By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
NEW ORLEANS – Any way you look at it, the Southeastern Conference will take home its sixth consecutive BCS National Championship on Monday evening at the Louisiana Superdome when LSU and Alabama square off for the second time this season.
Speaking at a press conference Saturday morning, Alabama’s defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and several of his top athletes say that is no coincidence.
“I feel like the SEC has won the national championship for the last six years just because I feel like our coaches have a little bit more edge than other conferences,” said Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower. “I feel like the players are a little bit more versatile and athletic. We don’t find too many guys that weigh 260 pounds that can run a 4.6 or 4.5 in any other conference, or a guy that weighs 200 pounds and can bench press 500 pounds.”
Smart agrees, also saying that athletes who grow up in the Southeast region of the United States are also better prepared when entering college, which makes them able to become elite-level college players more quickly.
“I think regionally, when you look at it, high school football, in my opinion, it’s so great in the SEC states, the high school football is at a higher level,” Smart said. “Coaches are paid more, so the more you play the coaches, the better quality players you get, the better quality programs you get and the better the development of players are. A lot of places don’t do spring practices, but by the time Mark Barron and Josh Chapman are seniors in high school, they’ve had four spring seasons. That’s almost like an extra season. I just think it’s more advanced. I think that has made football better in the South, therefore there are more players.”
Senior linebacker Courtney Upshaw, who hails from Eufala, Ala., knew coming out of high school that he was going to attend an SEC school before he even made a decision on what institution to attend. The opportunity to compete for and win a championship was highly appealing and he knew he would have the best opportunity to accomplish that goal within the SEC.
“A lot of my offers were from SEC schools,” Upshaw said. “So my top-three coming out of high school were known for getting to the championship. I chose Alabama because of Nick Saban. That guy, he’s been through a lot. He had been through a championship game with LSU and to the league (the NFL) and stuff like that.”
Monday’s meeting will mark the first intra-conference matchup for the national championship in the BCS era. The game assures the SEC of its sixth consecutive national championship and the eighth overall national title for the conference in the BCS era.
And that is exactly why Upshaw knew that the SEC was the place to play.
“I felt like my main thing was to get to an SEC school if I wanted to be remembered,” he said.