The 2012 college football season is finally upon us. With the new season comes new expectations, high hopes, countless dreams realized, and for some disastrous results.
The Southeastern Conference enters the new season as the six-time reigning champion of college football. Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, and Arkansas are getting the lion’s share of press for good reasons. The one team nobody is talking about in the SEC is the Florida Gators.
The Gators return 10 on defense and seven on offense. If Gators’ head coach Will Muschamp can find a starter at quarterback and get production from his big running backs, expect Florida to make some noise this year.
The Georgia Bulldogs appear to be the front-runners out of the SEC East but primarily due to their schedule. Florida plays LSU at home, South Carolina travels to LSU in October and hosts Arkansas in November… Georgia misses out on Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas in the regular season for the second year in a row.
During the 2011 and 2010 seasons when Georgia faced SEC heavy weights Arkansas (2010 31-24), then Auburn (2010 49-31), and LSU (2011 42-10) the outcome was not in the Bulldogs favor.
The SEC West holds all the cards to the conference title game and the BCS National Championship game. Lots of ifs but no certainties between Alabama, Arkansas, and LSU. Each squad lost a lot of talent from last year’s team.
Bama lost running back Trent Richardson, safety Mark Barron, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and defensive end Courtney Upshaw all to the NFL. The Tide’s offensive line should be one of the best in the country. The defense will be fast but somewhat inexperienced. How all the new elements mix early in the season with games on the road against Michigan and Arkansas will dictate end of the season results.
LSU will miss both all everything cover corners Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu, and leading receiver Rueben Randle. The Tigers lose both starting quarterbacks (Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson) from a year ago, for better or for worse. Regardless of the mixed results in the passing attack both QBs accounted for a total of 13 wins in 2011.
There has never been a question about the talent along both lines of LSU’s squad. The Tigers only return four starters on defense, will this year’s group be able to keep pace with their No. 2 overall defense from a year ago?
The Razorbacks lost three key wide receivers (Joe Adams, Greg Childs, and Jarius Wright) to the NFL along with a four-year starter at middle linebacker (Jerry Franklin). The biggest loss could be the offensive genius that was pulling all the strings in former head coach Bobby Petrino.
Petrino’s stamp on this year’s team will still be there but what happens in close games or when the Hogs are down at halftime? Will interim head coach John L. Smith be able to rally the troops and make the proper adjustments going into the second half the way Petrino did? Come Sept. 15 Arkansas fans will know what to expect for the rest of the 2012 season.
Notes about the rest of the Top 25:
Oklahoma returns quarterback Landry Jones but the bigger emphasis for the team is the return of Mike Stoops to lead the defense. Stoops coached the Sooners to top nationally top ranked defenses before taking the head coaching job at Arizona. Will he be able to turn around the porous Oklahoma defense in 2012? More importantly will OU be able to survive the mounting injuries along the offensive line?
Oregon has team speed but lost a lot of offensive talent off the last year’s team. Chip Kelly’s offense is plug and play plus the Pac-12 outside of USC does not offer much of a challenge top to bottom. Due to a nonexistent non-conference schedule and one tough game against USC, look for Oregon to be in the Top 10 all season.
Florida State gets all they hype they can handle because they are Florida State. Most college football fans remember the talent stocked teams of the ’80’s, ’90’s, and early 2000’s. This team has talent but very young talent. Head coach Jimbo Fisher did a great job motivating the Seminoles last year as seemingly every other player on the team missed time due to injury.
This year FSU is healed, stocked with more top freshman talent, and looking at an ACC schedule that they can easily maneuver through. Clemson and Virginia Tech should be the only two teams to offer much of a fuss. By season’s end all of college football will know how good the Seminoles are when they square off against Florida again.
Don’t count out Wisconsin and running back Montee Ball. Ball put up video game rushing numbers in 2011 posting over 1,900 yards with 39 total touchdowns. QB Russell Wilson is gone but another transfer will line up under center for the Badgers, Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien. Look for Wisconsin to push for a third straight Big Ten title.
The Longhorns will return to the national stage in the form of a bowl game but appear to be another year away from making real noise with the big boys. Texas could play their way into a BCS game because of their conference schedule should they beat OU Oct. 13.
Southern California has talent along their one-deep chart but have major holes on two through three. Barkley plus the LA market will get USC all the media attention they can handle. If not head coach Lane Kiffin will seek it out for his team. This attention will only help USC if they go undefeated but will cause more harm than good if they lose during the regular season. The spotlight comes with great scrutiny.
Stanford and Notre Dame highlight USC’s schedule but the real focus will be on Oregon. The Ducks come to LA Nov. 3 with the possible turn around trip four weeks later for the second annual Pac-12 title game.
With a schedule this easy everyone would be happy to go to work everyday.
HogManInLA Top 25
9. Florida State
12. South Carolina
15. Oklahoma State
16. Virginia Tech
18. Ohio State
19. Kansas State
21. West Virginia
22. Michigan State
25. Boise State