Depending on your point of view, 2012 is
either the dying days of the old era or the dawn of a new era in
college football. Ten teams will be playing in new conferences this
season, yet the BCS, though in its death throes, isn’t yet ready to
go away. To get to any semblance of a playoff, you have to sit
through two more years of the now rancid arrangement.
West Virginia and TCU will replace
Missouri and Texas A&M in the 10-team conference and they couldn’t
have arrived at a better time. Both Oklahoma and Texas are coming
off awful 2011 campaigns, while Baylor and Oklahoma State, last
season’s top teams, both lost their quarterbacks in the first round
of the NFL Draft. The Mountaineers, with a high-powered offense and
a favorable schedule, just might win the league title in their first
2. Can Big East survive as a football
West Virginia is gone, Syracuse and
Pittsburgh are out the door to the ACC likely next season, and
commissioner John Marinatto is pushed out by the conference’s
basketball faction. Big East is supposed to add Temple this season
and six more teams in 2013 – but some of them might opt to bolt even
before they start playing, just like what TCU did. As of now, the
Big East does not have a new TV pact and there’s every possibility
that the basketball schools just might regain control of the
3. Are Michigan and Ohio State ready to
resume control of the Big Ten?
The Wolverines finished in the top 10 and
won a BCS bowl in the first year after Rich Rodriguez, and the
future looks bright, especially with a retooled defense. The
Buckeyes will be ineligible to play in a bowl game next season but
the hiring of Urban Meyer has been nearly a cure-all as he hauled in
a top-five recruiting class. Ohio State won’t be able to play in the
2012 conference title game, so it will have to settle for
their archrival to cap off the season.
4. Is Florida State due for a real
The Seminoles were the
odds-on favorite to win the ACC and a dark horse for the
national title last season, but they imploded because of
inconsistent quarterback play. If they can get reasonable production
out of EJ Manuel or one of his challengers, coupled with a
relatively benign ACC schedule, this might be the FSU’s best year
since its last championship season of 1999.
5. Will ‘Bama have enough horses to chase
down LSU again?
Never mind the departure of running back
Trent Richardson, Alabama will have the hardest time replacing five
starters on a defense that shut out LSU in the BCS championship
game. Nick Saban wasted no time to reload, but trying to overcome
the talent-laden Tigers in Death Valley might be asking a bit too
6. How might Boise State get out of its
Boise State is having
about its impending move as the "new" Big East may still fall apart
from further defections and the WAC, where the Broncos are supposed
to park all their non-football teams, is coming apart at the seams.
There is a possibility that they might take their Olympic sports
teams to the Big West or renege on their Big East commitment
altogether and remain in a reconstituted Mountain West.
7. What’s going to become the BCS after
We know this much: The current system is
dead after 2013 and there will be a four-team playoff, with the
championship game will be played at a non-bowl neutral site. But the
devil is in the details. How will we come up with the four teams in
the playoff? Where will the semifinal games be played? How will the
massive new TV money pie be divvied up? We should know the answers
to those questions sometime soon, as the
university presidents are set to vote on the proposals.
8. How much will USC be hurt by
The Trojans are coming off a two-year bowl
ban, but the scholarship bite is just getting started. USC loses 10
scholarships in each of the next three seasons and depth will become
an issue for an otherwise loaded 2012 team led by quarterback Matt
Barkley. Coach Lane Kiffin will need to find novel ways – and a lot
of luck – to keep his front-line players healthy.
9. Who’s going to challenge Matt Barkley
for the Heisman Trophy?
With perhaps the nation’s best receiving
duo of Robert Woods and Marquis Lee, Barkley is widely expected to
have a banner season and therefore he’s the odds-on favorite to win
the Heisman. But he’ll have plenty of competition from running backs
Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina) and Montee Ball (Wisconsin) and
quarterbacks Aaron Murray (Georgia), Collin Klein (Kansas State) and
Geno Smith (West Virginia).
10. And the team that holds up the crystal
ball in Miami will be … ?
If USC can avoid the injury bug – a big if
– it has more than enough talent to romp through a mediocre Pac-12
with a favorable schedule that likely includes a conference title
game at home in the L.A. Coliseum. The Trojans then will get a
chance to end the SEC’s six-year monopoly on the BCS title by taking
on LSU in the title game in Miami, the site of their last national
championship triumph in January 2005 (even if the NCAA insists that
it never happened).