College Football 2011: The One Team Guaranteed to Derail a BCS Championship Bid
There isn't much we can say with certainty in modern college football, but this much is self-evident: It's no longer a BCS National Championship unless the SEC is represented.
The conference has won the past five titles and seven of 12 overall. (USC's 2004 crown has been vacated.)
So the SEC will, in all likelihood, produce half—but only half—of the final puzzle in New Orleans this January.
Because in the 13-year history of the BCS, the national championship game has never pitted members of the same league against each other, and likely won't anytime soon given the proliferation of conference title games.
Yet, the SEC has no fewer than five legitimate threats to hoist the BCS crystal this season: Alabama, LSU and Arkansas out of the West, and Georgia and South Carolina from the East.
What do they share in common?
An opponent from Starkville, Mississippi.
While that schedule almost definitively precludes the Bulldogs from contending themselves, Mississippi State will heavily impact the BCS pecking order.
Head coach Dan Mullen has already proven to be a thorn in the side of SEC hopefuls.
In 2010, the Bulldogs played eventual national champion Auburn to within a field goal in Week 2, driving to the Tigers' 40 yard-line in the final minute.
They stifled No. 22 Florida. (The peanut gallery chimes in, "Who didn't?")
MSU also dragged No. 22 Arkansas into double overtime.
This season, Mullen returns 16 starters and 44 lettermen from a team that posted nine victories and carries the momentum of a 52-14 Gator Bowl romp over Michigan.
The SEC's three highest-rated preseason teams—Alabama, LSU and South Carolina—will all have to travel to Starkville in 2011. Meanwhile, Georgia and Arkansas host the Bulldogs.
A senior-laden program quarterbacked by Chris Relf, Mississippi State is poised to derail multiple SEC and BCS title treks. It's only a matter of which ones and how many.
Getting past MSU won't be the most glamorous resume win, but it could prove to be the key to this season's national championship.
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