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SEC wrap: No signs of slowing down

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SEC wrap: No signs of slowing down

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Nick Saban collected his third national title and second at Alabama

It's getting monotonous for everyone not associated with the SEC: The league won its sixth national championship in a row this season.

This time, one SEC team beat another for the crown.

Alabama won its second title in three seasons with a dominating defensive performance against LSU. The Tigers were stymied in their bid to become the first program to win three BCS national titles. Instead, Alabama became the third to win two (and all three are SEC programs).

The league had three other teams with at least 10 wins, too: Arkansas, Georgia (which won the SEC East) and South Carolina.

Here's a closer look at the SEC.

Best postseason performance: Alabama. The Tide played lockdown defense, allowing just 92 yards, and breezed to a 21-0 victory over LSU in the BCS national championship game. That's the second-fewest yards allowed in a BCS title game, behind the 84 given up by Florida to Ohio State in the 2006 contest. The offense bogged down in the red zone, but Alabama still rolled up 394 yards and held the ball for 35:26 en route to the school's second national title in three seasons.

Worst postseason performance: LSU. The Tigers' offense was, in a word, inept in the loss to Alabama in the title game. LSU ran for just 39 yards and punted nine times. QB Jordan Jefferson had been steady during the second half of the season, but he looked unprepared for what the Tide defense threw at him. And while LSU's defense played well in the red zone and forced seven field goal attempts, it couldn't get Alabama's offense off the field, as evidenced by the Tide having the ball for almost 11 more minutes than the Tigers.

[Forde: Savvy Saban seals legend with third ring]

Underclassmen turning pro early: LSU DT Michael Brockers, Georgia TE Orson Charles, LSU CB Morris Claiborne, Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox, South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore, Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower, South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery, Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Ole Miss OT Bobby Massie, LSU WR Rueben Randle, Alabama RB Trent Richardson, Auburn QB Barrett Trotter

Team most hurt by early departures: LSU. The decisions by Claiborne and Randle shouldn't have surprised anyone, but Brockers' decision was a surprise because he was a third-year sophomore who hadn't been a full-time starter. He likely would've been one of the best defensive linemen in the nation in 2012, and that hurts LSU up front. Also worth mentioning is Georgia because Charles was such an important part of the passing attack.

Coaching change: Hugh Freeze in at Ole Miss, replacing Houston Nutt; Freeze had been coach at Arkansas State.

Key coordinator hire: Auburn defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder. Van Gorder, who replaces Ted Roof, was a coup of sorts in that he was the coordinator for an NFL playoff team (Atlanta). Greg Mattison made the same move last offseason, leaving the Baltimore Ravens for Michigan. As with Mattison, Van Gorder has worked at the college level before, with success. He also is familiar with the SEC, having served as DC at Georgia. Van Gorder never is anywhere for a long time, but his skills make him an extremely worthwhile hire for coach Gene Chizik. Chizik, incidentally, followed Van Gorder as UCF's defensive coordinator in the late 1990s.

Coach on the hottest seat in the fall: Tennessee's Derek Dooley. He has had to live with the poor recruiting decisions made by predecessors Phil Fulmer and Lane Kiffin, but it's time for the Vols to show some improvement on the field this fall. Had QB Tyler Bray and WR Justin Hunter not been hurt this season, the Vols would've gone to a bowl. But Dooley isn't being paid the big bucks to go to the Liberty or Music City bowls; he is being paid to contend for SEC East crowns. A problem: He doesn't look to have the necessary talent to do so in 2012, which means he very likely could be elsewhere in 2013.

Recruiting storyline to watch: How many league teams are going to have top-10 classes? Over the past six recruiting cycles, an average of 4.5 SEC schools per year have finished in the top 10. The potential exists for just two this season (Alabama and Florida), though league newcomer Texas A&M also is a possibility.

[Recruiting: Final Rivals100 2012 prospect rankings]

Biggest spring practice question: Is Zach Mettenberger the right quarterback for LSU? Mettenberger began his career at Georgia but was dismissed from school and ended up at a junior college. After one year in JC, he signed with LSU. But he was underwhelming in 2011 spring practice and couldn't beat out Jarrett Lee or Jordan Jefferson. Now the path is clear for him to be the starter. Can he handle the job? Everything else is in place for another national title run for the Tigers.

Projected 2012 division champs: South Carolina in the East, LSU in the West

2012 national title contenders: Alabama and LSU. Hmm, where have we seen this before? Despite a number of star players turning pro, these teams should be fine. LSU has to improve its offense; Alabama needs to establish some playmakers on offense and rebuild its linebacker corps. All of those things are extremely doable, given the talent on hand at those schools.

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