From the days of Red Blaik, Frank Leahy and Bear Bryant to Bud Wilkinson, Jimmy Johnson, Bobby Bowden and Pete Carroll, many great dynasties have reigned in college football.
Nick Saban, in position to win his third national championship in four years, is the architect of college football’s most high-powered modern-day football dynasty, churning out as many first-round draft picks in one year as some successful college programs are able to produce in a decade.
The result of his dominance can be seen across the Southeastern Conference, where his former understudy Will Muschamp has whipped an average roster of talent at Florida into a national contender, as well as at Georgia, where his former assistant Todd Grantham now coordinates the Bulldogs’ defense.
When Alabama meets Georgia for the SEC championship on Dec. 1, it will be a battle of odd-front defenses, popularized by Saban, that determines the SEC’s champion.
Quality linebackers, at the heart of every good 3-4 defense, are weighted more heavily in the Bulldogs’ favor in this contest. Georgia junior OLB Jarvis Jones is one of college football’s best at winning one-on-one battles, and freshman Jordan Jenkins has been a quick study on the opposite side, able to collapse the pocket with power. With senior NT John Jenkins clogging the inside for junior ILB Alec Ogletree to roam with rare speed, Alabama junior power back Eddie Lacy and dynamic freshman T.J. Yeldon could be challenged and force junior QB AJ McCarron to beat the Bulldogs with his arm, a task he struggled to accomlish against LSU and could not pull off vs. Texas A&M.
For Alabama to position itself for another title, two first-round junior talents — ILB C.J. Mosley and CB Dee Milliner — will need to help fluster Georgia’s short, rifle-armed passer Aaron Murray and contain a bevy of backs led by the freshman thunder-lightning combination of instinctive, patient-running Todd Gurley and speedy, playmaking Keith Marshall.
Collectively, the strength of Alabama’s mammoth offensive line, punishing ground game and sound special teams should combine with the nation’s stingiest defense to give Alabama a shot at earning another BCS crown.
• Florida State held a 20-16 lead early in the fourth quarter when Florida freshman WLB Antonio Morrison beelined and drilled Florida State senior QB EJ Manuel, who laid on the ground for an extended time after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit. Manuel, whose fumble on the play was recovered by Florida, returned to the game after sitting out a series, but the Seminoles were outscored 21-6 after the big hit and lost 37-26.
• Georgia senior FS Bacarri Rambo showed up heavily in the Bulldogs’ 42-10 win over Georgia Tech, stripping Yellow Jackets RB Robert Goodhigh on the goal line and returning it to midfield to swing momentum heavily in the Bulldogs’ favor. Rambo finished with a pair of forced fumbles and an interception, tying the school’s career interception record (16) with former Bulldogs All-American and Super Bowl VII MVP Jake Scott. Character concerns could affect Rambo’s draft status, yet he has a love of the game that could continue to carry him to success in the NFL and has warranted second-ground grades from NFL evaluators.
• Playing without senior LB Michael Mauti, who was lost for the season against Indiana with a knee injury, Penn State senior DT Jordan Hill racked up 12 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks in a 24-21 overtime victory over Wisconsin. After suffering his third ACL injury in four seasons, Mauti’s durability will be a serious issue that could push him to the fourth round.
• Oregon senior RB Kenjon Barner left the game temporarily late in the second quarter with an abdominal injury after two Oregon State defenders converged on him behind the line of scrimmage inside the 5-yard line. He did return in the second half, finishing with 28-198-2 rushing. He suffered a hand injury two weeks ago against California but also returned to the game. Despite having been known to carry a track mentality, he has shown the toughness to battle through injuries this season and is respected as an elected team captain. Similar to LaMichael James, he could push into the second round after an outstanding senior season even if much of his production was well-schemed.
• Connecticut senior CBs Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz have created a buzz on the scouting trails this fall, with Wreh-Wilson commanding the most interest. In a 23-20 triple-overtime win over Louisville, Gratz was beaten twice by sophomore WR DeVante Parker for TDs, once in the final minute of regulation when he got caught peaking in the backfield and again in double overtime when he got out of phase zeroing in on QB Teddy Bridgewater and let Parker get behind him. In the third OT period, Wreh-Wilson intercepted a pass while blanketing Parker that allowed the Huskies to pull away with the win, and could follow in the path of ex-Husky Darius Butler as a second-round pick.
• Michigan State junior RB Le’Veon Bell, as he has done all season, racked up big yardage against inferior competition, rushing 35-266-1 against Minnesota, regularly carrying defenders on his back and plowing his way through an overmatched defense.