to cry for his team, it hurts.
Expect John Brantley to have a hard time stepping it up to not only win over the other teams, but to win over Gator Nation. Like Tebow in the NFL, Brantley is a fish out of water.
Alabama coming in ranked number one is the worst thing for veritable kids who are inclined to have problems with cockiness. Guys fail the most when they’re being told by each other how awesome they are, and when the media’s also in on the back patting, it’s a mutual admiration society on steroids... figuratively, of course.
If this was the NFL, a coach's chest pain probably wouldn’t affect the whole team. But in college where coaching enthusiasm matters more, this can be a big problem, especially when your personality is as powerful as Meyer’s.
Let’s face it, most of these kids don’t have a stable relationship with their father, so when Meyer gets sick, it becomes a family problem.
When you put one crab in a bucket, he can climb out without a problem. When you put two crabs in a bucket, however, neither of them get out because they're too worried about climbing over the other one, and by doing so, they both keep themselves down.
The SEC is the bucket, and Florida and Alabama are both crabs. They face each other early on, and even though one of them will win, it will be too exhausting too early in the season, especially when one of those teams wants revenge.
Alabama has to face an improved LSU team in Baton Rouge, whose fans sometimes care more than the players, and when the fans have nothing to lose, it gets scary. Plus, they still haven’t gotten over that 2008 loss to Alabama, an unhappy memory that they will let be known throughout the game, much to the chagrin of Saban.
The SEC is littered with so many good teams that it’s easy to forget about the Rebels. They went 9-4 last year and are returning 17 starters. And on top of this, everybody’s telling them they can’t win or are ignoring them outright. If they’re not as good as Florida or Alabama, they can easily make up for it with the chip on their shoulder.
Tuscaloosa is being graced once again by Mark Ingram, but they’re losing practically their entire defense, which is arguably what got them the title last year.
Nick Saban recruited talented refills, but these are just kids. It will take at least a season or two to get them the experience they need to play at a national championship level once again.
The Crimson Tide play Penn State early on and then play a jacked Arkansas team who knows they can win, followed by a Florida team that wants revenge. I need an ice bath just thinking about these early season meat grinders.
Let's remember that Bama can't dominate the SEC like Texas can dominate the Big 12. There’s a reason the SEC hasn’t seen a back-to-back champion in more than a decade.
Alabama’s quarterback is coming back with his star running back to take off some of the heat, but nearly every other defense in the SEC is decidedly better this year than last. So I’ll be surprised if we’ll be able to count the number of his interceptions on only one hand again.
Plus, since Alabama’s defense won’t be as supportive, expect the pressure to be on with mistakes aplenty.
Finally, let’s remember that this is football in the South, and even if you’re not from the South you know how much they care about football because we have all seen Varsity Blues. An SEC team could hit a peak year and play well and still not get an SEC title.
Auburn, Arkansas, and LSU all have abundant rosters, charismatic coaches—the type that can only be sustained by southern enthusiasm—and most importantly, they have the same love for football that Florida and Alabama have that you just can’t get anywhere else in the country.