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Friday, August 17, 2012
Updated: August 19, 9:24 AM ET
SEC will continue to reign supreme

By Chris Low
ESPN.com

Any mention of the SEC's recent dominance in college football outside the south is usually greeted with the predictable, "Well, the system to determine the national champion is set up to favor the SEC."

That system, the BCS standings, is only in place for two more seasons and then it's on to a much-anticipated four-team playoff in 2014.
Nick Fairley
Auburn defensive lineman Nick Fairley terrorized Oregon in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game.

Perhaps the argument of how dominant the SEC really is will be settled once and for all then.

In the meantime, the rest of college football continues its chase of the SEC, which is seeking to make it seven straight national championships in 2012. Four different teams -- Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU -- have contributed to the streak.

The SEC has won seven of the last nine BCS national championships, and five different SEC teams have won national championships in the BCS era, which dates back to 1998.

A season ago, two SEC teams played for the BCS national championship with Alabama defeating LSU 21-0 to win its second title in the last three years.

And if that weren't enough, Arkansas joined Alabama and LSU in the top 5 of the final polls.

It's the kind of run we may never see again from one conference, and even with the ever-changing landscape in college football, it's a run that may not end any time soon.

What's it going to take to catch the SEC?

To answer that question, let's go back to the aftermath of Auburn's 22-19 victory over Oregon in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game.

The Ducks had their chances in that contest, but in the end, there was one glaring difference.

They couldn't block Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

"Nick Fairley proved he was the best defensive lineman in the country. It was a tough matchup for us," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said following the game.

In fact, you take Fairley out of that game, and the Ducks probably win.

But that's the problem for everybody else in college football. The elite teams in the SEC all have Nick Fairley-like players on their defensive lines and more of them than anybody else in the country.

In a lot of ways, the SEC breeds those kind of players on their defensive front sevens, and those players are attracted to SEC schools more than ever.

It's what distances the SEC from everybody else in college football -- the size, speed and playmaking ability of players across the defensive fronts.

"It's not just the first team, either," said LSU's Bennie Logan, one of the premier defensive tackles in the SEC this season. "There are a lot of guys not starting in this league who could start at a lot of other places.

"That's what makes the SEC so dominant. Every week, you're competing against physical guys up front, on the offensive and defensive lines, who are going to be playing in the NFL some day. You better be able to hang with them strength-wise. But you better be able to move, too.

"If you can't run, it's hard to play in this league."

Florida coach Will Muschamp, who spent three seasons as Texas' defensive coordinator before landing the Gators' head job, is matter-of-fact about what separates the SEC from everybody else.

It's the big guys up front on defense.

"There's not one or two teams that have good defensive linemen [in the SEC]. There are eight, nine or 10," Muschamp said.
Will Muschamp
Florida coach Will Muschamp knows the line play is what makes the SEC stand out.

We'll all get to see how well SEC newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M make the adjustment this season after coming over from the Big 12.

They dive in head-first, too.

Missouri takes on Georgia at home, while Texas A&M tackles Florida at home -- both games coming in Week 2.

Then comes the grind of the SEC, and it's impossible to know how grueling that grind truly is until you've gone through it.

Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter expects a smooth transition and is obviously tired of hearing about how the Aggies could struggle.

"We're not looking at it like we're going to have to wait before we can compete in this league," Porter said. "We expect to win now."

There's no doubt that having Texas A&M in the SEC will only bolster the league.

All of the talent that comes out of the state of Texas will have more of a reason than ever before to play in the SEC, and the Aggies can now tell a recruit, "Hey, you can stay in Texas and play your college football and still play in the SEC all at the same time."

More prospects from that state will also take a longer look at other SEC schools now that Texas A&M is in the league, and more SEC schools will actively recruit the state of Texas.

Let's face it. Schools such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU don't really recruit anyway. They select.

And with the SEC now having a foothold in the state of Texas, the rich will only get richer.

Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about the SEC's streak of national championships last month, and he said what we all know to be true.

It's going to end sometime.

When is "sometime?"

Probably about the time the rest of the country can match the SEC across the defensive front seven in terms of talent, size, strength, speed and depth.

Until then, it will remain an SEC world.