2012 NCAA Football Preview

By DeMarco Williams

The college football landscape is changing before our very eyes. This season the SEC expands to include Missouri and Texas A&M. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will join the ACC in 2013. In 2014, of course, we finally get the four-team playoff system we’ve dreamt about. But the more things in the NCAA change, the more they stay the same. Perennial powers LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma won’t budge in this year’s top 5. All three stacked squads will compete for a national title, but INsite feels the USC Trojans are the ones on the verge of something truly historic—becoming the first Pac-12 team ever, and first non-SEC school since ’05, to win a BCS championship. See, some change is good.
 
1. USC
We’re hearing WR Robert Woods’ ankle is healing wonderfully. We’re seeing great things from fellow wideout Marqise Lee too. We’re telling you that sure-handed combo and Heisman-sniffing QB Matt Barkley will be nearly unstoppable.
 
2. LSU
Tyrann Mathieu headlines a defense that’s virtually impenetrable. Now, for these Tigers to finish what they couldn’t a year ago, coach Les Miles will have to get through to once-troubled transfer QB Zach Mettenberger.
 
3. Alabama
Though the Tide’s first month is a bruiser (Bama faces Michigan and Arkansas before October), it has the arm strength (AJ McCarron), upper body (top-shelf offensive line) and brains (head coach Nick Saban) to muscle through.
 
4. Georgia

Seems like the Dawgs deal with some sort of drama every season, right? With Isaiah Crowell’s departure and Bacarri Rambo’s drug suspension, ‘12 is no different. Thankfully, they’re annually equipped with great QB play and stifling defenses too.
 
5. Oklahoma
The Sooners have a host of new faces on the schedule (Notre Dame, West Virginia, TCU), but they have a familiar one, QB Landry Jones, in the huddle. Coach Bob Stoops brought in another, brother Michael Stoops, to lead the D.
 
6. Michigan
Everybody talks about Denard Robinson’s fleet feet (1,163 rushing yards, 16 TDs), but it’s Fitzgerald Toussaint who exploded for 450 yards in big wins over Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State last year.
 
7. Florida State
If the Noles had any semblance of a running game, they’d probably be a top-5 team. But seeing as how they play a breeze of a schedule (just three contests outside of the Sunshine State), they might wind up there anyway.
 
8. South Carolina
While the Gamecocks will need to re-fortify a defense that allowed the 11th fewest points a season ago, they have a healthy Marcus Lattimore back running and reigniting talk about an SEC title around Columbia.
 
9. Arkansas
Seems as if the Hogs have rebounded nicely from the embarrassing Bobby Petrino fiasco. Interim coach John L. Smith might even get the full-time coaching gig if RB Knile Davis’ rehab works out.
 
10. Oregon
We like a lot about the guys in the green (Kenjon Barber’s elusiveness, the defensive unit’s toughness), but we’re just not as wild on the Ducks’ overall BCS chances as the rest of the nation.
 
11. West Virginia
NCAA fans: The Mountaineers have moved from the Big East to the Big 12. West Virginia opponents: Geno Smith, the conference’s preseason player of the year, is one of the most crafty QBs in the country.
 
12. Ohio State
Due to NCAA sanctions, the Buckeyes won’t see postseason action this year. Thanks to an Urban Meyer-led sideline, not to mention a Braxton Miller-anchored spread offense, Columbuswill certainly have a regular season to remember.
 
13. Wisconsin
Badger Country was flooded with changes over the offseason (six assistant coaches left; stars Nick Toon and Russell Wilson went to the NFL). However, their biggest (and fastest) rock, RB Montee Ball, still calls Madison home.
 
14. Stanford
Heisman runner-up and No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck is irreplaceable. All new QB Brett Nottingham should be asked to do is get the ball downfield and keep mistakes down. Expectations are up though for Stepfan Taylor after his 177-yard, two-TD display in the Fiesta Bowl.
 
15. Michigan State
Mark Dantonio is one of the more underrated leaders in the game. If he guides these Spartans to 10 wins with their grueling schedule (Boise State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Wisconsin), he has our coach-of-the-year vote.
 
16. Kansas State
INsite spoke to Wildcats QB Collin Klein over the summer. “There is not one area that is good enough,” he told us. “Football is a game where you can never be good enough in one area. If you’re not in tune and looking and focusing on developing everything, then something is going to slip through the cracks.” Mind you, Klein had 1,918 passing yards and 40 combined TDs. Scary to think he’s not yet satisfied.
 
17. Nebraska
The Huskers’ issues in a nutshell: QB Taylor Martinez vs. Fresno State (385 total yards, three TDs); Martinez vs. Wisconsin (176 passing yards, zero TDs, three INTs). The big man on campus needs bigger statlines in the biggest games.
 
18. Clemson
The Tigers’ defense may suck (the team gave up 151 points over its last four games in ’11), but its Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins-juiced offense is one of the most explosive in the nation.
 
19. Virginia Tech
Death, taxes and the Hokies D. Every year Virginia Tech struts out a roster of all-conference-worthy linemen and corners. But sadly, nearly every season the same team loses two or three games and falls from title contention.
 
20. TCU
Coach Gary Patterson moves his squad from the Mountain West to the Big 12…and the conference should be a lil’ frightened. TCU is loaded (QB Casey Pachall, RB Waymon James, WR Josh Boyce) and longing to prove it belongs with the big boys.
 
21. Boise State
With all-everything QB Kellen Moore gone, there’s a huge damper to the Broncos’ mystique. Still, some fortuitous scheduling (Miami…OH not FL!) should get Boise State a 10-win year and an invite to a respectable bowl.
 
22. Texas
8-5 seasons are okay in Annapolis or Asheville, but not in Austin. The Longhorns’ stout D will do its part to get things back to normal in Texas, but it’s Mack Brown’s sputtering O that needs to pick things up.
 
23. Washington
QB Keith Price causes his share of nightmares already. If the fast-improving Huskies can make it to Halloween in relatively decent shape –they would have played LSU, Stanford, Oregon and USC by then- they’ll be really, really scary.
 
24. Georgia Tech
Always one of the more electrifying offenses, the Jackets have lots more triple option fun in store this year. What they need to get serious about is the D. Jeremiah Attaochu and Isaiah Johnson bring toughness and big-time tackling.
 
25. Florida
The Gators are probably a year away from really competing for an SEC crown, but we like coach Will Muschamp’s strong decision-making skills and agree with the team’s commitment to the weight room. UF will flex its muscles soon enough.

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