Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Early College Football Reaction- Teams that Proved they're Legit Contenders

by John Huffstetler

After two weeks of College Football season, many teams have stood out for both positive and negative reasons. Other teams have yet to even really start their season (see Florida St.'s wins over Murray St. and Savannah St.), and those teams will be ignored in this article. We will instead focus on teams that have played legit teams in either or both of their first two games and see what we've learned. And anyone who objects to the SEC dominance on this list, I have two things to say: 1) SEC teams have won the last 7 titles and 2) Not many other conferences have played anyone yet!!

Teams that have Proven to be Legit Contenders

Alabama- This isn't exactly a revelation, but the Crimson Tide just looked way more physical up front than Michigan in their 41-14 season opening win. All the questions regarding the big name defensive starters they lost to the NFL were answered in that win. There is clearly still talent there, but it is still yet to be seen how the Tide's defense will hold up against a formidable downfield passing attack. A healthy Tyler Wilson and his Arkansas squad could test their pass defense, but Wilson is questionable to play this Saturday after their disastrous loss to ULM following his injury. Without a healthy Wilson, Alabama will be 5-0 on October 13th entering back-to-back road trips to Missouri and Tennessee.

Clemson- Their opening week victory over Auburn was the best game of the young season so far. They managed to survive their test against Auburn without stud WR Sammy Watkins (who returns from suspension next week), and looked terrific in the process. The defense is definitely improved under former Oklahoma DC Brent Venables, and the offense is loaded with highlight-reel players (see any of Andre Ellington's runs this season). Additionally, the schedule is not that daunting with only four difficult games remaining (at Florida St., home against GaTech, VaTech, and SC). If they get through Florida St in two weeks (and I consider them the favorite to win that game), they will need just a few home wins to reach the ACC Championship game undefeated.

Georgia/Florida/ South Carolina- Each of the big three teams in the SEC east (no offense to a strong but outmatched Tennessee team) showed up with huge road wins in dangerous spots in the first two weeks. South Carolina had every excuse to fold in week one at Vandy and walk out with a loss after starting QB Conner Shaw injured his shoulder, but the defense stepped up and played a fantastic second half to secure the victory. Dylan Thompson then took over at QB the next week and looked like a superstar against ECU. Ditto for Florida after trailing at Texas A+M on the road only to show up after halftime and shut down the A+M attack. The offense is questionable, but the defense looks outstanding at times. Despite all the suspensions, Georgia rebounded from a halftime deficit at Missouri by winning the turnover battle and giving Aaron Murray time to pick apart the Tiger defense.

The problem with these three teams is that they all must face each other and only one team can potentially emerge. Which one? Here is the Math: Times each team plays either LSU or Alabama in the regular season- Florida 1, South Carolina 1, Georgia 0. Georgia has by far the easiest schedule, and unfortunately in the current system, an easy schedule plays a large role in who can make a run at the title. Georgia benefitted last year from avoiding both LSU and Alabama in the regular season and advanced to the title game despite a home loss to South Carolina. Georgia only has two tough road tests left (at South Carolina and Auburn) and a neutral site tilt against Florida. They have a great shot at the SEC championship and the national title game.

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