The 2013 college football season is still off somewhere in the distance, nearly too far away to even spot along the horizon. That said, so much has already taken place this offseason. A number of juniors and seniors are headed to the NFL, so many freshmen have arrived to replenish the ranks, and with spring practices just around the corner we can begin to take stock of where our teams really stand, well before the arrival of the year’s first kickoff.
For example, as fans, coaches and experts all look to the West Coast, can a Pac-12 team unseat the SEC and win the national title? Both Stanford and Oregon won BCS bowls last year, and both look to be even more formidable in 2013-14. With UCLA, Washington, USC and both Arizona schools all on the up-and-up, could an undefeated Pac-12 squad go all the way?
For that matter, what about Lane Kiffin at USC? Always fun to watch, but will you be hoping for a championship or a train wreck out in La La Land?
Of course, a lot of that hinges on the performance of the Big Ten. If Ohio State manages to go undefeated yet again, might they earn a nod for the title game?
Or will the conference as a whole fall flat on its face once again?
Will Alabama dash the hopes of Stanford, Oregon, Ohio State and every other school in the nation, for that matter? Can the Crimson Tide possibly make a run at a three-peat?
It would be a heck of a run, no question, and thousands of members of Tide Nation will be paying close attention each and every week — but will you be? Is there another storyline that catches your eye even more closely?
There are a number of relatively small-time schools looking to make a push in 2013. Will any of them prove to be next year’s Northern Illinois? In all likelihood, such a team would come out of the revamped Mountain West, but what about another MAC squad?
What about the Big East? This summer, the ACC adds both Pitt and Syracuse. On July 1, 2014, Louisville (ACC), Notre Dame (ACC), Rutgers (Big Ten) and the ‘Catholic 7′, non-football members are all expected to depart, leaving the Big East as a 10-member conference consisting of: UConn, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane and UCF.
Will anyone, besides those member schools, of course, be paying any attention?
And what about the Heisman Trophy race? Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel captured the imagination of the country when he and his ‘backyard football’-style of play took down mighty Alabama and then Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. In-between, he became the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy. Now, as he gears up for his second season under center in College Station, the nation asks: Can he “wow” us all again?
Only Ohio State’s Archie Griffin has won two Trophies, earning the prestigious hardware in both 1974 and ’75. Can Johnny Football do it while the nation looks on in high-def?
Or will Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina’s pride and joy, become the first exclusively defensive player ever to win the award?
Manziel’s coach, Kevin Sumlin, enjoyed a year of virtually unparalleled success in just his first one in Aggieland. Following a 2012 season that ended disastrously for a number of schools, more than two dozen new coaches were brought in across the nation. How curious will you be to see how either your school’s new hiring or that of another school pans out?
We have made all of these references to conferences, and to Alabama. But what about the team without a conference, and who lost to Alabama?
How will Notre Dame rebound after the drubbing it took at the hands of the Tide in Miami in the BCS title game? Will quarterback Everett Golson mature and improve enough to lead the team to sustained success, or did they lose too many pieces of the puzzle?
Will they, or the Pac-12, or the Big Ten, or the Big 12 or ACC be able to unseat the SEC? Forget Alabama right now, the Tide’s conference has won the national title in seven consecutive years. With Aaron Murray leading the way at Georgia, AJ McCarron still at the helm of Bama, Manziel with A&M, Jadeveon Clowney poppin’ helmets off at South Carolina, Jeff Driskel making moves with both his arm and legs at Florida, Zach Mettenberger in his final year at LSU and both Vandy and Ole Miss on the up-and-up, can anyone stop this monstrous conference?
Do you care?
Is that what you will be paying closest attention to as the 2013 offseason gains steam and the season finally kicks off? Or will it be any number of other storylines that may play out?
We’re just going to come right out and ask it …