College Football 2011: 7 Non-SEC Teams Capable of Breaking South's BCS Strangle
The SEC has dominated the BCS Championship as of late, winning the last five contests and seven total since the game originated in 1998. And since success in college football is based off of championships, is generally considered the top conference in the sport.
However, a number of teams around the country may have what it takes to dethrone the SEC this season.
The SEC still has a number of solid teams, including Alabama and LSU, but the Big 12, Pac-10, and Big Ten should have plenty of talent as well.
Dethroning the SEC will be a daunting task, but here are the seven teams who have the best shot at accomplishing the feat.
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After an off year in 2009, Oklahoma returned to its usual form in 2010, winning the Big 12 and advancing to the Fiesta Bowl. The Sooners even broke through in the postseason, claiming a win over Connecticut.
This year, with nine offensive starters returning, including quarterback Landry Jones, Oklahoma should be lights out on that side of the ball. The passing game will be among the best in the nation and the veteran offensive line will give Jones plenty of time to throw.
The defense should also be stellar—a rarity these days in the Big 12—with eight starters returning, including three on the defensive line.
With a manageable schedule as well, everything sets up nicely for a Sooners run to New Orleans and a chance to grab that elusive BCS Championship for the Big 12.
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Although head coach Jim Harbaugh bolted to the NFL after last year's Orange Bowl victory, Stanford's National Championship hopes for 2012 were revived when star quarterback Andrew Luck announced that he would be returning for his senior year.
Along with the possibility of playing for a national title, Luck will be a top Heisman candidate and has the chance to take the Cardinal offense to new heights.
Only 11 total starters return for Stanford, but luckily the defensive backfield remains intact after that unit was below par last year.
The schedule also sets up well for the Cardinal, who get Oregon and Notre Dame at home this season.
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After reaching the first BCS Championship in program history last season, this year's Ducks have the chance to do even more.
The bulk of the offense returns, as quarterback Darron Thomas comes back to lead the lightning-fast Oregon attack along with running back LaMichael James, who should be a Heisman frontrunner.
The defense needs work, as only five starters return from a below average unit last season. However, if the offense is as good as it was last year, the defense won't need to do very much work.
The schedule could be a bit tricky, as the Ducks visit Stanford and Arizona, but this explosive team definitely has what it takes to return to the BCS Championship in 2012.
Ohio State Buckeyes
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Yes, Jim Tressel lied to the NCAA and yes, OSU will be without its star players for the first five games next season.
However, this is still Ohio State football. Let's take a closer look.
The first two games are against Akron and Toledo. The Buckeyes' scout team could win those games. Next is a date against rebuilding Miami, which could be challenging, but won't be impossible to win. Next is a probable win against ailing Colorado, and last is a home date against Michigan State, which could be tricky.
If the Buckeyes can get through those first five games without their stars, then Terrelle Pryor and company should be able to take over in the second half of the season.
Teams facing adversity always find a way to become champions (see Auburn, Cam Newton), and expect the Buckeyes to step up in the face of adversity come next fall.
Boise State Broncos
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Last year was supposed to be Boise State's year to break through and earn a BCS Championship bid. The Broncos ended up losing to Nevada and playing in the Las Vegas Bowl, even though they likely wouldn't have earned a bid if they had gone undefeated.
While a non-BCS team didn't earn a BCS Championship bid, TCU helped blaze the path even further, beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
TCU will be rebuilding next year so Boise State should be the leader out of the non-BCS schools. Whether the Broncos deserve a BCS bid is still up for debate, but if there is only one undefeated BCS school next year, expect Boise to finally gain that elusive BCS Championship bid.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
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Like their intrastate rivals, Oklahoma State has a number of star players returning, which could help propel the Cowboys into the BCS Championship conversation.
The offense returns 10 starters, including quarterback Brandon Weedon and star wide received Justin Blackmon, who will be on many Heisman short lists this fall.
The defense returns only six starters and needs work if the Cowboys want to be serious contenders, but the offense should be able to carry this team most of the way.
The schedule also sets up nicely, as Arizona and Oklahoma must visit Stillwater. The Bedlam game at the end of the year could decide a representative in the BCS Championship.
Texas A&M Aggies
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With 18 starters returning, the Aggies have a serious chance to win the Big 12 and book a trip to New Orleans this season.
The offense remains almost entirely intact, as running back Cyrus Gray returns, along with star wide receiver Jeff Fuller. Expect quarterback Ryan Tannehill to have a big year, thanks to a veteran receiving corps and solid offensive line.
The defense should be one of the better units in the typically defenseless Big 12, as eight starters return on that side of the ball, including cornerback Coryell Judie. Losing star linebacker Von Miller will certainly hurt, but expect the Aggies to have one of the top defensive units in the league.
The schedule sets up alright, as Texas and Oklahoma State both must travel to College Station. However, the game in Norman against Oklahoma might be the game that decides Texas A&M's BCS destiny.