Philadelphia, PA – The SEC has cornered the market on FBS championships, winning the last six, and with Alabama and LSU fortifying positions atop the current polls, 2012 looks awfully similar to 2011.
Alabama coach Nick Saban has three national titles to his credit. His first came with LSU during the 2003 season and he picked up the other two in the last three years in Tuscaloosa. With dominant performances regardless of the competition, the Crimson Tide have secured 58 of the possible 60 first-place votes in the recent AP Top 25 and may grab the other two in short time.
The word dynasty comes to mind and if the Crimson Tide continue to play with the same kind of ferocity on both sides of the football, they will merit such lofty praise.
The team opened the season with a marquee matchup against a very good Michigan squad and made the Wolverines look foolish in a 41-14 romp. Those 14 points are all that Alabama has relinquished through three games. The team followed the season-opening win with an expected shutout of Western Kentucky (35-0) in the game they could have won by much, much more.
As good as Alabama was in the first two weeks, what happened this past weekend was nothing short of spectacular. The Crimson Tide opened up SEC play in Fayetteville against Arkansas and handed the Razorbacks their first shutout loss at home since 1966 - a 52-0 rout.
Yes, the Hogs were without star quarterback Tyler Wilson (head injury), but Arkansas looked like a team that simply gave up at times, managing a mere 137 yards of total offense in front of the hometown crowd. While Wilson's presence may have closed the gap a little between the two teams, it wouldn't have made that much of a difference.
It seems like nitpicking, but Saban wasn't completely satisfied with his team's performance against Arkansas, particularly the defense.
"Well first of all, not to disagree or to be disagreeable, but we were far from flawless in the way we played on defense," he said. "Sometimes everybody just looks at the result. It was a tough day for them, they didn't have their quarterback, they were a little out of synch on offense -- our players did a good job, they did a good job of adjusting in the game to some things that we really hadn't prepared for. We need to improve on playing blockers upfront. We didn't fit a couple of plays that they ran correctly that we fundamental did things that we need to improve. I think we need to improve the overall rush and coverage. We had a few too many missed tackles for my liking and some poor judgments relative to penalties."
Saban continues to replenish his ranks despite losing a ton of All-American talent on both sides of the football. Obviously, the Crimson Tide have no trouble recruiting. Who wouldn't want the chance to play for a national title each and every year?
The rest of Alabama's schedule shapes up with trips to Missouri and LSU and a home date against instate rival Auburn as the only real stumbling blocks, albeit perhaps more like speed-bumps the way the Tide are playing right now.
Still, Alabama isn't the only alpha dog on the block. LSU has been just as impressive, and only having two first-place votes in this week's poll is more a credit to Alabama's dominance than an indictment of the second-ranked Tigers.
Les Miles has a national title under his belt as well, leading the Tigers to the Promised Land following the 2007 campaign and earning national coach of the year honors both then and last season. His 2011 Tigers were driven by a suffocating defense, and while the unit is still top-notch, it has added a lethal offense to the mix. The Tigers opened the season with a 41-14 win over North Texas in preparation for what was supposed to be a tough non-conference matchup with Washington next. The Tigers were even better against the Huskies, posting a 41-3 drubbing. The team moved to 3-0 on the season by putting up 63 points on the Idaho Vandals.
The addition of quarterback Zach Mettenberger to the starting lineup has given LSU the threat of offensive balance. With a devastating ground game (269.3 ypg), Mettenberger is tasked with simple management and timely passing. He has done that efficiently in the early going, completing just over 72 percent of his throws.
LSU's road back to the BCS National Championship Game this time around has more than a few obstacles, though. The biggest challenges will come against Florida on the road and South Carolina and Alabama at home.
Both Alabama and LSU have lost just once since the start of the 2011 season, splitting a two-game set last year. The Tigers got the best of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in the regular season (9-6 in overtime) en route to the SEC crown. However, the Crimson Tide got the ultimate revenge in the BCS National Championship Game, blanking LSU, 21-0, and earning the school's 14th national crown.
Alabama comes to Baton Rouge on Nov. 3 and it once again should be the game that decides the SEC. The chances of both teams making it to Miami for the national title game will depend on outside influences.
We have all come to realize that when you lose and how you lose is just as important as who you lose to, and a November setback usually leaves a team on the outside looking in on the big game.
Regardless of whether both teams make the January trip to the Sunshine State, the SEC's monopoly on BCS championships has more than a good chance of continuing in 2012.
Seeing the Tigers and Crimson Tide go head to head with everything on the line is nothing new, but may be unavoidable.