Friday, August 17, 2012
SEC vs. Big 12: Sooners have the best shot
By David Ubben
The Big 12 got two swipes (should have been a third in 2011) at the SEC during the league's run of six national titles, but failed on both occasions.
Colt McCoy's shoulder suffered a freak injury on a usually harmless hit, and when McCoy trotted to the sideline, the Longhorns' chances of beating Alabama came off the field with him.
A season earlier, Florida twice stuffed Oklahoma on the goal line, giving Tim Tebow his second national title and denying the Sooners the school's eighth.
Quarterback Landry Jones is best suited to push Oklahoma past the SEC's supremacy when it comes to national titles.
So, who among the Big 12's contenders this season is best suited to end the SEC's tyranny?
The Sooners are simply the best team, even though Oklahoma is loaded with flaws. Question marks on the offensive and defensive lines as well as at linebacker could prove problematic in a showdown with one of the SEC titans, but the Sooners would love for the play of four-year starting quarterback Landry Jones to answer it. He's got the skills to decipher complex SEC defensive schemes and the pocket presence to elude the rush. His arm strength assures that SEC secondaries will have to cover the whole field.
The Sooners would have to get past Texas in the Red River Rivalry to make that happen. (Never mind 2008. Just humor me here.) If the Longhorns can survive a brutal Big 12 schedule with six 10-win teams on the docket, they're probably the best Big 12 team suited to beat one of the SEC's best teams in a national title game.
The problem is producing enough offense to beat Big 12 teams. In an SEC matchup, though, it's all about the line of scrimmage. Texas' defensive line may challenge LSU as the nation's best, and the Longhorns have a crazy duo at defensive end in Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat, two of the nation's best at the position.
Texas' depth at defensive line is huge, too, but it likely has the Big 12's best offensive line. The loaded backfield of Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray is a good sign, too. Mack Brown brought in assistants with SEC ties like Manny Diaz (defensive coordinator), Bo Davis (defensive tackles) and Stacy Searels (offensive line) to offer his team a little SEC flavor. You want power football, Nick Saban and Les Miles? Texas would love to play some power football.
What about a Big 12 newcomer who's never won the league and never played for a national title in the BCS era?
West Virginia is all about speed. There are plenty of questions on the defensive line, but the Mountaineers will test the mettle of any SEC defense that's feasted on weak offense all season. Geno Smith's got a big arm and the Big 12's two best receivers in Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin.
West Virginia has to play its best, but if Dana Holgorsen's team can hang 70 on Clemson like it did at the Orange Bowl, the Mountaineers' biggest stage last season, you've got to like its chances to at least put 30 or 40 on the board against an SEC team. Do that, and WVU will have a shot. Just have to survive the first year in the Big 12 and win a league title first.
There's no USC in the Big 12, a team built for a title run in 2012. The Big 12 does have plenty of contenders, though, and if any of these three teams gets a shot, they won't take it lightly.