Never too early: 2012 SEC football outlook

Never too early: 2012 SEC football outlook

Published Jan. 12, 2012 3:15 p.m. ET

With six consecutive BCS Championships in the books and a 2012 preseason almost guaranteed to have three or four teams ranked in the top 10, the SEC football train continues to roll at full speed.

Despite legitimate gripes that the BCS Championship Game was the biggest disappointment since "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,'' the conference continues to tower above the rest of the college football landscape.  

Only three things can stop the SEC from vying for a seventh consecutive title: The first would be an epic scandal, something that would make the Ohio State and Miami wrongdoings look like jaywalking. There is no evidence or even hint of such a disaster, but when you mix big money, intense competition and the insane passion people have for their favorite SEC football teams, the ingredients are all present for a toxic stew.  

The second potential torpedo is the fact that the best teams play each other. The outcry over this year’s rematch almost guarantees that it won’t happen again, even if the two best teams in the country hail from the same division.

It would surprise no one if the SEC champion ended the year with two losses. That could spell an end to the streak. Given the padding most teams add to their schedule these days, there will likely be two or three one-loss teams at the end of the season.

Finally, the most likely roadblock to another championship is SEC fatigue. While the fan bases in the Southeast continue to ride a wave of enthusiasm, the rest of the country is sick of hearing about it.

Expect a great deal of voter backlash if it looks like an SEC champion is going to walk away with another national title.  

All that being said, the SEC is still a talent-rich environment with more teams that could win it all than ever before. Here is a way, way too early look ahead at what we can expect in 2012.