Guide to the 2012 college football season
College football is in for some big and, some say, much-needed
changes with the switch to a four-team playoff.
Before we get to that, there’s still a couple more seasons under
the current system; the playoffs don’t begin until 2014.
And this one will be worth watching.
There’s plenty of interesting story lines, from Penn State
trying to rebuild in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse
scandal to Urban Meyer’s return to coaching with Ohio State.
There’s no shortage of great players, either.
Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley skipped the NFL for
the chance at a national title, Michigan’s Denard Robinson is a
blur even without his shoelaces tied and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball is
like trying to tackle a wrecking ball.
Great teams? Could be a few of those, too. USC, LSU, Alabama,
Oklahoma, Oregon – the BCS could be under a lot of strain this
season with those teams all bidding for No. 1.
So to get you ready, we’ve got a rundown of some of the things
to watch out for this season.
USC. Barkley is back. So is his top target, Robert Woods. Former
Penn State running back Silas Redd was a nice addition. Postseason
eligible again, the Trojans aren’t aiming for just any bowl; they
want a trip to Miami and national championship.
Alabama. The Crimson Tide have won two of the past three
national championships. They figure to be contenders for
LSU. The Honey Badger is gone. All those other NFL prospects –
such as defensive end Sam Montgomery and safety Eric Reid – should
keep the Tigers from missing him.
Oklahoma. The Sooners have a record-setting QB in Landry Jones,
a brick wall of an offensive line and with the return of Mike
Stoops, Bob’s feisty little brother, they should be good on
Oregon. LaMichael James and Darron Thomas are gone? Big deal.
The Ducks have plenty of other players who can fly in those new
KEEP AN EYE ON
Arkansas. QB Tyler Wilson and RB Knile Davis are back, coach
John L. Smith has calmed the storm after Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle
crash and subsequent firing. All Arkansas has to do now is get by
Alabama and LSU – its only two losses a year ago – which isn’t as
farfetched as you might think. Both visit the Natural state, one
early (Alabama on Sept. 15) the other late (LSU the day after
Florida State. The Seminoles’ return to prominence has been
rumored for years. Under coach Jimbo Fisher, it may actually happen
Wisconsin. The Badgers are hungry after consecutive Rose Bowl
losses and they have Ball, one of the nation’s best running
Michigan State. Behind RB Le’Veon Bell, the Spartans could be on
the verge of breaking a Rose Bowl drought that goes back to
Texas. Mack Brown’s crew appears to be headed back to the big
stage behind a helmet-rattling defense.
West Virginia. The Mountaineers could make their first season in
the Big 12 championship worthy.
Barkley, USC. Projected as a high NFL draft pick, Barkley became
an instant Heisman Trophy front-runner when he announced he was
coming back for his senior season.
Ball, Wisconsin. The Badgers’ star running back changed the
pronunciation of his name from Mon-tee to Mon-tay. Whatever you
call him, dude’s good.
Robinson, Michigan. The Wolverines’ electric quarterback has
churned out more than 8,000 yards in his career, most of those the
past two seasons. Imagine what he could do if he tied his
Geno Smith, West Virginia. The Mountaineers’ QB set multiple
school records as a junior and more could be on the way in his
final season in Morgantown.
Barkevious Mingo, LSU. Been known to train wreck offensive
Jones, Oklahoma. He’s been around since Barry Switzer was coach.
OK, maybe not that long, but the four-year starter will leave as
the most prolific passer in OU history.
De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon. Spectacular as a freshman last season
and will likely get more touches this season now that James is in
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina. Back from a torn ACL last
season, he should be one of the nation’s top running backs this
Sept. 1, Michigan vs. Alabama at Cowboys Stadium, Arlington,
Texas. The annual opener at Jerry Jones’ funhouse has had some
great matchups in the past. This one could be the best of the
Sept. 15, Alabama at Arkansas. Winner could get the inside track
on a national-title run.
Sept. 22, Michigan at Notre Dame. Last season’s epic finish
makes this a must-watch.
Oct. 13, Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas. The Red River rivalry
continues after all the conference shuffling and could become epic
again with these two teams on the rise.
Oct. 27, Notre Dame at Oklahoma. A rare meeting between power
Nov. 3, Alabama at LSU. We may not get sucked into calling it
the Game of the Century again, but it still figures to have
Nov. 3, Oregon at USC. Triple digits in combined points is a
possibility with all those playmakers on the field.
Nov. 24, Michigan at Ohio State. Meyer is running the Buckeyes
and Michigan appears to be back. This rivalry could be heating back
THE NEW GUYS
There was quite a bit of turnover in the coaching ranks over the
offseason, with some pretty big names landing in new places. Here’s
Bob Davie, New Mexico. Away from coaching for a decade, Davie
tries to turn around a program plagued by embarrassments on and off
the field under Mike Locksley.
Todd Graham, Arizona State. The fast-talking Texan has done
everything right in Tempe so far, soothing concerns about bouncing
around while building excitement for the program. All that’s left
is to win some games.
Mike Leach, Washington State. His offenses are always
entertaining. So’s his mouth.
Meyer, Ohio State. Burned out no more, the two-time national
champion coach returns to the sideline with one of the country’s
premier programs – and too many references to an Urban renewal.
Bill O’Brien, Penn State. The former o-coordinator of the New
England Patriots might have the toughest job in the country.
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona. RichRod’s three-year run at Michigan
didn’t go so well, but he has Tucson buzzing about football again
with his suped-up offense.
Smith, Arkansas. The Razorbacks needed someone to smooth over
the ugliness of Bobby Petrino’s firing. The even-keel Smith should
be a good fit.
Charlie Weis, Kansas. Weis’ first stint as a head coach petered
out at Notre Dame. The Jayhawks are hoping he can turn around a
program that languished under Turner Gill.
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