A look at which team's are going to rock this year...
It's that time of the year, when fans start to count down the days in anticipation of the upcoming college football season.
As a rabid college football fan, there are never enough pre-season predictions, each one entertaining in it's own right. To pass the offseason boredom I decided it would be appropriate to put together a list of this year's potential Top 25, from a fan's perspective.
Without further ado, here's a pre-season look at this seasons contenders for the national championship...
25. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
It's time to show us what you've got Mr. Kelly. Pre-season Top 25 is nice, but Irish fans want a championship, and they want it bad. While you are trying to right the ship in South Bend, Saban is spreading the gap of greatest college football program ever in Tuscaloosa.
The schedule in 2012 doesn't favor the Irish. They have to go on the road to take on USC, Oklahoma, and Michigan State, all pre-season top 15 teams. USC and Oklahoma are both expected to compete for the national title. Good luck with that.
Notre Dame should field a formidable defense, but the offense is questionable at best right now. If Kelly doesn't make a massive improvement in 2012, look for the hot seat to really start warming up.
24. Clemson Tigers
Clemson, you never fail to live up to your national perception. The Tigers made strides in 2011, winning the ACC championship, but then there was the Orange Bowl.
Way to lay an egg. Clemson was routed 70-33 by West Virginia. Can Dabo Swinney and the Tigers bounce back from the embarrassment?
The Tigers will have to replace nearly half of their starters on both sides of the ball, but they do return QB Tajh Boyd and stud freshman WR Sammy Watkins. Success in 2012 probably comes in the form of nine to 10 wins.
23. Stanford Cardinal
Harbaugh built this program into a national contender, now David Shaw has to prove that he can keep it there. He is losing one of the most polished QB's in college football history. You may have heard of him before, Andrew Luck.
Despite a handful of losses, Stanford returns RB Stepfan Taylor and playmaking WR Ty Montgomery. Shaw still has tools to work with in 2012, and a solid incoming class of freshman. The only thing standing in Stanford's way is the mighty Trojans from USC and the Ducks of Oregon.
22. Florida Gators
It's been a rough couple of seasons in Gainesville, something that Gator fans are not OK with. Between the Meyer soap opera, and the buzz saw that was the SEC last year, Gator fans have not had much to cheer about during football season. At least they still have every other sport imaginable.
On a side not, has anyone seen the sports rankings in UF's athletic program? VERY IMPRESSIVE.
Muschamp just reeled in a MONSTER recruiting class, which should fill holes right away. New coordinator Brent Pease is drooling over the athletes on this campus. The Gators are still sporting one of the top five most talented rosters in the nation. Look for the Gators to contend for the SEC East in 2012, but still come up short to the Bulldogs.
21. Texas Longhorns
Where have you gone Longhorns? It is time to come back from your vacation and play some real football again. The talent is there as usual, but something is off just a little in Austin. Is it time for Mack to pack?
The Longhorns should compete for the Big 12 title, but lets wait and see if that actually happens. Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz should field a solid unit, but the offense is questionable at best. The QB battle between David Ash and Case McCoy will hopefully elevate the level of play. Incoming freshman stud Johnathan Gray should provide immediate depth at the RB position.
Another 5+ loss season, and even Ricky Williams will start to scratch his head a little.
20. Ohio State Buckeyes
How the mighty rise again. Less than two months on the job, and the perception already is that Meyer has turned the Buckeyes around. Some people have them in the top ten. FYI, you're crazy.
The Buckeyes are returning 18 starters, which is huge. The defense is only losing two players on the 27th ranked unit in the nation from 2011. There's talent, there's experience, but the Buckeyes still need a year to gel under a completely revamped coaching staff.
Their soft schedule will keep them ranked between 10 and 20 all year long, but I don't buy this team as one of the best in the country.
19. Virginia Tech Hokies
Another year, another 10-win season. That's what Beamer and the Hokies do. My how times have changed. FSU and Miami were supposed to set the standard, but year in and year out it is Virginia Tech.
The Hokies are coming off another solid 11-3 season. The one sore spot of last year is the two game losing streak Virginia Tech is riding. The first loss was against Clemson in the ACC championship, and the second was against Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.
Virginia Tech should compete yet again for the ACC title, however they are losing a lot of their offense, and a couple of players on defense. QB Logan Thomas' return should keep the Hokies in the ACC hunt all year long.
18. Oklahoma State Cowboys
If ever a program was surging, Okie State is it. Last season was electrifying, as the Cowboys won their first Big 12 title in over 30 years.
Mike Gundy is losing future NFL stud WR Justin Blackmon, and future NFL starting QB Brandon Weeden. Even with these losses, the Cowboys will field a formidable team.
Gundy has done a fantastic job of building up the Pokes, and with pretty solid recruiting, he should be able to fill the holes that have been left. Remember when that WR by the name of Dez Bryant left? Along came Justin Blackmon.
The Cowboys won't be the class of the Big 12 in 2012, but they should make the race interesting.
17. Boise State Broncos
Well if conference realignment wasn't one of the craziest events in college football. The Broncos have one more season in the Mountain West, before moving to the Big East in 2013. The same Big East that just lost West Virginia, Syracuse, and Pitt.
All Boise State is trying to do is move up in the college football world, and there is some invisible power that is keeping that from happening.
The Broncos are losing a lot, including big-time QB Kellen Moore. Peterson and crew also lost Offensive Coordinator Brent Pease to the Florida Gators. Even with all of this, the Broncos will still be the class of the MWC, and should put together another year with double-digit wins.
16. Kansas State Wildcats
I'm not sold on Kansas State, yet. Especially with a solid West Virginia team entering the Big 12 equation. However, 2011 was a fantastic season for the Wildcats, including a monster year by QB Collin Klein.
Klein returns for 2012 and should be among the top QB's in the land. The Wildcats lost five starters on defense, and three on offense, but should be able to fill these holes.
15. Wisconsin Badgers
Minus the Rose Bowl loss to the mighty Ducks of Oregon, Wisconsin's 2011 campaign was spectacular. The Badgers just couldn't keep up with the speed of the Ducks, losing 45-38. Coach Bielema and crew compiled an 11-3 record, a Big Ten championship, and a Rose Bowl appearance. All three losses came at a combined 17 points to Ohio State, Michigan State, and Oregon.
The Badgers will have some hefty revamping to do as they are losing 11 starters and five assistant coaches. One year wonder QB Russell Wilson has exhausted his eligibility. The one bright spot in all of the departures, all-world running back Montee Ball is returning for his senior season.
The Badgers will have their work cut out for them with improved Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State teams all vying for the Big Ten championship.
14. TCU Horned Frogs
TCU wanted a shot at the national light, and got it with a move to the Big 12. The horned Frogs, along with West Virginia, will be making their Big 12 debut in 2012.
The Horned Frogs return most of their team, minus three offensive lineman and linebacker Tank Carder. QB Casey Pachall will have another year of experience under his belt. TCU finished 11-2 in 2011, and is riding an eight game winning streak.
Good luck Horned Frogs, you're going to need it to compete on the level of Oklahoma, Texas, and WVU week in and week out.
13. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Is it do or die time for Pelini? I personally think he's done a fantastic job of putting the Cornhuskers back on the map. Times change, and Nebraska isn't exactly an A+ destination for recruits anymore. Especially when you can go to the state of Florida with beaches and beautiful women.
Last season was a slight disappointment, going 9-4 in the Big Ten, and getting whacked by South Carolina 30-12, in the Capital One Bowl. This year looks to be about the same, as they hit the road to take on an improved Ohio State, solid Iowa, and powerful Michigan State teams. Taylor Martinez must improve his play in order for the Cornhuskers to compete for the Big Ten title.
12. West Virginia Mountaineers
Wow. That's all I have to say about how WVU ended the season. By far the most impressive bowl game victory, with a 70-33 embarrassment of ACC champion Clemson. But the again, it was Clemson, the perpetual disappointment.
Welcome to the Big 12 Mountaineers. You asked for it, you payed for it ($10 mil by WVU, $10 mil by the Big 12), and now you've got it. The only problem with that is, now you have to go through Texas and Oklahoma just to get a BCS bid. Not to mention a surging Okie State program.
WVU returns QB Geno Smith, and his favorit targets Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. With a year under their belt in coach Dana Holgorsen's system, the offense has the potential to break records. Just ask Clemson. As of now, you look to be No. 2 in the Big 12.
11. Arkansas Razorbacks
Is the SEC even fair? This team was extremely good last year, but still only managed a third place finish in the SEC West.
The Razorbacks capped off a stellar 11-2 season with a Cotton Bowl victory over a very solid Kansas State team. The Hogs return 13 starters, seven on offense and six on defense. The problem with Arkansas is, no matter how good they are, LSU and Bama will be better.
Hey, at least they get both at home this year.
10. Michigan Wolverines
Your back Michigan! Back in the national spotlight. The Wolverines might not be on a national title level just yet, but doesn't it feel good when one of college football's biggest powers is relevant again?
First I'd like to say great job to Mr. Brady Hoke. You have proved to everyone that you are the man for the Maize and Blue. Hoke has officially righted the ship in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines take a hit along the line this year, but I'm sure there are several beefy Big Ten lineman ready to roll in.
Good news, most of the playmakers return, including QB Denard Robinson.
Bad News, Michigan opens the season against Alabama, and has to play at Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Nebraska. That's never fun.
The Wolverines should compete for a Big Ten title, if not win it all.
9. South Carolina Gamecocks
What could have been in 2011.
The Gamecocks fielded a solid team, but an injury to all-world RB Marcus Lattimore definitely put a "chink in the armor." Thanks ESPN for using this saying in a highly racist way.
All Steve needs is consistent play from the QB position and the Gamecocks could compete for the national title. Will he get that? We will just have to wait and see. QB Connor Shaw should be more comfortable with the departure of class clown Stephen Garcia. If Shaw can't get the job done, maybe Danny Wuerffel can find a 5th year of eligibility.
8. Michigan State Spartans
Sparty continues to impress. All they did under Dantonio over the past two seasons was win 11 games. No big deal.
To cap off a spectacular 2011 season they went into the South and shocked the surging Georgia Bulldogs 33-30.
The one concern entering 2012 is losing big-time QB Kirk Cousins, and basically the entire receiving core. The Spartans return eight defensive starters, which should keep them in the Big Ten race yet again. Michigan State opens the season at home against Boise State. Ask Georgia how that worked out for them.
7. FSU Seminoles
Don't be that team FSU. Nobody likes that team. You know, the one that says "wait till next year."
Florida State is creeping closer and closer to being that team. Last season was supposed to put the Seminoles back on a national power level, but FSU decided 9-4 would do. Injuries were a big reason 2011 was a let down for Nole Nation.
If the Noles can stay healthy, they should field a better defense this year, with nine starters returning. Florida State should be the class of the ACC in 2012.
6. Georgia Bulldogs
Are Mark Richt and Georgia back? Dawg Nation would like to think so after last years SEC East championship.
The 2011 season started out terribly for the Dawgs, opening the season with two straight losses to Boise State and South Carolina. After that, all Georgia did was take care of business.
UGA should be favored to win the east again, but as far as an SEC title, they'll have to get through the mighty SEC West. Luckily, they don't play LSU, Alabama, or Arkansas during the regular season.
5. Oregon Ducks
The only thing standing in the way of the Ducks for another Pac 12 Championship? The mighty Trojans from USC.
Oregon might have to go through USC twice to win the Pac 12, once during the regular season, and again in the championship game. On paper that does not spell well for the Ducks, but my guess is Chip Kelly and crew aren't going down without swinging.
The Ducks are losing RB LaMichael James, but have more than reliable playmakers to take over. This should be a very solid one or two loss team.
4. Oklahoma Sooners
Bob, oh Bob. What happened to big-game Bob? Sooner Nation wants you back, in a big way.
Oklahoma is overdue for a national championship. The 2011 season was supposed to be OU's year, but a incredibly tough Big 12 have other things in mind. The Sooners will look to build off of a solid 10-3 season.
QB Landry Jones is returning, which should bode extremely well for the offense. Along with Jones, the Sooners return nearly all of their offense, and most of their defense.
Could this be the year Bob gets his Big Game status back?
3. Alabama Crimson Tide
Saban just doesn't sleep. Back in the pre-season top five again. The MONSTER recruiting class he brought in should help immediately fill holes left by players departing for the NFL.
QB AJ McCarron is only entering his junior season, and minus Trent Richardson, should have a handful of playmakers to go to. The defense will be strong once again, even with the losses.
One thing is for sure, the Tide won't like hearing LSU as the pre-season pick to win it all.
2. USC Trojans
You might ask yourself, really, the Trojans? Yes my friends, USC is loaded.
Lane Kiffin, the same Lane Kiffin that the majority of college football fans hate, has done an exceptional job of building this program back up. They return 17 starters in 2012, including stud QB Matt Barkley for his senior season.
Given LSU's QB situation, USC should be No. 1, but at the end of the day I've got to give the nod to the SEC.
1. LSU Tigers
Welcome back to No. 1 Tigers! The 2011-2012 season was one to remember, despite the loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game.
The 2012 season has the potential to be even more special for LSU. The one weak spot for the Tigers? You guessed right, QB again.
LSU returns 14 starters in 2012, seven on each side of the ball. The question now is, can they build off of last season and put the cherry on the top with a BCS championship?
Get Primed for the 2012 CFB Season >> Top College Football Players for 2012 – Heisman Watch List
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