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    Stretch Run Will Provide Answers, Excitement

    By: Scott Crumbly
    Twitter: @ScottCrumbly
    SEC Digital Network

    It’s hard to believe we only have two weeks remaining in the 2012 regular season, but SEC teams still have much to play for, and many questions remain.  

    With only three conference games slated for this weekend, Saturday represents a change of pace for eight SEC teams that will be facing non-conference opponents in Week 12. Three of those eight teams – Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina – have wrapped up regular season conference play altogether. Seven of the eight out of conference games feature opponents from the FCS ranks, but this weekend will prove as a springboard into a final week bursting at the seams with meaningful rivalry games.

    As Florida learned in last weekend’s narrow win over Louisiana-Lafayette, no team can be taken lightly. The Gators will be without the services of starting quarterback Jeff Driskel against Jacksonville State, leaving Jacoby Brissett in command as UF looks to take care of business early to avoid another scare.

    Alabama will have to remain even keel following a two-week roller coaster of emotions that included a late-game comeback in Baton Rouge and a dramatic loss in Tuscaloosa. Likewise, Texas A&M will need to avoid a letdown against Sam Houston State following the elation of a win over the country’s top-ranked team. South Carolina will try to avoid looking ahead to its showdown with Clemson as Wofford comes to Columbia, and Georgia will look to do the same against Georgia Southern with Georgia Tech looming.

    The SEC has crowded the BCS standings by supplying six of the current top-9 teams. As it stands, No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Georgia, and No. 6 Florida all sit with one loss on the year and remain in contention for the BCS title game. The top three of Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame all have significant hurdles remaining on their schedules that could provide a helping hand. Kansas State must face Texas to cap off its season on Nov. 24; Oregon has dates remaining with Stanford, Oregon State and USC; and Notre Dame must travel to Los Angeles on Nov. 24 to face USC in its regular season finale.

    Just as the top three teams have tests left to pass, so too do the SEC’s big six. But should any of the three unbeaten leaders falter, the SEC is in position to capitalize.

    Alabama concludes the regular season against rival Auburn next week. If the Tide and UGA get out of the final two weekends unscathed, they will face off on Dec. 1 in Atlanta for the SEC Championship with the winner likely emerging as the highest ranked one-loss team in the country. If two of the top three teams fall, the SEC champion could easily find itself playing for all the marbles in Miami.

    Florida, which already boasts three wins over current top-10 teams, will have a chance to add another on Nov. 24 when it faces No. 10 Florida State in Tallahassee. Another high-profile win could give the Gators a boost and, if the stars align and several teams fall in front, a possible shot at Miami as a one-loss entrant. At the very least, an 11-1 finish would put UF in the conversation of BCS Bowl selection.
    LSU has two conference tilts left to go, while A&M rounds out the regular season against fellow SEC newcomer Missouri. The Gamecocks can boost their stock with a win over in-state rival and top 11 program Clemson.

    All in all, the current situation equates to six SEC teams battling for two BCS bids afforded to the league, and history tells us that anything is possible.

    No matter how it all plays out, the fact that so many SEC teams are in the mix to represent the conference in BCS bowls this late in the season is yet another testament to the strength of the league. All that’s left for us to do now is watch it unfold enjoy the ride.