|Morry Gash / AP Photo|
|Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are shooting for a third consecutive national title.|
The SEC or the field? That has been the defining question in college football the past seven seasons and doesn't look to be changing anytime soon based on the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll, with half of the top 10 coming from the conference that has produced the last seven BCS title winners, including two-time defending champions and preseason No. 1 Alabama.
The SEC has as many teams in the top 10 as any other conference has total, including Texas A&M and the walking, talking TMZ of sports in quarterback Johnny Manziel, South Carolina and star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney -- last seen spectacularly separating a Michigan man from his helmet and the ball -- and World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party aficionados Georgia and Florida.
So who can separate commissioner Mike Slive's crew from the crystal football? Not the jumbled Big 12, it would seem, which has the indignity of finding itself behind one team from the AAC and two from the ACC. Probably not Notre Dame, still giving up touchdowns to the Crimson Tide, or perennially overrated Florida State either.
Perhaps party-crashers Louisville or Boise State, which start the season at ninth and 19th respectively and won't play a single opponent ranked in the preseason. Maybe Clemson, which can prove itself by taking down SEC foes to open and close the season, having done just that against talented LSU in the bowl game to close 2012.
The Pac-12's top two candidates do it with diametrically different approaches to the game, Oregon still planning on speeding past opponents even without head coach Chip Kelly versus Stanford's punishing trench warfare.
And then there is Urban Meyer, who started the SEC's run of unparalleled success at Florida back in 2006. Entering his second season at Ohio State with an electrifying quarterback in Braxton Miller who led the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 record last year, Meyer's team comes in second in the initial coaches poll. But not even a favorable schedule can overcome continued run-ins with the law taking Ohio State's best players off the field.
Maybe, just maybe, the biggest enemy to the SEC is the SEC itself. This could be the season where all that depth leaves every team in the conference with two or three losses and on the outside looking in at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 6, 2014.
So, who you got?
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.