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Helwagen: Post-Spring Top 25
They say it is inevitable. David Bowie once sang a song about it.
It, of course, is change. And the winds of change are blowing at gale force across the landscape of college football.
It’s been 4-1/2 months since the last college football game was played and it will be another 3-1/2 months until the first game of the 2012 season will commence, so we’ve made it past the halfway point in the off-season.
But when that new season arrives, it will be readily apparent that the college football world looks a little bit different. We also know that even bigger change – did somebody say “Playoffs?! Playoffs?!” – is coming in the years ahead.
College athletic directors and presidents will meet this summer to work out details of a four-team national championship playoff format that will start with the 2014 season. In the meantime, though, the current Bowl Championship Series format will play out the string the next two years.
Conference realignment has been a major story in college athletics and will continue to be one for years to come. This year alone, 11 schools will be in new places. Several others are already ticketed to leave for what they hope will be greener pastures next season and in 2014. The rumor mill has Florida State pondering a jump from the ACC to the Big 12.
The four big conference changes among BCS schools this year have Missouri and Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 for the SEC and TCU and West Virginia joining the Big 12 to replace the schools it lost. TCU comes from the Mountain West, while WVU ends a 21-year affiliation with the Big East.
The one thing that hasn’t changed in the last six years is the destination of the national championship crystal football. That nice trophy has ended up in the trophy case of an SEC school in each of the last six seasons – the longest such run by a league in the history of the sport. Schools within the state of Alabama have won the last three championships with Alabama in 2009, Auburn in 2010 and Alabama again last year.
Last year, the SEC became the first conference to send two teams to the national championship game. LSU had already defeated Alabama 9-6 in overtime in Tuscaloosa, but the teams were rematched in New Orleans. There, Alabama won the one that counted. The Crimson Tide cruised to an easy 21-0 win, giving coach Nick Saban his third national championship (one at LSU, two at Alabama).
Can somebody from outside the SEC end this reign? We will see in the months ahead as all of these teams compete for a chance to take their talents down to South Beach and compete for the national championship on Jan. 7.
We will have a much more detailed season preview as we get closer to the fall. And you can look for the various preseason magazines on newsstands beginning over Memorial Day weekend.
For now, here are thumbnail sketches of our post-spring top 25. Plus, we look at other schools to watch, the new conference configurations, coaching changes, Heisman Trophy candidates and some games to watch.
Post-Spring Top 25
* 1. LSU (13-1 last year) – Les Miles’ Tigers went into the national championship game unbeaten and as the No. 1 team. But they could not duplicate their earlier win over Alabama and watched the Crimson Tide celebrate their championship on Bourbon Street instead. QB Zach Mettenberger replaces the platoon of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, while RBs Michael Ford and Spencer Ware return.
The defense has stars aplenty with DE Sam Montgomery, OLB Barkevious Mingo and CB-return man extraordinaire Tyrann Mathieu. Montgomery and Mingo are projected as top-10 NFL draft picks next year. Mathieu, nicknamed the Honey Badger, can turn a game at any moment with an electrifying return. The Tigers host South Carolina and Alabama, but end the year at Arkansas.
* 2. Southern California (10-2) – USC dominated the Pac-10 for much of the past decade before landing on NCAA probation, which included a two-year bowl ban. But coach Lane Kiffin has his Trojans ready to contend again behind QB Matt Barkley (39 TDs last year), who passed up NFL riches for a fourth season as the USC starter. His key targets will be Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. Barkley and Woods could each be top-five NFL picks a year from now.
Scholarship sanctions have cost Kiffin some depth, but he has 16 returning starters after pushing underclassmen the last two years. The defense must improve for the Trojans with LB Dion Bailey and DB T.J. McDonald leading the way. USC must visit Stanford early in the year, but gets Oregon and Notre Dame at home in November.
* 3. Alabama (12-1) – The Crimson Tide lost four NFL draft first-round picks, including RB Trent Richardson. But Saban still has 15 returning starters, led by QB A.J. McCarron and OT D.J. Fluker. Fluker is already being touted as a top-10 NFL draft pick for next year.
The losses were heavy on the defensive side, where LB Dont’a Hightower, DB Mark Barron and CB Dre Kirkpatrick were all first-round picks. The Tide will need new playmakers like LB Trey DePriest and CB Dee Milliner to step up. Alabama opens against Michigan on a neutral field in Arlington, Texas. Road games at Arkansas and LSU will help settle the SEC West title.
* 4. Oklahoma (10-3) – QB Landry Jones returns and the Sooners may well be the class of the Big 12 in 2012. Blake Bell, a running quarterback, proved to be a nice complement last year and he returns as well. Eight starters are back on defense, led by DB Tony Jefferson and LB Tom Wort.
The Sooners get Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State at home, play Texas in Dallas and must visit West Virginia and TCU late in the year.
* 5. Oregon (12-2) – Coach Chip Kelly lost RB LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas early to the NFL. That’s OK because Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota are lined up to replace Thomas and soph De’Anthony Thomas seems equipped to handle the running back duties. Explosive runner and return man Kenjon Barner is also back.
LB Michael Clay and DB John Boyett return on defense. Oregon is the only school to be in a BCS bowl each of the last three years and the Ducks are coming off their first Rose Bowl win since 1917. The Nov. 3 match-up with USC could be the first of two match-ups with the Trojans.
* 6. Georgia (10-4) – The SEC scheduling gods really shined some goodness on Georgia, which does not face Alabama, LSU or Arkansas. But the Bulldogs still have to visit East Division rival South Carolina and also travel to Missouri and Auburn. A return trip to the SEC title game could be in the cards.
QB Aaron Murray returns to lead the offense, although Georgia will miss several key pieces early in the year – including DB Bacarri Rambo – for disciplinary reasons. Georgia boasted a top-five defense last year and nine starters will be back with Rambo and LB Jarvis Jones leading the way. Jones could be an NFL draft top-five pick next year.
* 7. South Carolina (11-2) – The Gamecocks won at Georgia, but losses to Auburn and Arkansas knocked South Carolina out of the SEC title game. Still, USC closed nicely with wins over Florida, Clemson and Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
Steve Spurrier has plenty of star power, led by RB Marcus Lattimore and DE Jadeveon Clowney. Lattimore suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 7 last year and is working his way back. QB Connor Shaw returns, although WR Alshon Jeffery left early for the NFL.
* 8. West Virginia (10-3) – The Mountaineers wrapped their stay in the Big East with a piece of the conference title and an amazing 70-33 Orange Bowl win over ACC champion Clemson. WVU moves on to the Big 12, where it could be an instant contender for a conference title and another BCS bowl bid. WVU must visit Texas and gets Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma at home.
Coach Dana Holgorsen has nine starters back from the WVU offense that decimated Clemson, including QB Geno Smith (31 TD passes last year). Smith returns his top three targets in Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney.
* 9. Michigan (11-2) – Brady Hoke wasted no time putting his stamp on Michigan football. In his first year as the UM coach, Hoke led the Wolverines to a Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech – the school’s first BCS bowl win in 11 seasons. The next drought to end involves the Big Ten championship, which UM has not won since 2004. Hoke brings back 15 starters, including a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in dynamic QB Denard Robinson and emerging RB Fitzgerald Toussaint.
The defense improved dramatically in 2011 and still has more work to do behind LBs Kenny Demens and Jake Ryan. The schedule is tough with the game against Alabama in Texas and road trips to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. But if UM can win home games with Iowa and Michigan State, the Wolverines could be headed to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game (and possibly more beyond that).
* 10. Michigan State (11-3) – The Spartans notched back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history and also had a nice breakthrough Outback Bowl win over past nemesis Georgia. Coach Mark Dantonio lost QB Kirk Cousins and WR B.J. Cunningham to graduation and saw DT Jerel Worthy leave early for the NFL.
Andrew Maxwell steps in for Cousins at quarterback. Eight starters return on the Big Ten’s top defense, led by CB Johnny Adams, DB Denicos Allen and DE William Gholston. MSU must start the year fast with home games with Boise State, Notre Dame and Ohio State in the first five weeks. A win at Michigan could help send MSU back to a second straight Big Ten title game.
* 11. Florida State (9-4) – Rumors are rampant that FSU wants to pursue a move to the Big 12. But, for now at least, the Seminoles remain in the ACC, where their one-time death grip on the conference title has weakened considerably over the last decade. FSU won 12 ACC titles in its first 14 years in the league, but hasn’t claimed the prize since 2005.
Jimbo Fisher, back for his second year as the FSU coach, has some pieces that could help him end that drought. QB E.J. Manuel could be ready for a breakout year. Eight starters return on defense, including DE Brandon Jenkins and CB-KR Greg Reid. FSU hosts Clemson and Florida, but must visit Virginia Tech for a Thursday night game.
* 12. Ohio State (6-7) – The Buckeyes are ineligible for a bowl game or a championship this season due to NCAA sanctions. But OSU fans are downright giddy to see what new coach Urban Meyer – he of the two national titles in three seasons at Florida – can do in his first year on the job. The Buckeyes endured their first losing season in 23 years and first four-game losing streak in 68 years. It was the first time since 1897 where the Buckeyes had as many as seven losses in a season.
QB Braxton Miller returns and if OSU can find some receiving threats the new spread offense could take off. DL John Simon and Johnathan Hankins lead a defense that took on some water last year. The swing games are at Michigan State, at Wisconsin and the season finale at home with Michigan, which figures to be a spirited affair to say the least with no bowl game.
* 13. Wisconsin (11-3) – Wisconsin has won or shared back-to-back Big Ten titles for the first time since 1998-99. UW could be going for its first-ever three-peat in the conference and, with Ohio State ineligible to rep the Leaders Division, the Badgers are almost a lock to play in the conference title game. Coach Bret Bielema lost six – count ‘em, six – assistant coaches off his staff after the Rose Bowl loss to Oregon.
Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien could replace departed QB starter Russell Wilson, himself an ACC transfer-and-play immediately player from N.C. State a year ago. RB Montee Ball (NCAA record-tying 39 TDs) passed up a chance to turn pro. LBs Chris Borland and Mike Taylor lead the defense. The Badgers don’t have to play Michigan and they host Ohio State and Michigan State.
* 14. Stanford (11-2) – The Cardinal bid farewell to top NFL draft pick Andrew Luck and started the search for his replacement this spring. Josh Nunes and Brett Nottingham will continue their battle in fall camp. RB Stepfan Taylor figures to get a lot of work. The Stanford defense should be strong, although LB Shayne Skov continues his rehab from a knee injury.
USC visits Stanford, but the Cardinal face trips to Washington, Notre Dame, Cal and Oregon.
* 15. Arkansas (11-2) – The Razorbacks were viewed as a possible SEC and national title contender, but coach Bobby Petrino was fired in April after it was learned he had an affair with a female staff member. Former Michigan State coach (and Arkansas assistant) John L. Smith was brought in to shepherd the Hogs through this season. A permanent coach will be hired after the season.
QB Tyler Wilson, RB Knile Davis and WR Cobi Hamilton key an Arkansas offense that should put up huge numbers in 2012. CB Darius Winston and LB Alonzo Highsmith lead the defense. Arkansas gets West Division rivals Alabama and LSU on home soil.
* 16. Kansas State (10-3) – Bill Snyder took a three-year hiatus from the head coaching job at K-State before returning in 2009. Last year, Snyder and the Wildcats were in a familiar position with his first double-digit win season since his return and his eighth in his combined 20 years as the KSU head coach.
Chances are good everybody will underestimate Snyder’s little engine that could again in 2012, and you know he’s OK with that. QB Collin Klein is poised for another big year. The Wildcats visit Oklahoma and West Virginia and host Texas in their season finale.
* 17. Clemson (10-4) – The Tigers were 8-0 and ranked as high as seventh nationally before the wheels came off – at least sort of – down the stretch. They suffered late-season road losses at Georgia Tech, N.C. State and South Carolina. They managed duplicate an earlier win over Virginia Tech, though, in the ACC title game. But that sent them to the Orange Bowl, where West Virginia rolled to that 70-33 win.
Coming off that 2-4 finish, you know Dabo Swinney will be looking for atonement early and often in 2012. And Clemson gets a great shot at that by playing Auburn in Atlanta the first weekend.
* 18. TCU (11-2) – OK, follow this if you can … TCU was in the Mountain West, but jumped at an invite to join the Big 12. But when teams started leaving the Big 12, that conference came after TCU. The Horned Frogs leaped at that offer, ending their association with the Big East before it ever got started. TCU went to back-to-back BCS bowls in 2009-10, winning the Rose Bowl after that 2010 season. Gary Patterson has built a winning program in Fort Worth.
QB Casey Pachall is back for his second season as the starter. It will be a definite step up in class for the Frogs, whose last five games will be Oklahoma State (away), West Virginia (away), Kansas State, Texas (away) and Oklahoma.
* 19. Virginia Tech (11-3) – Two of Tech’s three losses were to Clemson and the third was an overtime defeat to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. QB Logan Thomas had a big first year as a starter and could be a top-10 NFL pick next year if his junior season goes well in
The Hokies appear to be the class of the ACC Coastal Division. They will get Georgia Tech and Florida State at home for prime time games, but must visit their nemesis Clemson.
* 20. Nebraska (9-4) – The Huskers and coach Bo Pelini came through their first pass through the Big Ten reasonably well and, provided the defense can make some improvements, they should be in the hunt for the Legends Division crown again this year. QB Taylor Martinez and RB Rex Burkhead present huge issues when they get the option game rolling.
Nebraska has the toughest schedule in the Big Ten with home games against Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State and road games at Ohio State, Northwestern (which beat the Huskers last year in Lincoln), Michigan State and Iowa.
* 21. Texas (8-5) – In the two seasons since losing the 2010 national title game to Alabama, Texas has gone a combined 13-12. That includes a dismal 6-11 Big 12 mark in that span. Mack Brown has shaken things up and hopes the Longhorns can get back into the upper echelon this season. Brown hasn’t decided who will start at quarterback between Case McCoy and David Ash, although most expect Ash to be the guy.
The defense was among the Big 12’s best last year. DE Jackson Jeffcoat and CBs Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom will be returning. As always, Texas plays Oklahoma in Dallas. New Big 12 members West Virginia and TCU must visit Austin.
* 22. Oklahoma State (12-1) – The Cowboys won their first conference title in 35 years last year and topped that with an overtime win over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. The bad news is QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon have headed off to the NFL. Wes Lunt has won the open quarterback job. Texas, TCU and West Virginia must visit Stillwater.
* 23. Notre Dame (8-5) – After back-to-back 8-5 seasons, third-year Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is still waiting to make a big splash in South Bend. The quarterback situation is in disarray with Tommy Rees facing a possible suspension after an off-the-field incident. RB Cierre Wood will have to carry a heavy load.
LB Manti Te’o, an All-American last year and projected top-10 NFL pick for 2013, opted to return and he will be the leader on defense. The schedule is one of the nation’s toughest. ND opens against Navy in Ireland. The Irish face road trips to Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC; home games with Michigan and Stanford; and another neutral site game with Miami (Fla.) in Chicago.
* 24. Iowa (7-6) – Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz hired two new coordinators during the off-season. On offense, it will help having 3,000-yard passer James Vandenberg back. But the tailback situation remains muddled. WR Keenan Davis must step up.
Iowa was eighth in the Big Ten in scoring defense (23.8 ppg) and total defense (378.9 ypg) last season. LBs James Morris and Christian Kirksey and DB Micah Hyde lead that side of the ball. Iowa does not have to play Ohio State or Wisconsin in Big Ten crossover games and also will get Nebraska at home.
* 25. Florida (7-6) – Will Muschamp’s first year as the Florida coach was marked by an 0-6 record against I-A teams that finished with a winning record. The coach likes what he sees in dueling QBs Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel and their battle will continue into camp. RB Mike Gillislee could be the go-to guy as a senior, while Latroy Pittman emerged at receiver.
The defense took a hit with DE Ronald Powell sidelined by a torn ACL. DE Sharrif Floyd, CB Marcus Roberson and LB Jonathan Bostic will lead the way on defense. Florida hosts LSU and Georgia Tech; visits Texas A&M, Tennessee and Florida State; and plays Georgia in Jacksonville.
* Twelve Others To Watch – Boise State (12-1), Auburn (8-5), Baylor (10-3), Washington (7-6), Louisville (7-6), Utah (8-5), Georgia Tech (8-5), Cincinnati (10-3), BYU (10-3), Rutgers (9-4), Mississippi State (7-6), Texas Tech (5-7).
Based on what we’ve laid out with the rankings, here’s what the BCS bowls and a few others might look like this year:
* BCS National Championship Game (Jan. 7, Miami): LSU vs. Southern California – LSU returns to the title game for the second year in a row, while USC hasn’t been to the title game since the 2005 season.
* Rose Bowl (Jan. 1, Pasadena): Oregon vs. Michigan – Michigan gets here as the Big Ten champion, while the Rose Bowl takes Oregon after losing USC to the national title game.
* Orange Bowl (Jan. 1, Miami): Florida State vs. West Virginia – FSU gets in here as the ACC champion. The Orange will have the second at-large pick and would take WVU here.
* Sugar Bowl (Jan. 2, New Orleans): Alabama vs. Louisville – The Sugar loses LSU to the national title game, so Alabama fits in. The Sugar has the final at-large pick and would be “stuck” with potential Big East champion Louisville.
* Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 3, Glendale, Ariz.): Oklahoma vs. Michigan State – Oklahoma gets a return trip here as the Big 12 champion. Michigan State makes its first-ever BCS bowl trip as the top at-large pick.
* More Bowl Projections – Capital One: Wisconsin vs. Georgia; Outback: South Carolina vs. Nebraska; Cotton: Arkansas vs. TCU; Valley of the Sun: Iowa vs. Kansas State; Gator: Penn State vs. Florida; Chick Fil A: Tennessee vs. Clemson; Holiday: Stanford vs. Texas.
New Conference Alignments
Here is a look at the new conference alignments for the 2012 season (subject to change at any time, of course):
* ACC (12) – Atlantic Division: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest; Coastal Division: Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami (Fla.), North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech.
* Big East (7) – Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse.
* Big Ten (12) – Leaders Division: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin; Legends Division: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern.
* Big 12 (10) – Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU (new), Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia (new).
* Conference USA (12) – East Division: East Carolina, Marshall, Memphis, Southern Miss, UAB, UCF; West Division: Houston, Rice, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa, UTEP.
* MAC (14) – East Division: Akron, Buffalo, Kent State, Massachusetts (new), Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Temple; West Division: Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan.
* Mountain West (10) – Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State (new), Hawai'I (new), Nevada (new), New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Wyoming.
* Pac-12 (12) – North Division: California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington, Washington State; South Division: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Southern California, UCLA, Utah.
* SEC (14) – East Division: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri (new), South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt; West Division: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Louisiana State, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Texas A&M (new).
* Sun Belt (10) – Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, South Alabama (new), Troy, Western Kentucky.
* WAC (7) – Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Texas State (new), Utah State, UTSA (new).
* Independents (4) – Army, BYU, Navy, Notre Dame.
Heisman Trophy Hopefuls
With 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor off to the NFL, there will be a new Heisman winner in 2012. Here are some names to keep in mind:
Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson, LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu, West Virginia QB Geno Smith, Oklahoma QB Landry Jones, Wisconsin RB Montee Ball, Michigan QB Denard Robinson, USC QB Matt Barkley, Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, Arkansas RB Knile Davis, Kansas State QB Collin Klein, South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore, Georgia QB Aaron Murray, Washington QB Keith Price, Clemson WR Sammy Watkins and USC WR Robert Woods.
There will be 25 new head coaches at Division I-A schools this coming season. Here are some of the more prominent changes:
Arizona (was Mike Stoops, now Rich Rodriguez), Arizona State (was Dennis Erickson, now Todd Graham), Illinois (was Ron Zook, now Tim Beckman), Kansas (was Turner Gill, now Charlie Weis), North Carolina (was Everett Withers on an interim basis, now Larry Fedora), Ohio State (was Luke Fickell on an interim basis, now Urban Meyer), Mississippi (was Houston Nutt, now Hugh Freeze), Penn State (was Joe Paterno, now Bill O’Brien), Pittsburgh (was Todd Graham, now Paul Chryst), Rutgers (was Greg Schiano, now Kyle Flood), Texas A&M (was Mike Sherman, now Kevin Sumlin), UCLA (was Rick Neuheisel, now Jim L. Mora) and Washington State (was Paul Wulff, now Mike Leach).
Games To Watch
We will have a bigger Viewers Guide as we get closer to the season. But here are 20 games we already have circled for the upcoming season:
* Aug. 31 – Boise State at Michigan State (Boise has had some success with recent early season wins over Virginia Tech and Georgia away from home).
* Sept. 1 – Michigan vs. Alabama (at Arlington, Texas; Cowboys Stadium hosts a potential top-10 battle).
* Sept. 15 – USC at Stanford (Trojans first Pac-12 test comes at Palo Alto), Alabama at Arkansas (Critical SEC West test arrives in Week 3).
* Sept. 22 – Clemson at Florida State (Winner will have ACC Atlantic Division edge), Michigan at Notre Dame (Longtime rivals hook up under the lights in South Bend).
* Sept. 29 – Ohio State at Michigan State (Urban Meyer’s first Big Ten game as OSU coach comes at East Lansing).
* Oct. 6 – West Virginia at Texas (WVU’s first Big 12 road game comes in Austin).
* Oct. 13 – South Carolina at LSU (Gamecocks face tough trip to Baton Rouge), Oklahoma vs. Texas (at Dallas; Red River Rivalry rolls on).
* Oct. 20 – Michigan State at Michigan (MSU has won last four in series; winner could have Big Ten Legends Division edge).
* Oct. 27 – Michigan State at Wisconsin (Big Ten title game rematch from last year, won by Wisconsin), Michigan at Nebraska (Michigan’s first visit to Nebraska since 1911).
* Nov. 3 – Alabama at LSU (They met twice last year. Could it happen again?), Oregon at USC (Could be the first of two meetings between these two Pac-12 rivals).
* Nov. 8 – Florida State at Virginia Tech (Thursday night game may be best in that series this year).
* Nov. 17 – Oklahoma at West Virginia (Could be match-up of Big 12’s top two teams), Ohio State at Wisconsin (Win could lock up another Big Ten Leaders title for Badgers).
* Nov. 23 – LSU at Arkansas (Can LSU wrap an SEC West title on the road?).
* Nov. 24 – Michigan at Ohio State (Meyer gets his first crack at Michigan, and it will be at the Horseshoe).
The various conference championship games in the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will be conducted Dec. 1.
This post was edited by James Hale on 5/19/2012 at 10:02 AM
#4 is too high until we see what the O- and D-lines can do. Texas game will be a good measuring stick for the O-line as their defense is stout. WVU will truly test our D.
Have to agree with you Cover 2 about WVU. They're going to be a really good football team this year. The trip to Morgantown is going to be exciting, to say the least. If we, and I think we will, get really good play out of the o-line and give Landry time to throw, the offense should be one of the best in college football. I think that the rb position will be better too. However, it's the d-line that I'm worried the most about. They have to get pressure on the opposing q.b.'s to give the lb's and db's a chance to shut down some of the best offense's in the country that is in the Big 12. Maybe some of the newbies can give the starters a much needed breather in tight games.
With coach Mike back in town, I feel that OU's defense will be a lot better than last year's version of where'd they go, i.e. Baylor, taco tech and osu. What was OU's defense ranked last year? Something like 56 I believe. That kind of a defense will not get a team very far in the hunt for a N.C. OU has to get better play from the d-line. Our lb's are too small to handle offensive lineman all night. That gives the opposing team too may options to throw at us for OU to stop them, esp. in this league. I expect an attacking defense this year, which may help keep the other team off balance.
As far as the No. 4 ranking goes. IMO, if we have a killer defense, it's too low. However, if we have another one like last year, then it's too high. I'm not too worried about the offense. It will be another really good to great one, IMO.
I said it once it happened. They took it WAY too easy on SC.
Just to add to my earlier comment, if we can push Texas around and run on them, we can pretty much run on anybody. Manny Diaz has the Horn defense playing lights out.
As for better play from our D, I think Mike can make it happen. Just by simplifying schemes and minimizing confusion he has already improved it immensely. If we can beat WVU in Morgantown we can play with and beat anybody, to include USC or Bama.
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