The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is the strongest in college football. But, what are the powerhouses within the SEC itself and how do those schools stack up against one another. Let's take a look at the top five programs within the SEC conference:
Alabama football is both the old school grand dame of the conference and its strongest program today. Alabama earned its fame as a football factory under Hall of Fame coach Bear Bryant in the 1960s. Starting in 2007, Nick Saban rebuilt Alabama football into a 21st century behemoth. Saban's teams are built around a ferocious, morphing defense that confounds opposing offenses. The Crimson Tide won the BCS title in 2009, the BCS Sugar Bowl in 2010, and they are in contention for another BCS National Championship this year.
Under Urban Meyer from 2004-2008, Florida became the best football school in both the SEC and the nation. Meyer brought phenom quarterback Tim Tebow in to lead his offense in 2007 and the results were impressive. The Gators won two national titles in 2006 and 2008 and were the nation's most prolific offense during that period. They also had a tenacious, fast, and opportunistic defense that took forced mistakes and took advantage of them. In 2009, Florida regressed because many of their best players, including Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, and Brandon Spikes, left for the NFL. Though Meyer has since retired, his successor Will Muschamp pulled in an exceptional 2010 recruiting class and Florida looks set to contend for the BCS title for years to come.
The LSU Tigers are the third head of the SEC's fearsome threesome. Alliteration aside, the Tigers are one of the nation's best programs. For them to be ranked third overall in the SEC says more about the conference's incredible depth than LSU's own failings.
The Tigers have a fertile recruiting ground, an exceptional coach in Les Miles, and a devoted fan base. LSU last won a title in 2006 but they have not fallen off much since then. From 2007-the present the Tigers have averaged 10 wins per season and Miles' 2010 team went 11-2 and won the Cotton Bowl. As of week 5, LSU is ranked first overall in the ranking polls and they could return to the BCS National Title game this season.
The Auburn Tigers are the defending BCS National Champions. Led by transfer quarterback and Heisman winner Cam Newton, the Tigers blazed to a 13-0 season and a BCS National Championship in 2010. This year's Newton-less Tigers also lost defensive captain Nick Fairley and are significantly diminished but they should still be a competent, winning team in 2011.
Moreover, Auburn's future remains extremely bright. Coach Gene Chizik parlayed his title into the nation's best recruiting class. With some seasoning, Auburn's talented young players should be ready to contend for a BCS title in 2012.
The SEC's depth is so impressive that this last choice was a toss-up: Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina were all viable choices for the spot. Arkansas wins it because Bobby Petrino has created the nation's most explosive offense over the last three seasons. His system survived the departure of big-armed quarterback Ryan Mallett, which bodes well for the future potential of Arkansas. If Petrino can ever put together a strong defense, he could lead Arkansas to the BCS National Title game.
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