The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

August 1, 2013

Manziel, Clowney headliners in SEC's bid for No. 8

— The players are providing the star power in the Southeastern Conference's drive for an eighth-straight national title not those millionaire coaches.

Hop in the backseat, Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier, and enjoy the ride.

There's plenty of headliners on the field, starting at quarterback with Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Alabama's AJ McCarron and Georgia's Aaron Murray plus a bounty of dangerous receivers. Tailbacks Georgia's Todd Gurley and 'Bama's T.J. Yeldon are superb sophomore runners.

Defensively, South Carolina end Jadeveon Clowney and Crimson Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley lead the way.

That bounty of talent gives the SEC ample hope that the league can maintain its seven-year grip on the BCS title.

Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, and Clowney are regarded as favorites to claim the league's fifth Heisman in seven years.

But like Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said of his team, it's time to "hit the reset button." Or at least the challengers of Saban and the two-time defending national champion Tide are hoping that button is working. So are the other power conferences, for that matter.

Saban's peers aren't backing down.

LSU's Les Miles: "I like us in any game."

South Carolina's Spurrier, in humble-confident mode: "We may fall flat on our face but that's what we're going to try to do, try to win the conference."

Win the SEC, and a national title shot seems likely to come.

Georgia defensive end Garrison Smith's take on the SEC: Crystal balls don't win crystal trophies.

"There's no telling which team is going to come from where with the amount of talent," Smith said. "Nobody can predict the future."

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