The pressure is on the cream of the SEC crop
The only two SEC programs that will be taking the field on Saturday are Georgia and Alabama.
The eyes of the nation will be upon them, as the winner goes on to face Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship game.
The two conference titans must prove which of the two are the strongest, but how do the best of the rest stack up against one another?
7. Vanderbilt Commodores (LW: 7)
After opening the 2012 season at 2-4, the Commodores went on a tear, finishing out the year with six straight wins to finish at 8-4.
Coach James Franklin has led Vandy to bowl games in two consecutive seasons, a first for the program.
How poor, exactly, was Vanderbilt before Franklin took over? Both Kentucky and Tennessee went public with the firings of their respective coaches after blowout losses to the traditional SEC doormats.
How much longer the good times last is a bit up in the air at the moment. Mr. Franklin is said to be one of the men on the short list for the vacant job at Arkansas.
6. South Carolina Gamecocks (LW: 6)
Sick of seeing your studly Gamecocks slotted all the way down at No. 6, South Carolina fans?
Believe us, we are sick of putting Steve Spurrier's program there.
Especially after the team's season finale, a convincing 27-17 road win over hated rival Clemson, launched star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to the top of the nation's sack total.
Especially after the win gave Spurrier the record for the most wins in the history of the program.
No, South Carolina does not have to worry about the same types of coaching problems squads such as Arkansas and Tennessee have been forced to worry about, but this program has issues of its own.
Namely, just playing in the SEC. South Carolina is ranked 10th in the entire nation but only sixth in their own league.
5. LSU Tigers (LW: 5)
We almost wanted to slide South Carolina above LSU following the last few weeks of football, but we just could not pull the trigger.
LSU beat, barely, what is just a bad Arkansas team, 20-13, a week after nearly blowing it at home against Ole Miss, pulling that one out of their Mad Hat, 41-35. These scores after narrowly escaping Auburn, 12-10; after pulling out the South Carolina game by the skin of their teeth, 23-21; after just barely being able to keep Johnny Football in check, 24-19.
You get the point. Coach Les Miles had preliminary talks with Arkansas, but will be back with LSU trying to put together his sixth 10-win season after reaching the 10-win milestone for the fifth time in 2012.
4. Texas A&M Aggies (LW: 3)
The Aggies are suffering here from the same malady as Steve Spurrier has got to deal with over at South Carolina, known throughout the college football universe as "The SEC Blues".
OK, so we may or may not have made that up, but hear us out before you scoff.
The SEC Blues can come in many different permutations. The first of which, of course, happened many times this year as out-of-conference opponents were taken to the woodshed by the teams within the SEC.
Another type effects schools such as A&M, South Carolina and now Florida.
Led by the legendary Johnny Football, who passed for 372 yards and three scores while rushing for 67 yards and two more touchdowns, the Aggies drubbed fellow SEC newcomers Mizzou, 59-29. The score was 42-0 at the half and the win gave Texas A&M 10 of them for the first time since 1998.
Thus, coach Kevin Sumlin's squad dropped one spot through no fault of their own, but by the spectacular play on the part of the other spectacular teams in the conference.
3. Florida Gators (LW: 4)
Second year coach Will Muschamp has completely turned around the culture and style of play the Florida Gators employ. Under two-time BCS National Champion-turned-turncoat Urban Meyer, the Gators won using a wide open passing attack, a zone-read running game and favoritism in the locker room. Meyer left just before the situation was about to blow up in his face, and Muschamp was left to pick up the pieces of that splintered locker room.
He has, and now the Gators are siting pretty at No. 4-nationally after beating up on in-state rival Florida State. The Seminoles had supposedly been the class of the ACC, but their elite defensive line was no match for Mike Gillislee and the Gators' run game.
Gilly busted loose for 140 yards and two scores on a workmanlike 24 carries in the 37-26 win.
Now he and the rest of his Gators teammates will sit back, relax, watch Alabama and Georgia beat each other up, and then learn which BCS bowl to start preparing for.
No comment: Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide (LW: Nos. 1 & 2)
Ever since Georgia dusted itself off after being punched in the mouth by South Carolina to beat rival Florida in improbable fashion, the Bulldogs have alternated between first and second in the Rankings.
Bama, on the other hand, has been up here all along, only showing signs of vulnerability in a home loss to red-hot Texas A&M.
The season-long stats don't matter on only one Saturday afternoon. The fans are ready, that's for sure. Are the players? Are the coaches? Nick Saban has proven that he can get his program ready for the biggest of big stages, while Mark Richt and his squad got blown away a season ago by LSU in the same situation.
Again, throw everything away in just one afternoon for all the marbles.
We are going to reserve comment on this one until a little closer to game day, but you don't have to. Who's going to take home the Title and meet Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game?
Let us know in the comments below.
Check out Nos. 14-8 in the SEC Power Rankings here.
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