Forget about last year. For this group of previously successful teams, the 2009 season could bring drastically different results. These former contenders might even be getting bowl dates before New Year's Day or Christmas. Think that's too dire a prediction for teams we've crowned champs? Better to prepare yourself now, then, as this year will be undoubtedly shaky for these 10 teams. Fans will have some Cinderella-level disappointment coming to them when the clock strikes 12 and their team's carriage to victory turns into a pumpkin. Lisa HorneHave your own thoughts on the subject? Come chat with Lisa on Tuesday 6/23 at 1 p.m ET.
The Utes' flirting with the BCS is over. QB Brian Johnson is gone, as are DE Paul Kruger, WR Freddie Brown, two other NFL draft picks at CB and kicker Louie Sakoda. Head coach Whittingham also is dealing with two new coordinators plus Oregon, TCU and BYU on the road. Utah will still end the season with a winning record, but their Cinderella story has come to an end, and it's back to a non-BCS Bowl for them. Rejoice, BYU fans.
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This team has one huge question mark: the defense. Last year, the Trojans were ranked No. 2 in total defense, No.1 in scoring defense, No. 5 in rushing defense and No. 1 in passing defense. This year, they return a total of three defensive starters after losing eight to the NFL. USC also has two new coordinators, plus most of their toughest games on the road. It's hard to bet against USC, but this could be the year the boys from Troy don't win the Pac-10. Yeah, we knew you would be bummed.
They do have Evan Royster, Daryll Clark and Sean Lee coming back, but there are holes everywhere. They lost their three best WRs, more than half their O-line starters, four elite DBs and some key defensive linemen to boot. The good news is that the Nittany Lions have one of the fluffiest schedules of any BCS contender, so they have a great shot at going 12-0. The bad news is the same could be said for last year's more experienced team. When will Penn State step up and win the big games?
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The Terps return just nine starters, the fewest in the ACC. Last year, Maryland lost to Middle Tennessee State and barely beat Delaware 14-7. Pair a top-25 schedule in terms of difficulty and a coach whose hot seat is approaching a rolling boil, and you have to wonder how this very inexperienced team can improve their dismal road record from last year. (They were outscored by 55 points and went 1-4 on the road.) The Terps look like prime candidates to go from bowl-winner (Humanitarian Bowl) to cellar-dweller in the Atlantic division.
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They lost LT Andre Smith and C Antoine Caldwell, all-time leading school passer John Parker Wilson, RB Glen Coffee and also FS Rashad Johnson. Those losses will be felt on Sept. 5 when the Tide travels to Atlanta to meet Virginia Tech, a team that was ranked No. 7 in total defense last year and No. 10 in turnover margin. Alabama's schedule isn't too difficult but even if they get past the Hokies, they still have LSU at home, @ Ole Miss and @ Auburn. Yup, don't drink that crimson Kool-Aid just yet.
Last year, they went 9-4 and ended their season by spanking Wisconsin 42-13 in the Champs Sports Bowl. But last year, they also had two FCS teams to fluff up their win column. This year, the 'Noles have to play Miami, @ BYU, South Florida, @ BC, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, @Clemson, @ Wake Forest and @Florida. They also may have to contend with severe NCAA sanctions, which will distract the team if enforced. A .500 season is not out of the question here, dagummit.
Red Raiders fans will have to adjust their lofty expectations from the offense no Graham Harrell, no Michael Crabtree. It wouldn't be such a big deal ... if their divisional foes didn't have Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Zac Robinson returning. Only four offensive starters return to Lubbock, meaning the Red Raiders will have to rely on their defense (ranked No. 80 last year) to keep them in the game. Let the good times roll.
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The Tigers took devastating losses this year with four departing All-Big 12 first- or second-team defensive players, along with Chase Daniel, Mackey Award winner TE Chase Coffman and superstar Jeremy Macklin. More bad news: They start off playing Illinois @ St. Louis and then begin a hellish trek @ Nevada, Nebraska, @ Oklahoma State and Texas. They avoid playing Oklahoma, but that still won't prevent them from a sub-.500 record this year. They lost their best players from a defense that was ranked No. 100 in total defense — and that pretty well spells out what lies ahead for 2009.
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Last year, the Bearcats went 11-2 before getting stifled by Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. This year, the Bearcats return one defensive starter. Losing your top tacklers plus three CBs to the NFL is pretty tough, and breaking in a new DC makes things even tougher. The Bearcats could be 1-2 after playing @Rutgers, SE Missouri St. and @Oregon State, and then they still have Pitt and South Florida on the road. Yeah, it's a fluffy schedule, but prepare yourselves anyway, weary citizens of Ohio.
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Gone are Knowshon Moreno, Matthew Stafford and Mohamed Massaquoi from the offense, plus Jarius Wynn, Corvey Irvin and Asher Allen from the defense. The Bulldogs also have one of the top 10 toughest schedules in the country, and they'll be tested in Week 1 at Stillwater, Oklahoma, with ensuing road games at Arkansas, Florida (in Jacksonville) and Georgia Tech. They also draw a home game with LSU from the West. If the best the highly touted Dawgs could do last year was the Capital One Bowl, then shouldn't we expect a lower-tiered bowl this year?Wonder how Lisa Horne came up with her top 10? Ask her in a live chat on Tuesday 6/23 at 1 p.m ET.