Oklahoma State and 5 College Football Programs That Will Slip in 2012
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It seems that Oklahoma State and the college football programs that will slip in 2012 have a common theme.
Four of the five teams on this list are replacing star quarterbacks that racked up some of the best stats in each respective school's history.
Replacing a Heisman Trophy winner, a No. 1 NFL draft pick and a QB with the most wins in school history is no easy task. Some programs have the depth to overcome such losses, but these teams do not.
Here are five college football programs that will take a step back in the 2012 season.
Wide Receiver Terrance Williams is one of Baylor's top returning offensive weapons.
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Final 2011-12 AP Ranking: 13
Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III may be making millions this weekend, but the biggest loser in the situation is Baylor. The Bears had one of the best offenses in the country in 2011 with Griffin under center, but his success kept the attention off a horrific defense.
And the defense doesn't have a Heisman Trophy winner to bail it out.
Baylor ranked 118th in the country in yards allowed last season, but its powerful offense overshadowed that fact. Even though most of the Bears' defense returns next season, the unit has not proven itself thus far. There is no reason to believe that is going to change anytime soon, unless some of the big name recruits like defensive end Javonte McGee and linebacker Brian Nance step in and produce immediately.
Senior QB Tyler Wilson is a reason why some Razorbacks fans are optimistic going into 2012.
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Final 2011-12 AP Ranking: 5
Can talent overcome the firing of Bobby Petrino? It remains to be seen, but the odds of the Razorbacks contending after Petrino's abrupt departure are low.
Reports have surfaced that Arkansas has found a replacement for Petrino in former head coach John L. Smith. It's hard to imagine that this is the year the Razorbacks finally get past LSU and Alabama with all that has gone on. There will be an adjustment period with Smith at the helm, and with the Crimson Tide looming in Week 3, Arkansas better put it together quickly.
The Razorbacks have difficult road games in the SEC, with contests at Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State. The coaching situation is a major reason that Arkansas is a hot pick to slip heading into 2012.
Do you buy into the hype?
3. Michigan State
Le'veon Bell Jr. is Michigan State's top returning option on offense.
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Final 2011-12 AP Ranking: 11
The Spartans return eight players on a defense that led the Big Ten in rushing and total defense, as well as sacks and interceptions. So why would Michigan State slip in 2012?
Because MSU has to replace its best quarterback in school history.
Kirk Cousins left Michigan State as the career leader in wins, passing yards, completions and touchdown passes. If you think that the Spartans will be fine without Cousins and that the defense will carry the team to the Big Ten title, think again.
The only starting offensive skill player that is returning is running back Le'veon Bell Jr.
Michigan State will have to find alternative weapons if they want to compete in a defense-dominated league, or else it faces the possibility of getting shut down every week.
Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin are all worthy opponents in the Big Ten. Michigan State better find answers on offense quickly in order to stay in contention for the conference championship.
2. Oklahoma State
Senior kicker Quinn Sharp, the 2011 Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year, returns for the Cowboys.
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Final 2011-12 AP Ranking: 3
One of the top offenses in the country in 2011 is entering complete rebuilding mode. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon moves on to the NFL, and quarterback Brandon Weeden also has a strong chance of getting drafted this weekend.
Weeden had over 4,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, and his replacement will be announced Wednesday by head coach Mike Gundy.
Another huge blow to the Cowboy offense is the loss of three offensive linemen. Two of them, Grant Garner and Levy Adcock, were All-Big 12 first team performers. Garner was even the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year.
The good news for Oklahoma State is that it returns its top three running backs from last season, and the defense returns eight starters. Still, it is going to take some growing pains to replace the production of Weeden and Blackmon.
Will Brett Nottingham win the starting QB job for Stanford?
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Final 2011-12 AP Ranking: 7
With three, and maybe even four, potential first-round NFL draft picks, Stanford has plenty of rebuilding to do, and it is a prime candidate for a program that will slip in 2012.
It starts at the quarterback position by replacing Andrew Luck.
Luck's replacement is still a competition between Brett Nottingham and Josh Nunes after Stanford's spring game on April 14. Nottingham appeared to have the inside track at the end of last season, but Nunes has emerged as a dark horse candidate for the job.
Either way, neither of the two are as talented as Luck.
Guard David DeCastro and offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left school early to pursue NFL careers, and the Cardinals will have a learning curve with new offensive linemen. Running back Stepfan Taylor is one of the top returning running backs in the Pac-12, but even he isn't enough to keep Stanford from dropping in the polls heading into the college football season.