While the college football season doesn't start for another four months, truth be told, there is no offseason when it comes to the college game. While the teams stealing all the headlines entering the 2012 season are the USC Trojans, Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers, there are several other teams who are gaining their own momentum in their quest to a national championship.
Here are four teams that are rising quickly this offseason.
The Big Ten power is looking to capitalize on returning several key players from last season's 9-4 record. Versatile quarterback Taylor Martinez and standout running back Rex Burkhead lead the charge. Martinez passed for 2,089 yards and 13 touchdowns while Burkhead rushed for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns. The dynamic duo will terrorize the Big Ten conference all season long. As usual, head coach Bo Pelini has recruited some of the best defensive players in America to Lincoln, and the Cornhuskers will be in contention for a conference title in 2012.
TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs make their jump to the Big 12 this season, and they seem amply prepared for the move. The nucleus of the 2011 offensive unit return this season. Quarterback Casey Pachall returns under center for TCU after passing for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns. The Horned Frogs also return running backs Waymon James and Ed Wesley as well as receivers Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson. The loss of star linebacker Tank Carder will definitely hurt, but TCU is always good at reloading.
South Carolina Gamecocks
The return of star tailback Marcus Lattimore will be the key to the Gamecocks 2012 season. If he comes back at 100 percent, he should be the best running back in the country, and will terrorize the Southeastern Conference all season long. The return of quarterback Connor Shaw is a positive for the team, provided he has developed into a more consistent passer over the offseason. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney should blossom into an absolute star this season as a sophomore, putting South Carolina in prime position to win an SEC title.
West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers look like the sleeper team to win a national title in 2012. They return quarterback Geno Smith, who dazzled all season long in 2011. Sophomore tailback Dusin Garrison is also back for WVU, and the two are more than capable of dominating any opponent they encounter in 2012. As if those two weren't enough, they also return star receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, who are home run threats every time they touch the ball. On the defensive side of the ball, the Mountaineers have some replacing to do, but their offense will help carry them early in the season until the defensive unit gels.