10 College Football Spring Games We Are Most Interested in Watching

Zach DirlamSenior Analyst IIMarch 4, 2012

10 College Football Spring Games We Are Most Interested in Watching

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    For some fanbases, spring football is one of the most intriguing times of the year. It is the first look the fans get at some of the potential starters, position changes and a couple of the early enrollees in live game action at an extremely discounted price.

    Whether that applies to the 10 teams in this slideshow is irrelevant, though, because these programs all have numerous headlines and questions to answer heading into camp.

    Some programs may need to replace star performers from last season, while a few of the others have several returning starters and will simply have the chance to show off to their fans.

    If you call yourself a college football fan, though, then you should be excited about watching any of the following spring games this year. If you have never watched a spring game, now is the time to start.

LSU Tigers

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    There is plenty to be excited about right now in Baton Rouge given the fact the LSU Tigers return 11 starters from last year's team, headlined by Heisman Trophy candidate Tyrann Mathieu, that won 13 games and made an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game. 

    The most intriguing thing LSU's spring game brings to the table is junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who nearly unseated Aaron Murray at Georgia coming out of high school in the class of 2009 until an issue with the law forced him to transfer to Butler Community College in Kansas.

    Three years later, the former Rivals 250 quarterback prospect will get his chance to lead LSU to a national championship.

    Quarterback was a position of weakness for LSU last season during its national championship run. However, Mettenberger is a huge improvement from the speedy Jordan Jefferson and longtime backup Jarrett Lee, both of whom are out of eligibility.

    If Mettenberger has a big spring game on March 31, the excitement around LSU's 2012 squad will continue to grow.

Michigan Wolverines

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    Expectations are high for the first time since 2007 for the Michigan Wolverines after Brady Hoke led the Maize and Blue to an 11-2 record and Sugar Bowl victory in his first season as head coach in Ann Arbor. 

    The Wolverines return 14 starters but lose three of their starting defensive linemen and team leaders Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and former walk-on Will Heininger. The spring game for Michigan fans will be a barometer for where the Wolverines are in terms of replacing those three veterans on the defensive front.

    Former 5-star recruit Will Campbell finally started to live up to his potential a year ago and should have a starting defensive tackle spot in hand. However, who will be alongside him and filling the other defensive end spot is still up in the air.

    The development of senior quarterback Denard Robinson will also be of interest after his dismal Sugar Bowl performance, and there is still a major question as to who will be his primary downfield threat after the graduation of Junior Hemingway.

    Returning wide receivers Jeremy Jackson and Terrence Robinson will both get their shot to prove they can fit the bill for that position in the spring game, which will take place April 14 at Michigan Stadium.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    As if Urban Meyer's arrival in Columbus weren't enough to revive the buzz in Buckeye Nation after a down year in 2011, the Ohio State Buckeyes also return 18 starters from last year's team and will undoubtedly put on a show in the annual Scarlet and Gray Game on April 21.

    Sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller made huge strides at the end of last year and began to look more comfortable being the Buckeyes starter.

    What was more impressive is that Miller did it without suspended wideout DeVier Posey until the final two games of the season and without his other top deep threat Corey Brown for the entire season as well.

    Miller is an instant fit for Meyer's spread offense, and his style of play will make the transition easier for the young signal-caller.

    The entire defense is returning as well, and look for linebackers Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino to stand out at linebacker in the spring game.

Boise State Broncos

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    Perhaps the bigger draw to Boise State's spring game is who will not be there as opposed to who will be playing in the actual game.

    The Broncos must replace 15 starters, including the quarterback who won the most games in FBS history, Kellen Moore, as well as their do-it-all running back Doug Martin and sure-handed wideout Tyler Shoemaker.

    The defense takes the biggest hit though with only three starters returning, which makes for an intriguing spring game for one of college football's upstart programs.

    Boise State's roster will once again be loaded with undervalued talent. However, can they stack up to their past success, or is a down year inevitable for the Broncos?

    College football fans might begin forming an answer to that question after they take in Boise State's spring game, which will be played on the Smurf Turf on April 14.

Baylor Bears

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    Robert Griffin III is no longer a Baylor Bear, so who will his replacement be? The favorite right now is redshirt sophomore Bryce Petty, but his biggest competition will not be playing in the game because it is incoming freshman Seth Russell.

    Petty will have the first chance to impress the coaches, which could prove difficult given the departure of star wide receiver Kendall Wright.

    Also, given the Bears' lack of defensive prowess, there will likely not be much learned from this spring game, but replacing a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback is always interesting to observe. Is Petty up to the task, or will the spring game be one of his only starts at Baylor?

USC Trojans

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    The USC Trojans are among the favorites to win the national championship this season, as they return 17 starters, including Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Matt Barkley, so is there anything not to be excited about heading into spring practices for USC fans? 

    There should be no surprises at the USC spring game, but there should be plenty of offensive fireworks with Barkley chucking bombs to Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, who both finished last season with more than 1,000 yards receiving.

    The only question mark the Trojans have heading into camp is who offensive tackle Matt Kalil's replacement will be.

    The top contender is Nathan Guertler. However, if he is unable to get the job done, senior David Garness may switch from right tackle to the left side of the line.

Florida State Seminoles

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    With a majority of Florida State's starters returning, a top-10 incoming recruiting class that includes the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and a potential preseason Top 10 ranking, there is serious buzz surrounding the Seminoles program right now.

    E.J. Manuel was the starting quarterback for much of last year, but Clint Trickett proved he was more than able to perform when called upon. Can Trickett make enough of an impression in the Garnet and Gold spring game to put himself in a position to take the top spot on the depth chart? 

    The four returning defensive linemen will also have a chance to impress the coaches before 5-star prospects Mario Edwards and Eddie Goldman get on campus and attempt to compete for playing time. 

    One surprise player to watch could be early enrollee Mario Pender, who is a 4-star running back and has been praised by the Florida State coaches for his quickness early on in camp.

Stanford Cardinal

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    The Stanford Cardinal's upcoming spring game will be one of the most interesting to watch on the West Coast simply because they have to replace their top three receivers and two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback Andrew Luck.

    The favorite to take over for the potential No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL draft is redshirt sophomore Brett Nottingham. However, if junior Robbie Picazo puts on a good show at the spring game and the practices leading up to it, it will make for an interesting competition this summer.

    It will also be interesting to see if any of the incoming freshman offensive linemen can push the four returning veterans up front this summer. Stanford brought in by far the best offensive line class with four 4-stars, two 5-stars and one 3-star prospect.

    Senior Drew Terrell will be the top receiver to watch out for in Stanford's April 14 exhibition game.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Notre Dame has failed to live up to expectations over the past several years, but Brian Kelly's third year with the Fighting Irish should produce much different results.

    The Fighting Irish would have won 10 games last season had it not been for 10 turnovers in their first two games, many of which were due to quarterback struggles.

    This season could be much different with a more experienced Tommy Rees and the player who has everyone buzzing heading into camp, 5-star quarterback Gunner Kiel, who will be in position to win the starting job this spring.

    Kiel will have some ground to make up and will have to learn the offense, but he will be the player everyone is watching during the spring practices and Notre Dame's Blue-Gold spring game on April 21.

Florida Gators

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    Will Muschamp's first season as head coach of the Florida Gators did not go as well as he had hoped, as the Gators finished 7-6 and were relegated to the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl at the end of the season. 

    There is reason to believe that success is right around the corner for Muschamp and the Gators, as 18 returning starters will play in Florida's annual spring game on April 7 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

    Like almost all of the programs in this slideshow, the Gators will be replacing their starting quarterback from a year ago. The battle in the Gators' exhibition matchup will be between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel, who both saw limited playing time last season.

    Running back will also be a position to watch with the departure of speedsters Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, which leaves senior Mike Gillislee as the inherent starter. Can he keep the job through camp, or will junior Trey Burton contend for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart as well?