At this time 5 years ago we had our usual suspects in the top 10 like USC, LSU, OU. Texas and Florida. But who would have ever thought that on November 18th of that year the BCS poll would read 1.LSU 2.Kansas 3.Missouri. We’re talking about 2 out of the top 3 teams that weren’t even in the preseason top 25 when the season began!
As late in the season as November 25th the BCS polls read 1.Missouri 2.West Virginia 3.Ohio St. 4.Georgia 5.LSU. But to show you how things can turn on a dime in college football, the next week the final BCS poll read 1.Ohio State 2.LSU 3.Oklahoma 4.Georgia 5.Virginia Tech. The craziest part of this was when you take number 1 Ohio State (11-1) out of the picture, the next 6 teams below them all had two losses each. Talk about having to sort out a mess of a season, the BCS really had to sort out their math on this one. And it ended up being an OSU team who wasn’t even ranked in the top 10 at the beginning of the season against number 2 LSU.
It’s been five years, but the question is can this sort of thing happen again in college football? I believe it can. the preseason so far hasn’t been buzzworthy on any particular team in college football as standing head and shoulders above the rest.
USC, Bama and LSU probably get talked about the most. But I still don’t see anybody jumping up and down and running through hoops for these teams. In many ways 2012 looks even more wide open than the beginning of 2007.
We have a top ranked USC team that is still going through their probation period and coming off a year without a bowl. This is a team ranked number one with a head coach Lane Kiffin who is getting a lot buzz. Especially for his recruiting. But so far he hasn’t even officially won anything yet, including his division, much less his conference or a national championship. Plus he has a team that doesn’t have a lot of depth. Everything needs to go right with the Trojans for them to be raising the crystal ball at the end of the season. And they will more than likely have to beat a very good Oregon team twice in one season if they hope to get there. That is providing they take care of dangerous teams like Utah and Stanford on the road.
In the SEC we have both Bama and LSU rounding out the top 3. But does anybody think these two teams will equal those special teams they had last season? Bama loses most of their defense, and LSU also has some key spots to fill on defense along with bringing in a new and unproven QB. It’s anybody’s guess how these teams will perform in 2012. Especially given the fact that most everybody else in the SEC will be improved from 2011.
LSU was +22 in turnover margin last year. Those kinds of numbers are extremely difficult to almost impossible to duplicate in the game of college football from one season to the next. Unless LSU’s offense is significantly better than the 110th ranked passing attack they had last year, I don’t see them going unbeaten in conference play two years in a row. Afterall this IS the rough ‘n’ tumble SEC we’re talking about. I just don’t see any team being head and shoulders better than anybody else to go undefeated in the SEC this season. Without a doubt Bama and LSU will have a few more landmines to dodge this year, with most likely inferior teams to what they had last season.
The Pac-12 will have Oregon, Stanford and USC. But none of those teams really look head and shoulders above the rest to me. At least not after what I saw last season. Keep in mind that USC was +7 point dogs to Stanford last year, and +15 dogs to Oregon. So asking the Trojans to improve THAT much and make a run through the conference undefeated may be asking too much.
Same can be said for the Big 12. This may be the most wide open that I’ve ever seen the Big 12. OU is being picked first, but they have already had their share of key injuries and off-field problems before the seaosn even begins, which could derail them down the road when they face the meat of their conference schedule and a mid-season match up with Notre Dame. The Sooners are far from head and shoulders above anybody else. This was proven last season.
Texas would probably have to be the second choice because of their personnel. There are still questions about this team with the offensive line and QB play. But the talent is still there to overtake the Sooners and possibly get into the national title picture.
The Big 10 also looks to be very wide open. Wisconsin will be good, but I question whether they can be as good as last season. Russell Wilson was a pretty special college QB. Plus you never can underestimate Ohio State now that they have Urban Meyer. They are more than capable of pulling the upset of Wisky and turning the Leaders Division upside down. In the Legends division I can easily see Michigan, Michigan St. and Nebraska beating up on each other.
In the ACC all of the talk seems to be with Florida State. Again, a team who couldn’t even win their division last year, and now are talked about for the national championship. There’s no way you can rule out a team with this much defensive talent. But you have to keep in mind that the Seminoles were a terrible rushing team last year. And if you can’t run the ball your probably not going to get a sniff of the BCS title game. I don’t care how good of a defense you have. So this team will have to show significant improvement on offense to make a convincing argument. And let’s not forget, this is the BCS we’re still dealing with. If it comes down to a one loss ACC team and every other one loss team, the BCS is going to choose the other teams because of the more difficult schedules. So in all liklihood because of their soft schedule, FSU will need to go undefeated this year to have a chance to get there.
I think every top 10 team has some questions they’ll need to answer. My bet is many of those teams will continue to have issues. When I look at the teams who could surprise, I tend to first look at the good rushing teams. The last few years the teams who have made the title game have all been up around the 200 ypg rushing mark. The teams that I feel are most capable of reaching that number this year that aren’t in the preseason top 10 are Stanford, South Carolina, Texas, Nebraska and Kansas State.
Before we totally eliminate these teams just remember in 2007 we had the likes of South Florida and Boston College hovering around the top 3 in the polls all the way up to week 10. So you never can really discount anybody when those top 10 teams start faltering.
Since the BCS began, with the exception of last season, we’ve had two teams that weren’t even ranked in the preseason top 25, end up in the top 10 at the end of the season. There weren’t quite as many surprises last year, although Florida State and Texas A&M fell out of the top 10 and were replaced with South Carolina and the much lower ranked Kansas State. Something I didn’t see coming at the start of 2011 with the Cats.
Since the beginning of the BCS, there has been four schools play in the BCS title game that weren’t in the preseason top 10. Tennessee, OU, Ohio State and Auburn. But perhaps the biggest indicator of a team who is able to win the national championship is recruiting. Some don’t hold recruiting in high regard to a team’s ultimate success. But when it comes to winning national championships, that argument doesn’t hold water.
The teams who have won the previous BCS titles have all had recruiting years in which at least 3 out of their last 5 classes were in the top 10. There have been only two exceptions. OU in 2000 and Auburn in 2010. But it should be noted that Auburn was very close to that top 10 number averaging out at #12 in recruiting for that 5 year period. OU was pretty much the same, just being out of the top 10 before their title. So recruiting is a huge factor. It’s why we always see the usual suspects in the top 10 every year.
Although I don’t see a Missouri or a Kansas sneaking into the top spots like what happened in 2007, I can possibly see a team who is outside of the top 10, yet still recruits inside the top 10, possibly sneaking in and becoming a BCS player. A couple of those teams that qualify are Texas and Florida.
Because of their QB play, none of us are 100% sure what kinds of teams either will field this year. But lets not forget that LSU didn’t exactly have good QB play either in 2011, but defense and special teams carried them a long way. My best hunch is we’ll get some teams that are in the lower half of the top 10 possibly making a run. Like a Georgia or a Florida State. Both are notorious for choking in games they are supposed to win. But I’ve learned to never say never with these kinds of teams over the years. For every rule, there always seems to be an exception. And both Georgia and Florida State at least on paper, appear to have the best teams that they’ve had in years.
Anyway I look at it, I see a very interesting year coming for the BCS to have to sort out. I would be very surprised to see two clearcut undefeated teams like we’ve had in the last couple of years. If the end of the world doesn’t come in 2012, at least we’ll be one year closer to the end of the BCS. I can’t wait to see them try to sort out 7 or 8 one loss teams to put in the top two slots. All I hope is they don’t slap another two loss team in there like they did in 2007. Something tells me we’re all going to be saying that four team playoff couldn’t come soon enough, because this season definitely has the potential to be a mess.
Who is your darkhorse national title contender this year? I would like to hear from you.