Whether we like it or not, there are going to be challengers to the SEC’s bid for an eighth national championship. Some might be imagined. Others might be truthful.

Laugh at us all you want, but here’s our Top 10 teams — brought to you by our blogger Alex Ferguson (@viewfromamerica, he’d like to mention) — who could challenge the SEC for a National Championship.

We’ve promised not to laugh at him.

1)  Ohio State

Why:  Last season Ohio State went 12-0 and don’t really look like quietening the charge – especially with the return of excellent quarterback Braxton Miller, a deep running back set, and Urban Meyer’s record of winning. You might not like him (especially not Florida fans!) but he’s a good coach, yo.

BIGGEST TEST: At Michigan (Nov 30). No college football fan with any brain needs an introduction as to why.

2) Stanford

Why: A beast of a team, that’s so SEC-like that they could be a SEC team, if they weren’t in Northern California, playing football and doing equations and stuff. Anyway, this private school’s got a nasty offence – including a superb offensive line and steady quarterback in Kevin Hogan, a nasty defence (including eight starters), and a great coach in Coach Shaw.

BIGGEST TEST: Oregon (Nov.7). Second-biggest game in all of college football, after Texas A&M’s small match-up with Alabama in Week 3.

3) Oregon

Why: Because whether or not we SEC teams talk about our ‘superior speed’, Mark Helfrich’s offense won’t miss a beat under their new coach, and the Oregon Ducks have got A TON of flat-out speed. If you don’t believe me, watch D’Anthony Thomas. Of course, questions might be asked about Oregon’s defense (there usually is), but they return 7 starters. That ain’t bad.

BIGGEST TEST: At Stanford (Nov 7). This one’s gonna be a war, folks.

4) Louisville

Why: They’ve got the SEC-beating pedigree, after turning over Florida in the Sugar Bowl 33-23. They’ve got an excellent quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, who could well be the first player taken in the 2014 Draft (if the Oakland Raiders need a quarterback….which they will). On top of bringing back their three wide receivers, they also return 8 starters on defense, which is pretty nasty, and they’ve got a schedule they should run through.

BIGGEST TEST: At Cincinnati (Dec 5). Because despite losing head coach Butch Jones to Tennessee, this Bearcats side is always ready to cause a team an upset. Just ask Virginia Tech last year.

5) Clemson

Why: Laugh all you want, but Clemson is loaded with offensive talent this year. We LOVE quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, and their defense is actually improved. If you don’t believe us, ask LSU, who they beat in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year. Under coach Dabo Swinney, they’re showing less and less chance of ‘Clemsoning’ – the art of managing to lose against teams you really shouldn’t do.

BIGGEST TEST: Georgia (Aug 31) . Georgia walks into the Orange Death Valley, and the atmosphere’s gonna be deafening. Georgia fans we know have told us that Clemson fans are “like SEC fans, just stuck in another conference”. South Carolina fans describe them as something else, but no quite as printable. Georgia’s got Aaron Murray, an incredible running back duo of Todd Gurley and Nick Marshall, and a stout defense. If the pass rush gets through Clemson’s O-Line, then Watkins could have problems getting a hold of the ball.

6) Notre Dame

Why: Although their season ended in embarrassment both at National Championship Game level and personal level (ED: Has anyone seen this Lennay Kekua girl? I heard she’s a hottie!), Brian Kelly’s football team is one thing, and that’s not a joke. Although Everett Golson’s no longer at the school (School vs Kelly = School wins), Tommy Rees is an experienced QB, and the team returns 14 starters, including four-year starting WR TJ Jones. Nose Guard Louis Nix and DE Stephon Tuitt could play in the SEC….easily. The Irish’s defence is nasty. And if they get another chance to face a SEC school….get ready.

BIGGEST TEST: At Michigan (Sept 7). Because Michigan hates Notre Dame. But there’s also Oklahoma (Sept. 28th), USC (Oct.19th).

7) Texas 

Why: There is no question that Mack Brown can recruit talent. There’s always a ton of it in Texas. But this year, Texas has a good QB in David Ash, two very good RBs in Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, and 19 returning starters. Mack Brown has proven to be a winner in Texas – and since he’s suddenly fighting against the hotseat, could this be the year where he puts the Eyes of Texas away from him? They’ve also got a pretty favorable schedule – which includes a Red River game that they might actually be favored in.

BIGGEST TEST: Baylor (Dec 7). We juggled as to whether it was Oklahoma (Oct 12), or Oklahoma State (Nov 16), but we’re going with the Bears, because the Bears can score a ton of points. If Texas can’t stop Lache Seastrunk, they are going to have problems against Art Briles’ offense, which can only be described as ‘fun’.

8) Southern Cal

Why: Because whether or not you like Lane Kiffin, the man can recruit talent. Silas Redd is going to cause problems at running back. Marqise Lee is a Heisman candidate at wide receiver. Max Wittek’s a pretty accomplished QB. Clancy Pendergast is a good defensive co-ordinator. And they return 14 starters. Oh, and one more X-Factor? EVERYONE HAS WRITTEN THEM OFF.

BIGGEST TEST: At Arizona State (Sept 28). Not an easy place to play, Sun Devil Stadium. If Wittek and the O-Line have got problems, then future NFLer Will Sutton’s going to be find them.

9) Oklahoma State

Why: Clint Chelf is a very talented young quarterback. He had over 1,500 yards of passing in just five games for the Pokes last season, and Mike ‘I am a man’ Gundy’s offense will be looking to rebound from the disappointment of a 8-5 year that included heartbreaking losses to Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor. If the new defensive co-ordinator Glenn Spencer can kick Okie State’s ‘D’ – and they return 7 defensive starters – into shape, then this team might well be the most dangerous team in the Big XII.

BIGGEST TEST: At Texas (Nov.16). We’ll make this clear. Coming into the Pokes game at Texas on Nov 16, Oklahoma State could well be unbeaten. It would be no fluke to see it happen – particularly with the receiving talent O-State brings back. But away at Texas is a really difficult proposition, and if Texas is also unbeaten, this game’s going to be a war.

10) Florida State

Why: Because if Jameis Winston’s mouth is anything to go by, Florida State’s winning a National Championship. Boy, can the boy talk. Seriously though, Winston’s a fantastic athlete that will be able to test any defense, and Florida State’s still got a stout offensive line. Of course, there are problems. Head coach Jimbo Fisher had to re-assemble his coaching staff after seemingly everybody left. The ‘Noles defense is young, and Mark Stoops isn’t there to point the finger – he’s gone to Kentucky to be the head coach. But you know what the ‘Noles have? A schedule and a half. They’ll be unbeaten going into October 19th’s showdown with Clemson.

BIGGEST TEST: At Clemson (Oct 19). Clemson will be looking for revenge after last year’s beatdown in Tallahassee, and the Tigers have the talent to be a National Championship contender.

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