College Football: Predicting 5 Upsets for the 2012 Season
College football is about the upset.
They are season definers and season ruiners.
Needless to say, 2012 will also have its upsets.
They are impossible to predict, which is what makes them upsets.
On the other hand, there are also overrated and underrated teams, which go into making some of the more predictable upsets.
Here are five to look for next year.
Oregon State Beavers over Wisconsin Badgers
First of all, the game is in Corvallis, and a trip two time zones away is never pleasant.
Secondly, Wisconsin is tied for the fourth-fewest returning starters in all of FBS next season. Give Bret Bielema credit. He has built a strong program in Madison, but it is not Ohio State. The Badgers do not reload.
Wisconsin may have staved off any immediate quarterback issues with the transfer of Danny O'Brien, but O'Brien still has to answer for last season's disaster.
Also, Wisconsin will break in a new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, as well as a new receiver and offensive line coach.
Finally, OSU is tied with Stanford and Colorado for the third-most returning starters in the PAC-12.
The Beavers will not challenge for the PAC-12 crown, nor will they beat interstate rival Oregon, but they will improve on last year's 3-9 record, and they will finish the season with a bowl.
That will begin with the upset of an overrated Badger team.
Utah Utes over Southern Cal Trojans
The Utes, which featured the PAC-12's top scoring defense in 2011, will be the top D Southern Cal will face in 2012.
Utah returns three of the front four in what projects to be the conference's top rush defense, and perhaps the only front four good enough to push what looks to be one of the top offensive lines in the country.
The game will be both team's sixth of the season, which works in favor of the Utes. While both return almost the same amount of starters—Utah with 18 and USC with 17—the Utes won't have to overhaul any position groups, while the Trojans have to replace three of the defensive front four.
This should be an attack point for a Utah offense that returns nine. It is true that offense ranked No. 9 in the PAC-12 in 2011, but expect it to improve in 2012.
Look for the Utes to win in a squeaker, in what will be the Trojans only loss on the season.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets over Virginia Tech Hokies
On September 3, Georgia Tech opens its season in Blacksburg where it faces a team that will begin the season ranked in the top 15, at worst.
That team is the Hokies, who return nine starters from last season's No. 7 scoring defense.
The issue will reside in the offense, which returns all-conference quarterback Logan Thomas and little else.
In fact, the only returning full-time offensive starters are Thomas and center Andrew Miller.
As for Miller, he carries 14 starts into the ACC showdown. That is all the returning starts the Tech offensive line will have to its credit to open the season, which will make it one of the least experienced offensive lines in the country.
That is a substantial issue for a run-first team such as the Hokies.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech returns one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country.
The Ramblin Wreck return seven players that boast a total of 94 career games started.
Along with that, the Yellow Jackets return their top three rushers, including quarterback Tevin Washington, who would have been the ACC's second-most efficient passer if he had enough attempts.
Georgia Tech will have to answer for the No. 8 scoring defense in the ACC, but the pieces are in place to improve on that with eight returning starters.
Besides, Paul Johnson's teams have never won games with defense.
Look for them to beat the Hokies in a surprising barn burner.
Texas A&M Aggies over Arkansas Razorbacks
Only three months ago, I had the Razorbacks winning the SEC West and finishing the year in the top five.
Now, with the recent Bobby Petrino firing and the subsequent turmoil that has erupted in Fayetteville, it's difficult to get excited about the Hogs.
They're still a quality team, but not a champion in the most competitive division in college football.
Consequently, I expect the offense to be among the SEC's best, but not as dominant as last year's scoring O. Meanwhile, defense was never a strength under Petrino and that will continue into 2012.
The Razorbacks will have had a tough home game against Bama two weeks prior to the Sept. 29 meeting with the Aggies. They will play a home game against Rutgers between the two conference games.
The trip to College Station will be their first away game of the season.
As for the Aggies, I do not think they will sweep into the SEC and beat all comers. In fact, they will have already dropped their first conference game to Florida by the time Arkansas comes to town.
Furthermore, Texas A&M will break in its own new head coach in Kevin Sumlin, though that firing and hiring process went a bit more smoothly than Arkansas'.
With nine returning starters on offense, Sumlin will have the pieces in place to make some noise in his new conference.
He will have to replace quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Cyrus Gray, but he returns one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country, a strong group of receivers featuring Ryan Swope and a solid running back in Christine Michael.
He'll also return eight starters from last season's underachieving defense.
In 2011, the Aggies went 0-3 in games decided by a field goal or less and 1-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less. This included a 38-42 loss to then non-conference foe Arkansas.
In 2012, they will have at least one upset in them. My bet is that upset will come at the hands of the Hogs.
Auburn Tigers over Clemson Tigers
By the end of the season, this might not look like much of an upset.
However, on Sept. 1, Clemson is likely to be a top 15 team, a favorite to win the ACC and a dark horse to go to the BCS National Championship Game.
The key reasons for this are the offensive skill position players. The Tigers return all-conference quarterback Tajh Boyd, all-conference running back Andre Ellington, all-conference receiver Sammy Watkins, as well as all but one player that caught a pass in 2011.
The problem concerns the line. Last season's line was one of the best and the third most experienced in the country. This season, three of those linemen and one key reserve are gone, leaving the Tigers somewhat empty up front.
Meanwhile, the Clemson defense returns seven, but wasn't very good in 2011—No. 10 ACC scoring defense—and with three departed linemen, will also have to reload up front.
The other Tigers had a disappointing 8-5 year, but it wasn't as disappointing as it seemed. Firstly, anything would have been a comedown after 2010's BCS National Championship run.
Secondly, one could say Auburn overachieved given that it had the fewest returning lettermen in the country to go with one of the toughest schedules.
Next season, the Tigers return eight on offense and 10 on defense, including every defensive linemen that registered a sack or tackle-for-loss.
Look for Clemson to have a tough time getting its offense out of the gate. This will lead to a close first half, but Auburn will pull away in the third quarter, as it wears down a tired Clemson front four.