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Jenni Carlson: National title runs through SEC, not Norman

by Jenni Carlson Published: August 6, 2011

NORMAN — Around these parts, we talk about teams having a Texas problem or an Oklahoma problem.

Barriers to a championship are what we're talking about.

But if we want to get down to brass tacks, we'll start discussing the biggest barrier to the biggest championship.

The SEC.

On the day that the top-ranked team in all the land met with fans and media, everyone wanted to know if these Sooners can win the national title. They have a squad that looks more than capable, headlined by a fantastic pass-catch duo and a Doberman defense.

But can they unseat the SEC?

The southern-fried league has won the last five national championships, a run that's come courtesy of four different teams. In a league that's never been shy about self-promotion, the SEC is playing up its dominance.

The cover of the conference's football media guide — a huge numeral five.

“The SEC has taken it the last few years,” Sooner defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland acknowledged, “but everything's up for grabs. They're gonna have to step up and work hard every day just like we do.”

True enough. An SEC team in the BCS national championship game isn't a given. Not even close.

Truth be told, the league itself is the biggest barrier to the SEC winning another title. Eight of its teams are ranked in the top 23 in the preseason coaches' poll. Ask people who've been around the league for years, and they'll tell you that the SEC has never been stronger.

Still, the SEC just keeps winning national titles, and it shows no sign of ending. This isn't an aberration. This isn't an abnormality. This is how it is.

The SEC is the conference to beat.

Are the Sooners the ones to do it?

Regardless of what SEC team rises to the top — Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and Arkansas are the most formidable of the bunch — there are hallmarks of every great team from that league.

Primary among them are speed, speed and more speed.

Last the Sooners faced an SEC team was the national championship game three seasons ago, a 24-14 loss to Florida. The Sooners saw that speed first hand. The defense struggled to contain Gator quarterback Tim Tebow when he scrambled. Ditto for the Florida scatbacks when they got into the open field.

But really, the OU defense played fairly well. It intercepted Tebow twice, the first time in his college career he'd been picked off twice in a game.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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