Part 1 of my 2012 preview focused on three of the most interesting story lines for the 2012 season. In this article, I’ll dig into the bandwagons I’m driving for the 2012 season.
Georgia Tech will be sneaky good
In eight of the last nine seasons Paul Johnson teams have won 8+ games. Last year the Ramblin Wreck jumped out to a 6-0 start before losing five games down the stretch, including two games by a field goal. The good news about 2011 is that their offense was the best of the Paul Johnson era, averaging 34.3 points and 459 yards per game. In 2012, things should only be better with 4/5 offensive lineman, their quarterback, and their top two running backs all returning. The defense has been headed in the right direction the last two seasons under DC Al Groh and if year 3 can show another improvement, the Yellow Jackets could contend. The keys to the season will be Sep-3 @ VT and Nov-10 @ UNC. Win one of those games and they’ll likely be playing for the ACC crown. LOVE THE TRIPLE OPTION!
The Florida Gators are underrated
From 2005 to 2009 the Florida Gators had this pretty nifty guy coach their team. I think he won two national championships with quarterbacks like Chris Leak and…. what’s his name? That guy that prayed a lot… at the helm. Gosh, whatever happened to that coach? You know, the one with the two last names? In any case, whoever he was, he was a good recruiter. From 2007 to 2010, the Gators recruiting classes were ranked 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 3rd. Translation: the Gators have talent! But what else? Second year coach Will Muschamp was at one time so highly regarded as to be named the heir to the Mack Brown/Texas throne. Instead, he ended up with the head coaching gig at Florida. Year 1 was a mess of turnovers and a revolving door of quarterbacks. Meanwhile, the defense was fifth best in the conference and returns nearly their entire 2-deep. If newly acquired offensive coordinator (Brent Pease who was at Boise State last year) can develop one of their two excellent QB prospects, the Gators have the upside to win the SEC East and contend for the national title.
The Ohio Bobcats could go 13-0
The Fighting Frank Solichs have won at least 8 games in each of the last three seasons. Last season they broke through two meaningful ceilings; winning their first bowl game and winning 10 games. Looking at this year’s squad, they’re led by JR QB Tyler Tettleton whose stature, athleticism, and passing ability will remind you of Russell Wilson. He graded out very highly in my system.
(pardon the idiotic voiceover, but there are a few nice clips to show his style of play)
On defense they get 10 of their top 12 tacklers back. Keep a close eye as this team travels to Happy Valley to take on Penn State on September 1st. If they can pull the upset there, the next biggest road block would be their October 27th in Oxford, Ohio against the Miami Redhawks and….
Zac Dysert, Senior QB, Miami University, will become a hot NFL prospect
Dysert, who is just 2,300 yards from becoming Miami’s all-time passing leader, has great potential. In 2011, he carried the Redhawks in their toughest games, averaging more than 40 pass attempts per game while maintaining a lofty 91.6 rating in my system (a 95 rating would indicate an elite NFL prospect). Through a historical lens, the small group of players who threw ~40 passes per games in their toughest games and posted a rating in the 90+ range would include Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and, you guessed it, Zac Dysert. Yea… I went there. The last few years the Miami offensive line has been a disaster, allowing 47 sacks per season. The offensive line returns 4/5 starters this year and we should see Dysert’s star continue to rise if they can give him more time to operate. He will face Ohio State right out of the gate, so it will be interesting to see what he’s got.
Geno Smith will win the Heisman trophy.
My admiration for Geno Smith is well documented by now. To use a baseball analogy, Geno has five ‘tools’ or factors working for him. He has great pocket presence. He completes a lot of passes. He can throw it deep. He can run. And, finally, he has media upside. Here’s what I mean. With West Virginia moving the the Big 12, Geno will have a much bigger stage on which to display his talents. To that same end, the quality of the Big 12 will lend itself to WVU playing in high scoring back-and-forth games. Unlike the Big East where the Mountaineers can run and hide from teams, the Big 12 will bring out his best every week. Another bright spot is the fact that Geno is in year two of Dana Holgorsen’s air raid offense, which means that last season was only a sneak preview. If things can be better than they were in 2011, Geno will be the star of the 2012 season and walk away with the Heisman.
Year 3 of the Derek Dooley era
It’s strange to think that TENNESSEE has won 5, 7, 6, and 5 games in the past four seasons. Don’t they realize that… they’re TENNESSEE. So here we are in 2012, which is year three of the Derek Dooley era. I’m expecting that this is the year that either cements Dooley as the long term head coach of the future for Tennessee, or makes people around Knoxville do some major soul searching. Here’s why I’ll count on the Vols having success. 1) Tyler Bray, when healthy, was great in his first two seasons. As a junior, Bray should continue his ascent toward top NFL QB Prospect. His chances of staying healthy and productive are dramatically improved considering that the O-Line has 105 career starts and returns intact. The defense, which ranked 7th in the SEC last season, returns 13/15 top tacklers. The two games to watch will be when Tennessee hosts Florida (Sep-15) and Alabama (Oct-20). Look for the Vols to return to relevance, if not prominence, in 2012.
Casey Pachall is really good…. and straight out of a 90s football movie
In 2010 the TCU Horned Frogs won the Rose Bowl behind great play from Andy Dalton. Dalton, one of the ten best QB prospects in the past 15 years according to my system, was going to be really hard to replace, right? Not so fast my friend. In stepped Casey Pachall, who led TCU to an 11-2 season with their two losses coming by a combined 9 points. Pachall’s 2011 season graded at 107.7 (a score above 95 indicates an elite QB prospect) which places him a fraction above Matt Barkley in my system. So the guy can pass, no doubt. But here’s where things get interesting.
Pachall seems like a character straight out of the 1990’s college football movie “The Program.” Over the offseason, Pachall failed a drug test and admitted to trying ecstasy and cocaine. He has tattoos covering his body. His hair hangs out the back of his helmet. He seems like something straight off a Hollywood set. Because of his transgressions, his image has been taken off everything associated with TCU’s athletic department advertising. Here’s the thing, though, if Pachall can keep his demons under wraps, and use this embarrassment as motivation to succeed, he literally could be the best QB in the country and a new star of the Big 12 conference. Either way, he will be an interesting story to follow.
(pardon the first 30 seconds. He lights up Boise for 473 yards after the ugly start)
Oklahoma State is an elite program
Honestly, I don’t care that Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon graduated. Yes, they were quite good, but it’s time for us to collectively realize that OK State deserves a seat at the big boy table. After going 23-3 in the last two seasons, do you really think they’re just going to snooze through the season? They return 17 of their top 20 tacklers and, strangely, should be carried by their defense in the early going. The schedule sets up nicely for true freshman QB Wes Lunt to get acclimated before Big 12 play starts on Sep-29. To make matters better, the run game should be strong behind 1200 yard- 24 TD man Joseph Randle. Ultimately, as long as Mike Gundy is at the helm, I believe the OK State program will be a fixture in the national top 20. Don’t be surprised if another 10 win season is in the offering.
Texas Tech is going to get somebody.
Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas all play in Lubbock this year. At least one of them will be upset. You’ve been warned.
Shhhh. Be quiet. Everybody is sleeping (on Nebraska).
If I asked you about the most significant newsworthy events in the B1G 10 over the last year, you might say: Russell Wilson stole the show in Madison. Urban Meyer was hired by Ohio State. Penn State went up in smoke. Michigan is back under Brady Hoke. Michigan State won the two of the most exciting games of the 2011 college football season. And, honestly, you would have every right to bring up these things because they really DID matter. So if those are all the reasons why nobody is talking about Nebraska, here are the reasons why they should be… For starters, they’re Nebraska, you know, one of the greatest programs of all time. They won nine games in their first year in a tough conference and have won at least nine in all four seasons under Pelini. Everyone of note returns on offense. The defense is senior laden and should fare better after seeing so many schemes for the first time last season. Their special teams are annually among the best in the country. Oh, and they should be ultra-motivated by the fact that two of their last three games were blowout losses. The schedule is tough, but doable and if things break I could see them going 11-1 in the regular season.
Pac-12 cannibalism will prevent either frontrunner from playing in the National Championship.
USC, of the Pac-12 South, starts the season ranked #1. Oregon, of the Pac-12 North, starts the season ranked #5. Got it? K, good.
Oregon has lost SIX games in three years under Chip Kelly. FOUR of those loses came when their opponent had significant time to prepare and/or the Ducks had significant time to acquire rust– Season Openers of 2009 and 2011 and Bowl Games in 2009 and 2010. I interpret this to mean that it is damn near impossible to beat Oregon between games 2 and 13, a feat that USC would have to accomplish in 2012 if they want to play for the national championship. Ain’t gonna happen, folks! The Ducks have a veteran offensive line and several outstanding playmakers on offense highlights by the black mamba, DeAnthony Thomas. The defense should be at least as good as last year and the special teams will be fantastic. Seeing as they are not going to lose to Arkansas St in the season opener, the Ducks should be 8-0 when the play at the Coliseum zon Nov-3.
The Trojans return everyone on offense from a squad that scored 36 points per game last season. Oh and they add 1200 yard rusher Silas Redd from Penn State. The defense returns 14 of their top 18 tacklers. This team went 10-2 last year, won @ Oregon and were one of the hottest teams in America come bowl season. One problem, NCAA sanctions kept them out of a bowl game. So in 2012 they are hungry to get back to the postseason, ready to dominate, and are capable of doing so. So what’s the problem? For starters, USC has a tradition of laying eggs in Pac 12 road games. 2011 they lost at Arizona State. 2010 they were crushed in Corvallis. 2009 they were upset in Seattle. You get the idea. This season they go on the road at Utah, at Washington, and UCLA.
(highlights from 2011 USC @ Oregon, one of the best games of the year)
So here’s how this is going to play out. The Ducks and Trojans are going to split the regular season matchup and the Pac-12 championship game, where they will almost assuredly represent their divisions. If I HAD to pick one team to win both potential matchups, I’d actually go with the Ducks. I’ll guess they offset each other and both have at least one loss, which means they’ll get passed over for the BCS Championship game by…
The Oklahoma Sooners will go undefeated and play in the National Championship.
Imagine being Landy Jones. You get thrown to the wolves in 2009 after Sam Bradford’s injury. In 2010, your first full year as a starter, you come within 3 passing yards of breaking Bradford’s passing record. In 2011, you play phenomenally for 9 games, lose your all-time-NCAA-leading WR Ryan Broyles to injury, lose two out of three games to close the regular season, get doubted, and then passed for preseason 1st team honors. If I’m Landy Jones, I have a colossal chip on my shoulder. So, besides an ultra motivated Landy Jones, what else do the Sooners have? All five of their offensive lineman returning. The top three running backs from 2011 returning. A defense that is perennially loaded with NFL talent. And most importantly, a BCS grade pedigree, having played in four BCS games in the past six seasons. Outside the annual Red River shootout, the schedule is fantastic. The November games @ WVU and @ TCU could be landmines, but both those teams will probably be running on fumes by then. Put me down for a 12-0 season for the Sooners and a trip to the BCS National Championship game.
The Georgia Bulldogs will win the National Championship.
The Bulldogs are an interesting team. In 2011 they opened with back to back losses and fell off everyone’s radar. After that, they won 10 straight games and by the time everyone realized “this Georgia team might be pretty good” they lost the SEC championship by a wide margin and then lost their bowl game. Two straight losses to end a season? Sounds like motivation to me.
The obvious story is Junior Quarterback Aaron Murray who is in his third year as a starter. Last year, the offense sped things up and led the SEC in plays run, running more than 120 more plays than the next highest team. In year two of this fast-paced system, things should be better for everyone. Murray’s 2011 season grades similarly to Matt Stafford’s final season at Georgia, which is a scary thought considering that he should only be BETTER this year.
The defense is another good indicator. Under DC Todd Grantham, the defense has made two strong improvements between 2009 & 2010 and then 2010 & 2011. Can they make another jump in 2012? They return 12/13 top tacklers from a defense that ranked in the top 10 in America last year.
(an AWESOME defensive highlight real, for a change, and a killer soundtrack)
Add it all together and you’ve got an outstanding QB leading a talented, fast-paced offense who will build leads, and a frighteningly good defense who will be more than capable of creating havoc for opposing offenses. The cherry on top? The won’t have to play LSU or Alabama until the SEC title game.
Book it: the 2012-13 College Football National Champion will be the Georgia Bulldogs.
Check back throughout the season for more CFT articles. Enjoy!