|"Whoever did that, sign this medical redshirt form."|
Editor's note: All week, CBR's writers will be offering up their national championship picks for the upcoming season. First up, Allen Kenney's pick looks familiar.
If you’ve been paying attention for the last six years, the formula for determining at least half of the match-up in the BCS national championship game is pretty straightforward: Figure out who’s going to win the SEC.
Conventional wisdom heading into the season holds that LSU and Alabama stand a cut above the rest of the conference. While both the Tigers and Crimson Tide were the class of the conference in 2011, I think the gap is closing. Specifically, I’m betting that Florida takes a big step forward this year. So much so, in fact, that I’ll take the Gators to upset LSU at the Swamp in October.
Alabama is losing a lot on defense from last year’s title team, but the Crimson Tide have enough talent stockpiled to move on without really missing a beat. ‘Bama will experience a few scares, but I say the Tide survive with no less than one loss, including a win in Baton Rouge. Florida takes a run at the champ in the SEC title game, but the Gators will fall just short.
So who will face Alabama in Miami this January? The Pac-12 is home to two of the best teams in the country, but look for Oregon and USC to split their two games this season, one during the regular season and one in the conference title game.
In the Big 12, Oklahoma looks like the class of the league. Do you really want to bet on this OU team to make it through the season unscathed, though? There are enough tough tests in conference play to think Bob Stoops’ good-not-great team will stumble at least once.
The Big Ten is pretty much the Big 12 moved north, or vice versa. College football’s stodgiest conference has its fair share of strong teams. Unfortunately, they will all beat each other up enough to the point that a legit title contender emerging seems unlikely.
Which brings us to the ACC. Having heard the hype every offseason for what seems like the last decade, Florida State is eliciting plenty of skepticism from the peanut gallery. The Seminoles are the preseason favorites to win the league, but we heard that last year, and look how that turned out.
In reality, although injuries hamstrung the ‘Noles almost from the jump, FSU played demonstrably better football in Jimbo Fisher’s second year. FSU climbed from 15th in 2010 to 8th overall in the final 2011 F/+ rankings. Led by what should be the best front four in the nation this year, the D has improved dramatically under coordinator Mark Stoops. On the other side of the ball, Fisher has assembled enough talent to think that FSU will be able to identify enough weapons for senior quarterback E.J. Manuel to thrive. The schedule also breaks nicely, with FSU catching Clemson and Florida at home and a road game against an underwhelming Virginia Tech team that should be beatable even if the ‘Noles draw the Hokies twice this year.
Unfortunately for FSU, the dream season will come to an end at the hands of Fisher’s mentor, Nick Saban. By January, Alabama’s coaching staff will have what was a young defense to start the year firing on all cylinders. And if we’ve learned anything in the last decade or so, it’s that you don’t bet against Slick Nick when a national championship is on the line.