Which teams will make it to the BCS title game this January?
Please, people. One of them will be Alabama. Picking a Nick Saban team to contend for a BCS championship is like testing pasta to see if it's done. Throw a noodle at a wall—if it is ready, it sticks.
Throw the Crimson Tide into the Rose Bowl this January. They will be al dente.
But before we crown the Tide champions again, there is one team that no one should be overlooking.
I know, your jaw dropped. You're having laughing fits. Cue the S-E-C chants.
Ohio State has faced SEC teams twice in BCS title games and those forays didn't end well—the Buckeyes went 0-2 against Florida and LSU.
But that was when the Buckeyes were coached by Jim Tressel.
After serving out their one-year NCAA-sanctioned postseason ban, the Buckeyes are now eligible to play in the Big Ten Championship and beyond. And they'll be doing that under head coach Urban Meyer.
Meyer took a Buckeye team that had nothing to play for last season and still marched them to an undefeated record. Yet Ohio State didn't get a lot of respect.
Despite some big surprises, 2012 wasn't a particularly strong season for the Big Ten. The Leaders Division's two best teams, Ohio State and Penn State, were both ineligible for postseason play. But going 12-0 in any conference is a strong statement, especially for a team learning a new offense under a new head coach.
That Meyer took a team that had no bowling opportunities and inspired it to play like a champion is testament to his influence on student athletes. This year he'll have to perform a minor miracle with the defense, as only four starters return. The biggest concern is the defensive line due to the departure of all four starters.
But didn't Saban win the 2012 BCS Championship with only four returning starters? It's never a good idea to compare coaches, but if there is one coach who comes close to Saban's winning mentality, it's Meyer. Like Saban, Meyer has also recruited well. Alabama had the No. 1 class of 2013 followed closely by No. 2 Ohio State.
Urban Meyer could be the head coach who stops the SEC's title streak. This season the SEC won't have home-field advantage. Alabama's last two BCS title game appearances were played in the SEC-friendly confines of New Orleans, La. and Miami Gardens, Fla. The 2013 BCS Championship will be held in Pasadena, Calif. on January 6.
Still, Alabama has left its imprint at the Rose Bowl, beating Texas 37-21 in the 2010 BCS Championship. Ohio State has also fared well there—the Buckeyes beat the Oregon Ducks 26-17 in the 2010 Rose Bowl game, but that also was the old Ohio State.
No more plodding offense. No more holding the punting game in highest esteem.
And, wait for it...no fear of the SEC. More from Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel:
Ryan Shazier grew up in Plantation, Fla., and committed to play at Florida before its coach left. The star linebacker wound up playing for Urban Meyer a bit farther north, but he's reminded constantly of the region he left.
"I hear about it all the time from my cousin -- SEC this, SEC that," said Shazier. "There's one reason I came to Ohio State -- to beat up on the SEC."
Bradley Roby hails from Suwanee, Ga. The All-America cornerback would love to face Alabama so he could talk trash with close friend and Tide linebacker Adrian Hubbard -- and also because it would likely mean Roby's Buckeyes are playing on the final night of the college football season.
"The SEC has won, what, seven [BCS titles] in a row?" said Roby. "What better than for Ohio State to be the team that ends it? That's what we're looking to do this year."
Meyer knows how to beat a Saban-coached team. And nothing would give Meyer greater pleasure than to not only stop Alabama's roll—pun intended—but do it while coaching a Big Ten team.
It would be one for the ages. The ridicule aimed at the Big Ten would cease.
And Urban Meyer, if his Buckeyes play for the title and beat an SEC team, will have completed a trifecta.
End the SEC's seven-year streak. End the S-E-C chants. And begin, perhaps, a new conference domination. No one would like to bet against Nick Saban.
But how many are willing bet against Urban Meyer?