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SECond Rate

July 23, 2012
July 23, 2012

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July 23, 2012

GOLF PLUS
LEADING OFF
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Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
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SECond Rate

A few programs have a (long) shot at ending a certain conference's BCS dominance

It'll be everywhere. On television. On the Web. On all the social-networking apps on your mobile device.

This is an article from the July 23, 2012 issue

S-E-C! S-E-C!

The conference whose name is synonymous with pigskin superiority hosts its football media days in Hoover, Ala., this week. With no other power conference holding its gathering until the following week, expect to be reminded time and again how the SEC has won the last six national titles. And expect to hear coaches and players from LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina explain how they'll make it seven.

For fans tired of such domination, there's a sliver of hope. Several programs have positioned themselves to break the SEC's stranglehold on the national title.

USC

The Trojans' starters—on both sides of the ball—match up comparably with any SEC team's. Senior quarterback Matt Barkley (above) has a pair of stellar receivers in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, while safety T.J. McDonald and cornerback Nickell Robey roam the secondary. But depth is an issue: Because of NCAA sanctions, USC is limited to 75 scholarship players, 10 fewer than usual. An injury or two could wreck the Trojans' title hopes.

OREGON

The three-time defending Pac-12 champ has seen its title hopes dashed by an SEC team each of the past two seasons. Has coach Chip Kelly learned and adjusted? Will an older, wiser tailback De'Anthony Thomas (above), who had 2,235 all-purpose yards last year as a freshman, prove too elusive even for SEC speed? To find out, Oregon will have to reach the BCS title game. That will likely entail beating USC twice, so the Ducks will have plenty of experience dealing with elite athleticism.

MICHIGAN STATE

The Spartans might not be the best team in the Big Ten: Wisconsin has played in two consecutive Rose Bowls and has star running back Montee Ball returning. Still, Mark Dantonio's flashy Spartans match up best with the SEC's heavyweights. Alabama would love to have defensive end Will Gholston (above), and cornerbacks Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard would look at home in LSU uniforms. Meanwhile, 238-pound tailback Le'Veon Bell is sturdy enough to stand up to any SEC front seven.

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PHOTOPETER READ MILLER (BARKLEY)PHOTOROBERT BECK (THOMAS)PHOTOCHRIS WILLIAMS/ICON SMI (GHOLSTON)