Projecting Final Records for Every BCS Team
The season is only 14 weeks away and it is time to make those official predictions on every single BCS squad.
The expectations are higher for some than others based on preseason hype and its program prestige, but every contending team from a BCS conference would love nothing more than a crack at the BCS National Championship.
Many teams are fighting for their bowl eligibility lives, whereas others are fighting for so much more.
Let the debating begin as I project every single BCS teams' record, including their bowl games. Which teams will surprise and/or disappoint us, and who will play in the five BCS bowls?
Most importantly, which team do I have projected to win the 2013 BCS National Championship?
Denard Robinson enters his senior season as one of the more explosive players that the Maize and Blue has ever seen. He has accounted for over 8,000 yards of total offense along with 75 career touchdowns (30 INT).
If “Shoelace” can improve his accuracy and develop a solid rapport with some of his other receivers not named Roy Roundtree (Jeremy Jackson, Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo), then Michigan will have a much more dangerous attack. The help of Fitzgerald Toussaint should really help out the Wolverines because this guy has the capability of eclipsing 1,500 yards.
The defense loses its star in Mike Martin, but Greg Mattison just turned around their once-atrocious unit. The worries are not there thanks to a loaded group of linebackers and a secondary that is aggressive and athletic (Jordan Kovacs, Blake Countess).
Even if they were to lose to Alabama in the opener, they should be able to develop together in time for the meat of the schedule in late October and November (MSU, at Nebraska, at TOSU). If they were to finally dethrone the Spartans (four straight losses), they should grab hold of any sort of a tiebreaker that may occur.
Presuming they then take on the Badgers for the Big Ten title, Michigan has to like their chances since the Badgers will have a hard time reaching Pasadena for the third straight season.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 9-4, 6-2 (Outback defeat)
Michigan State Spartans
Mark Dantonio will have a tough season opener against the Boise State Broncos, but the schedule never really lets up.
Notre Dame and Ohio State will be the next toughest home games the Spartans line up against, but Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin are next up in this Big Ten gauntlet.
If Sparty had nearly any other team’s schedule, they would be considered a fairly heavy favorite in the Big Ten.
Instead, this tough luck and abysmal schedule that they must encounter may cost them a trip to Pasadena for a third straight season despite having arguably the best team in the entire conference.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 11-3, 7-2 (Rose Bowl defeat)
Ohio State Buckeyes
Urban Meyer takes over a talented group of young Buckeyes that are developing by the day. Braxton Miller looks to improve an offense that struggled mightily last season.
In fact, Ohio State’s offense was the worst it has been (81st, 24.46 PPG) since 2004 when they were 71st (24.17 PPG).
The lack of their star runner in Daniel Herron certainly hurt as did losing their receiver to suspension as well in DeVier Posey. Both are no longer around and the young group of backs and receivers must fill in admirably if they expect to have any sort of a special season for Meyer’s first season.
We can certainly count on the defense to rank among the Big Ten’s best and beyond thanks to a few ferocious linemen. Speaking of those two, is there a better duo of lineman than John Simon and Johnathan Hankins (alright, FSU, LSU be quiet)?
The two are freaks and the trio of linebackers playing behind them (Ryan Shazier, Etienne Sabino, Storm Klein) should certainly make them a much improved run-stuffing bunch.
The secondary was ranked at No. 14 one season ago and they have everybody back!
They have the capability of becoming similar to the Trojans from a season ago on paper, but this Big Ten schedule does not have any cupcakes, and that is saying a lot since for the season Ohio State has eight home games.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 11-1, 7-1
Montee Ball is coming off a record-breaking season as he totaled for a new FBS record of 39 total TDs. Russell Wilson at quarterback and Nick Toon out wide will certainly be missed at times, but the Badgers offensive line still ranks among the best in the game.
Jared Abbrederis is a exceptional Big Ten receiver as he hauled in 55 receptions for 933 yards and 8 TDs, but will Danny O’Brien step up in the crucial games?
Wisconsin looks like they will have an improved defense with arguably the two best linebackers in the entire conference (Mike Taylor, Chris Borland). The schedule is manageable although they do not miss any of the heavyweight squads (MSU, MICH, NEB, TOSU).
Bank on another division title at the end of the day although a third consecutive trip to Pasadena should fall short unless O’Brien turns into a Russell Wilson-like Houdini back in the pocket.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 10-4, 6-3 (Capital One defeat)
The Cornhuskers will be the team to watch by my standards heading into the Big Ten season next season because nobody is talking about them.
Rex Burkhead is an All-American-caliber running back, but it seems like a law these days to say how Taylor Martinez cannot get the job done. I will give you one better—why can’t he be the quarterback to lead these Huskers to their third trip to Pasadena since 1941?
The receivers are expected to become much better, and the highly touted freshman (Jordan Westerkamp) could make the vital difference between becoming pretenders and contenders in the Big Ten.
Outside of their passing game, the defense at the end of the day will be what takes them to the promised land. Returning eight on defense is helpful, but having five of them up front certainly helps.
Michigan State and Michigan look to still be a step ahead (though they blasted MSU last year), but I am banking on a crazy three-way tie that will come down to the BCS rankings. Nebraska may not get the nod, but I do believe they will notch double-digit wins in 2012.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 11-2, 6-2 (Orange Bowl victory)
The Iowa Hawkeyes have had their fair share of issues at running back. Call it the curse of the Insight Bowl since every season there is a different guy toting the rock, but Kirk Ferentz is just hoping for better production on the field.
Only 11 starters are returning for the Hawkeyes, but they seemingly have the easiest schedule in the history of Big Ten football.
If the Hawkeyes had a superstar at running back or wide receiver (Keenan Davis is not bad), they would be my pick to play in Pasadena.
Instead, James Vandenberg at quarterback must be able to carry this offense without a stud back (expect four receiver, three receiver and one tight end looks). The guy is easily a top three QB in the conference albeit the great Phil Steele has him out of his top four.
C.J. Fiedorowicz looks to become a breakout star in front of the Kinnick faithful, but new offensive coordinator Greg Davis should find ways for Iowa to move the ball more effectively.
Iowa has a great chance to start out 9-1 heading into their showdowns with Michigan and Nebraska where who knows what may happen.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 9-4, 5-3 (Gator defeat)
Penn State Nittany Lions
The Nittany Lions start a new era of football without Joe Paterno and Bill O’Brien should do a fine job in the near future.
The defense will once again be the strength of the team, but they may be down a notch with only five starters returning. There will be a few close wins and a few too many close losses that will prevent them to have too much success out of the gates.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 8-5, 3-5 (MCC of Texas Bowl victory)
Do not look now but Danny Hope has the Boilermakers improving quite a bit and it goes unnoticed. Kawann Short returns as one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten, and the defense, as a whole, looks improved.
There are seven starters returning and both sides of the ball (offense has eight back) really made some nice strides towards the end of last season. They put on a clinic against Western Michigan, and the overall depth looks to be legit for their standards.
The schedule is favorable as all the sure wins are at home as opposed to having to win a few brutal road tilts. If they can go 3-1 in the non-conference slate, Purdue should go bowling again and there is also a solid chance for an upset to occur in the Big Ten as well.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 7-6, 3-5 (Insight Bowl defeat)
Dan Persa is finally done in Evanston and the hope is that Kain Colter can be as great of a quarterback as he was as a triple threat (QB, RB, WR) like he was last season.
Colter is a fine athlete that can scramble with the best of them, but he needs some help around him. Plus, that defense that most thought would be solid was anything but (80th in yards allowed, 407 YPG).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 7-6, 3-5 (LC Bowl victory)
Illinois Fighting Illini
The era of Tim Beckman should be an enjoyable ride since his players should buy into his system. The coach had solid success at Toledo and will be using the two-quarterback system with Nathan Scheelhaase and Riley O’Toole next season.
Both are different players since they offer separate solutions to the offensive table, but the guy to look out with A.J. Jenkins gone is running back Donovonn Young. Young had six TDs as a true freshman last season and he is primed to become a breakout star in the Big Ten.
If Johnathan Brown can put together a First Team All-Big Ten season as well as get production with Whitney Mercilus gone, the Illini could very easily sneak into another bowl game.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 7-6, 2-6 (Ticket City Bowl victory)
Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Golden Gophers will be looking for an improved season under Jerry Kill, but both sides of the ball have major issues. Even though 11 starters are returning, the consistency and playmaking ability has not been there for the past few years.
The offense returns six, but they were just 110th averaging 310 yards per game. The defense was not much, ranking 77th, allowing 403 yards per game.
The non-conference could give them enough momentum to pick up a Big Ten victory, but anything more than that would be called dreaming.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 3-9, 0-8
Kevin Wilson could not get a Big Ten victory last season, but this squad has 17 starters returning. That is the good news—now for the bad.
The schedule ranks among the toughest in the Big Ten with Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin all at home.
Most would think that is good news since the road games are against lesser talented teams (Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Penn State), but the bottom line is the Hoosiers are still a ways away from being able to arguably threaten any of these eight teams.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 3-9, 0-8
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Irish have the schedule to compete for a BCS bowl bid, but they are going to have to upset a team or two along the way.
Playing three of the best quarterbacks in the country in one season cannot be fun (Denard, Landry, Barkley). However, this defense could harass these passers with solid pressure up front.
Having arguably the best linebacker in the country (Manti Te'o) certainly is a star, but the depth and talent at linebacker is at its best right now.
A brand new secondary will certainly be tested early and often, but an improved offense (especially towards the red zone) should make the Irish an improved squad despite what their final record may indicate.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 9-4 (Belk Bowl victory)
I will not have a problem when the mighty Boomer Sooners end up getting ranked fifth or sixth in the August polls because Landry Jones is back at quarterback and they have quite a few playmakers at wide receiver returning (albeit suspensions won’t help depth).
However, the loss of Ryan Broyles (all-time FBS record holder in receptions) could be a bit of a problem if the suspensions were to loom large with their production and, more importantly, rapport.
Trey Mettoyer may be the best wide receiver in the entire country in terms of newcomers, and we know Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and especially Kenny Stills can ball.
However, how often have we seen their defense struggling?
Everybody points to Landry Jones’ struggles (trust me, throwing no TDs in the final three games is brutal), but it was the defense’s inability to get the opposing offense off the field when it came down to it.
Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech absolutely torched Bob Stoops’ defense and many point to Brent Venables' (Clemson) move and Mike Stoops' addition as a big reason why.
Norman is still among the toughest places to play in, but the defense up front will be challenged to get after the passer (eighth in nation for sacks last season but Alexander and Lewis are gone).
West Virginia and TCU will be slinging it, and we know both Texas and Oklahoma State are not easy opponents.
Some may be picking the Sooners to play in January, but there needs to be more consistency up front to bank on them winning the Big 12.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 11-2, 7-2 (Cotton Bowl victory)
The Longhorns' defense single-handedly may put this program back on top of the Big 12 this upcoming season. Talk about loaded stars ready to break out?
There are nearly a dozen that may be getting extra attention from the NFL scouts, who should be drooling since the major tilts are on the way against the likes of Oklahoma, TCU, West Virginia and Oklahoma State.
Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor should be among the best pair of bookends in the country (save FSU, LSU, perhaps few others) and they have stars playing behind them in the secondary at linebacker.
Jordan Hicks, Quandre Diggs, Carrington Byndom and Kenny Vaccaro all have the ability to perform as All-Big 12 studs. The Longhorns' defense last season was at No. 11 in total yards allowed (206 YPG), so it really comes down to whether or not the offense can improve at all.
The Horns were 55th in scoring offense (28 PPG), but it was not as if they lacked the talent; it was more so the consistency of the youngsters that did not always flash brilliance.
Catching Marquise Goodwin would be easy for me in NCAA Football, but that question is absurd in terms of real life.
Throw in Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis alongside an absolutely loaded backfield, and it just depends if David Ash is ready to burst out as a sophomore.
If so, then Mack Brown’s sensational coaching staff should be looking at a BCS game whether they end up winning the Big 12 (my survey says yes) or sneak in as an at-large bid.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 11-2, 8-1 (Fiesta Bowl defeat)
West Virginia Mountaineers
Geno Smith comes in as arguably the most productive returning passer in the country and it is all thanks to his star receivers: Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney.
Plus, it helps to have the talents and system that Smith has at his disposal as well. The defense will be a question mark, but most thought Oklahoma State’s defense was a joke heading into the season last year as well.
The Mountaineers should be able to outscore the opposition at will, and coming off their Orange Bowl onslaught over Clemson we should expect several 30-plus-point games.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 11-2, 8-1 (Sugar Bowl defeat)
TCU Horned Frogs
Casey Pachall does not have a shortage of studs in his backfield or out wide to throw to, but what is the ceiling for this Horned Frog?
His talents scream Andy Dalton with a better arm and he can even run the ball just as well too, but can he find a consistency level against the upper-echelon talent?
The Big 12 is not an easy slate and their defense certainly will be tested albeit Gary Patterson is the defensive genius.
Still, the schedule does zero favors as Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State all host the Horned Frogs. Throw in the season finale at home against Oklahoma, and TCU will be battling in several games to surprise the nation once again.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 10-3, 6-3 (Alamo victory)
Kansas State Wildcats
Collin Klein just set an FBS record for rushing touchdowns in a season from a quarterback (27), but the star single-handedly carried this offense last season.
Can he do it again against an improved Big 12?
Klein will expect to see opposing defenses stack the line of scrimmage against his squad (mainly him), so the passing offense better improve. It is amazing to believe the Wildcats were successful one season ago despite having the 108th passing offense (151 YPG).
The Wildcats did win a magical eight (count them eight) games that were decided by seven points or less. Can the team do it again?
Their underrated defense was special in the close games, as they were able to get clutch stops when need be. Arthur Brown, Nigel Malone and Ty Zimmerman are all legit studs, but can they harass that opposing quarterback?
All these questions must once again be answered if they expect to grab hold of anywhere close to the top spot of the Big 12.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 8-5, 5-4 (Holiday Bowl victory)
Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Pokes offense was simply the best in America one season ago thanks to the devastating trio of Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and Joseph Randle.
Randle was arguably the most underrated player in the country at running back. Randle accounted for 26 TDs and eclipsed the 1,400 yard mark as he was a complete back. Entering his junior season, look for big numbers as the Cowboys spread offense will give him ample opportunities to succeed again.
While it will be interesting for the new era of Wes Lunt to begin, it is the defense that holds the keys to another double-digit win campaign.
They led the country in turnovers gained (44), and it will take another type of productive season to rank among the top two or three teams in the Big 12 again.
I like the talent a tad more than one season ago, but it will be tough to continue to produce outrageous numbers, so they will suffer a few more losses in the improved Big 12.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 9-4, 5-4 (Insight Bowl victory)
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Seth Doege and the “riverboat gambler” Tommy Tuberville had a ton of ups-and-downs one season ago, but nearly the entire team is back (for starters).
There are a projected 19 starters back on both sides of the ball, so expect more consistent play out of the Red Raiders albeit the brutal schedule featuring Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, Kansas State and Texas (all in consecutive weeks).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 5-7, 2-7
The Bears are going to find out just how much they will miss their first ever Heisman Trophy winner. Robert Griffin III was a sensational player that made Baylor football exciting and relevant.
The offensive skill players returning are talented, but the offensive line could become an issue for Nick Florence, who filled in the Texas Tech game when RGIII left with an injury (concussion).
Florence should not struggle too much, but the production will dip as expected against an improved conference. Missouri and A&M were solid squads, but TCU and West Virginia are solid upgrades (SMU in opener is 50-50 game).
While they could become a bowl team this season, it will not be easy with a defense that is still at the bottom-tier among all BCS teams.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 4-8, 2-7
Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones had an enjoyable season thanks to Paul Rhoads, who willed his team to victory seemingly more times than not.
Their miraculous victory over Oklahoma State was the upset of the year as it cost Oklahoma State a bit in the BCS National Championship, but the Cyclones also upset their rivals (Iowa) in triple overtime.
The season did not end on a strong note as they lost three consecutive games to close out the season, including a tough 27-13 bowl loss to Rutgers (Pinstripe). Even with 12 returning starters, the chances of returning to a bowl game are not good.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 4-8, 2-7
The Jayhawks and Charlie Weis are hoping they can find immediate success. While bringing in his former players from Notre Dame will most likely help more so than hurt, they need a bunch of ammo on both sides of the ball to be considered threats in the Big 12.
The non-conference slate is even tough with Northern Illinois waiting for them in DeKalb, but it really is going to be a struggle to find more than a win in the Big 12 conference slate.
In time they should become bowl-bound under Weis, but this surely does not look like the season with half a dozen teams likely to be ranked in the top 25 when they meet up with them.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 2-10, 0-9
Sammy Watkins is needed so much by Clemson in the opener against Auburn because without him, the top game-breaking receiver in the country (arguably) makes the Tigers offense much easier to defend.
DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington are solid studs for Tajh Boyd’s offense, but Auburn will have an improved defense. Outside of a neutral site against Auburn and a trip to Doak Campbell, the schedule opens up nicely for a potential double-digit season (home vs. SC to end the season too).
Hosting the Hokies may not be fun although they did torch them last season, but this defense needs to play its best in their three biggest games or else they will be hurt in the rankings coming from an average conference compared to the big three (SEC, B10, B12).
Still, their offense will be explosive and they can put up points with the best of them when they are clicking on all cylinders but these darn Tigers trick us so many times.
Just when you think they are about to stink it up, they surprise you and vice-versa.
The secondary will be tested, but they need to be much more aggressive and have the ability to play smash-mouth football against those four legit top-20 squads (AUB, FSU, VT, SCAR).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 10-3, 6-2 (Champs Sports Bowl victory)
Boston College Eagles
There is decent depth behind Montel Harris, but losing what would have likely been the ACC’s all-time leading rusher is a tough blow.
Although he was recovering from an offseason injury, Boston College needed more explosive stars to step up to the gridiron and now they must be able to find ways to move the ball.
They were beyond atrocious last season ranking 112th (298 YPG) which has been a trend since 2008, where they ranked no better than 94th in the nation.
The defense also just happened to lose its lone All-American superstar that could have played anywhere in the country last season (Luke Kuechly). Now, they will be searching for answers and more importantly wins to save the job of Frank Spaziani.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 3-9, 1-7
Florida State Seminoles
The hype was there last season and it seemed the Noles threw all of their eggs into one basket (Oklahoma). The injury bug bit them really hard and the team suffered three losses in a row.
Their only loss with E.J. Manuel in the game for all four quarters was against Virginia, which beat them on a missed kick by future All-American (potentially) kicker Dustin Hopkins.
The Sooners are not on the schedule and no team outside of Clemson and Virginia Tech have the talent like they did one season ago. FSU should lose a game down the road, but they clearly look like the frontrunners to win their first ACC crown since 2005.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 14-0, 9-0 (BCS Title victory)
The Terps and Randy Edsall had one unforgettable season in College Park last season. After representing some nasty uniforms (most thought ugly), the team played abysmal once they were exposed by the Temple Owls of all teams.
Maryland has the talent to still compete for a bowl game in the immediate future, but there are still too many questions on both sides of the ball to deemed threats in the ACC.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 4-8, 1-7
North Carolina State WolfPack
The Pack look to be back, baby, and David Amerson is the one leading the way. Arguably the best defensive back in the entire country heading into the 2012 season makes North Carolina State a dark horse squad to contend with the likes of Florida State and Clemson.
Mike Glennon at quarterback returns and his arsenal of weapons is still respectable enough to give the majority of the ACC absolute fits.
The opener against Tennessee will be an underrated game to take a close look at, since that could be the game preventing or perhaps propelling Tom O’Brien to another nine-plus win season (had three with BC, coming off nine wins from last season).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 8-5, 6-2 (Sun Bowl defeat)
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Jim Grobe is an excellent coach to have his squad playing in a bowl game every few seasons, but it really is tough to compete in the ACC on a consistent basis when there are so many other teams reeling in future NFL performers.
The schedule once again does no favors with Florida State, Notre Dame, Clemson, Virginia, Vanderbilt and North Carolina State all on the slate, but Tanner Price and company should find a way to at least come close to appearing in a bowl game.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 4-8, 2-6
Duke Blue Devils
The Dukies are usually considered as one of the worst teams out of the BCS conferences and this season is no different. The talent is getting slightly better, but in the trenches they are continually getting eaten alive.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 3-9, 0-8
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The schedule for the Jackets this season should be really intriguing because they have Georgia, Virginia Tech, Clemson and BYU all on the slate.
The Cougars will be solid again, but those first three opponents will be real tests. Nobody else on the docket should even be close to being favored (maybe UNC).
Running the option is always difficult to defend and with 15 starters returning, there will be great opportunity for nine wins when it is all said and done.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 8-5, 6-2 (Music City Bowl defeat)
Miami FL Hurricanes
The Hurricanes' offense was pathetic last season and it did not improve much in the spring game (it actually declined). However, Al Golden and his program went through quite a bit of adversity they really had no control over.
The schedule is a nightmare at the moment (FSU, VT, K-State, ND, NC STATE, GA TECH, UVA), but their defense is strong enough to give them an opportunity to hover around the .500 benchmark for most of the season.
If they can find any consistency from their backfield (Ryan Williams at QB), I am buying into the Canes upsetting at least one of those teams listed above to help put them back into the postseason.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 8-5, 3-5 (Independence Bowl victory)
North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels better get a quick start in September under Larry Fedora because the Heels have Wake Forest and Louisville both on the road.
Bryn Renner and Giovani Bernard return to form a legit backfield in Chapel Hill, but so much talent is gone on defense. Despite the poor effort against Missouri in their bowl game (allowed 337 rushing yards), they only allowed 365 yards per game.
Some NFL talent is still there on defense, but the schedule does no favors and it may take some time before Fedora reaches primetime success.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 10-3, 6-2 (Belk Bowl defeat)
We witnessed such an unbelievable job done by Mike London in his second season with the Wahoos as they upset a few teams that nobody even anticipated in their wildest of dreams (FSU, Miami, Ga Tch).
However, their special team botches against Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A did not give this squad much momentum into the offseason and the schedule is far from easy in 2012.
Penn State, Georgia Tech, TCU and Louisiana Tech is murders row in September, but it does die down a bit heading into October before it picks back up again for the final month of the season.
Expect a bowl bid once again, but the overall athleticism at wide receiver and in the secondary will be challenging for UVA (Steve Greer, Morgan Moses, Oday Aboushi, Perry Jones will impress).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 5-7, 3-5
Virginia Tech Hokies
Say it with me: Frank Beamer has won ten or more games for eight straight seasons.
Beamer's Hokies have been accustomed to winning every close game albeit that Sugar Bowl loss surely hurt a bit with the way it ended against Michigan.
Special teams is Frank Beamer’s forte, but that game was putrid to watch towards the end.
Logan Thomas returns and the schedule is fairly soft. They have it made for them until they face Clemson, Miami and Florida State in consecutive games.
They should be able to win at least one of those games and more than likely should win two of them. Georgia Tech in the opener may actually end up being much tougher than hyped up to be since the Jackets return some firepower.
At the end of the day they will be able to plug in a few different running backs and with the improvement and versatility from Thomas.
Bank on them challenging for a BCS at-large bid with their sensational defensive players such as Kyle Fuller, James Gayle, Antone Exum, Tariq Edwards and Bruce Taylor (among many other youngsters up front).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 10-4, 6-3 (Chick-Fil-A Bowl defeat)
Mark Richt has his Georgia Bulldogs primed and ready for a deep run into the SEC.
Even if he is missing a few superstars (Bacarri Rambo) early on in the season, UGA is still capable of getting by. Aaron Murray is one of the elite signal-callers in the game and he can take the Dawgs all the way to the promised land if he improves his accuracy (22 career INT, 59 TD).
The receivers and backfield are loaded with a bevy of playmakers (O-line needs to improve), but this team will be known for their defense. It has the capability of being the best not just in the SEC, but in all of college football.
Jarvis Jones off the edge teamed up with Alec Ogletree, Cornelius Washington, Michael Gilliard and Amarlo Herrera will form a fine group of linebackers.
Kwame Geathers and John Jenkins (Abry Jones, Garrison Smith too) are two beasts up front that are a load to handle. Boise State managed to protect against them in last year’s opener, but this UGA defense is smarter, stronger and much quicker compared to last season.
Malcolm Mitchell is playing some defensive back this season with Sanders Commings and Branden Smith expected to miss some time, but having a solid safety alongside Rambo in Shawn Williams will make them tough to beat.
This schedule is like heaven for SEC standards because they avoid Arkansas, LSU and Alabama for a second straight season. Outside of road trips to Missouri, South Carolina and Auburn (those won’t be easy), this schedule is perfect. Their annual neutral site game against the Gators could be a challenge, but Kentucky and Ole Miss are mixed in between the trip to Jacksonville.
If they were to run the table and or at least win the East, they would be taking on a top-five team from the West with a trip to the BCS National Championship on the line. We have seen UGA come up short numerous of times—is this the season they make the breakthrough?
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 13-1, 9-0 (BCS National Championship defeat)
Alabama Crimson Tide
Nick Saban is a god these days in college football—the guy just is better than everybody right now. He not only gets his players out of high school, but he develops them into future NFL stars and he has a knack for always motivating and rallying his team in the “us against the world” mentality.
Well, many will be questioning this defense with the loss of some of the best players not only on defense, but in all of college football.
The depth can go on for years because at Alabama they never rebuild, but rather they reload. Robert Lester in the secondary could become an All-American and or All-SEC, but up front they look they could be even stronger.
Losing Trent Richardson sure will hurt at times, but it will not seem like it when they are running behind the best offensive line in the country. Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker could all be All-SEC performers and beyond, but the development of A.J. McCarron has the looks of becoming special.
Remember when people were wondering if he was even the right guy for the job last season?
Now some are proclaiming him as one of the best in the SEC and perhaps college football. This team looks like the most complete in college football arguably, but will the gauntlet of a schedule bite them in the butt?
Michigan in the opener (Arlington), Arkansas on the road as well as LSU on the road will all be tough games. They could very easily run the table since they have the talent to, but this is a bit of a mission impossible task.
Look for them to lose a close game along the way in the SEC, and be right in the mix for another SEC Championship. At the moment I have them just missing out in the SEC title, but the BCS would snatch them in a heartbeat to play in the Sugar Bowl. Clearly Alabama is once again thinking about the big picture though.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 12-1, 8-1 (BCS Sugar Bowl victory)
The Razorbacks had quite the offseason with the removal of Bobby Petrino, but the talent is still at John L. Smith’s disposal.
Tyler Wilson might be the best thrower in the country (save Matt Barkley), and he has arguably the best RB-WR-TE combo on the planet in Knile Davis, Cobi Hamilton and Chris Gragg.
It really all comes down to their two home games against Alabama and LSU. Whenever they play against the Crimson Tide, they get into a physical contest and come out of it beaten and bloodied.
Will they ever beat Saban?
They have proven to handle the Bayou Bengals before, but they have to beat at least one of the big two if they expect to be BCS hunting and Alabama is on the slate first. Will they be able to handle the adversity if they were to lose to the Tide right out of the gates?
Their defense needs a healthy Alonzo Highsmith and a ferocious front four to improve because they have enough solid athletes in the secondary to hang in there.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 10-3, 6-2 (Cotton Bowl defeat)
Les Miles and his Bayou Bengals slashed and gashed the opposition one season ago, and they did it without any sort of a passing game. No other team could have done it but the Tigers from Baton Rouge.
Their defense and special teams was lights out and many wonder if they can do it again.
Their defensive line is filthy good and the secondary still has the “Honey Badgers” taking what he wants from SEC skill players.
If Mathieu can prove that Morris Claiborne was not the most important player to the team last season then LSU will be just fine.
If not, then the schedule could catch up to them. Zach Mettenberger can only do so much in his first full season starting in the SEC and the road trips are deadly (thank God they can still, and will, ground-and-pound it with the best of them).
Auburn, Florida, A&M and Arkansas are hostile environments. Throw in home dates against Washington and Alabama, and you got yourself one of the toughest schedules most can remember for consecutive seasons.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 11-2, 6-2 (Capital One Bowl victory)
South Carolina Gamecocks
Devin Taylor and Jadeveown Clowney are freaks off the edge that I wouldn’t even wish upon my own worst enemy.
The Gamecocks' two linemen are impossible to block, and Marcus Lattimore is not easy to tackle on the offensive side.
Connor Shaw proved he can outproduce Stephen Garcia, but the loss of Alshon Jeffery is not all that good of news. The receivers struggled to draw separation last season outside of the current Chicago Bear, so there needs to solid improvements made or else the offense will be brutal in stretches.
At the end of the day, the Gamecocks are all about their defense and they will stay in many ball games thanks to it.
Still, hosting Georgia and Arkansas will not be fun and going on the road to face LSU and Florida in consecutive weeks could be their undoing even if they have the talent to compete with nearly anybody.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 9-4, 4-4 (Music City victory)
Tyler Bray and the Vols enter a must-win type of season under Derek Dooley. Many want and/or think Dooley will be out of town before the start of next season, but the man needs time to develop his players.
This is a make-or-break type of season for Tennessee, but they have the playmakers out wide to become SEC dark horses that nobody, and I mean nobody, is talking about.
I have yet to see a prognosticator to pick the boys filled with Dreamsicle jersey’s with anything better than a 8-5 type of season. Tyler Bray just needs to stay healthy and clean in the pocket for this team to become one of the more explosive offenses in the SEC.
The defense returns eight starters and will be improved, and the schedule is perfect!
Many are projecting a solid season, but with improvement from Bray (breakthrough superstar) look for the Vols to find a way to notch at least nine victories.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 10-3, 5-3 (Outback Bowl victory)
Kiehl Frazier has the looks of becoming Auburn’s starter but Clint Moseley is not chopped liver either. The Tigers' offense struggled at times last season because they were way to turnover prone.
However, an improved defense (yes, you heard me) may actually become the winning edge that gives them an opportunity to once again reach double-digit victories.
Auburn’s defensive line is one of the deepest in the country as they have beasts for days that rotate in. Corey Lemonier is the best of bunch, but Jeffrey Whitaker, Nosa Eguae, Kenneth Carter and Gabe Wright, among a few others, have to be licking as they are all waiting anxiously to see live bullets.
The schedule does several favors as they will likely get Clemson without Sammy Watkins and hosting Arkansas, Georgia and LSU gives them a chance to go from spoiler to legit BCS contender.
Those might just be the three best teams in the country outside of a handful of other teams, but Gene Chizik has proven that he can and will upset a team or two before it is all said and done.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 10-3, 5-3 (Gator Bowl victory)
Who will the Gators start at quarterback?
Will there be a quarterback quandary or perhaps some sharing with leaning towards the hot hand?
The Gators defense has the talent to knock off nearly any opponent on the slate, but their offense still has some issues.
A young, unproven quarterback is one thing, but the lack of receivers and backs from an experience standpoint adds up quickly.
The talent isn’t necessarily lacking, but this offense was an absolute mess last year. Will Muschamp can turn it around with the recruits he is piling up, and it will take some magic to expect to win the East.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 8-5, 4-4 (Music City Bowl victory)
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M should feature one of the better offensive lines in the entire country, but their staggering struggles with the SEC has to draw a bit of a red flag.
Plus, the schedule they have is absolutely atrocious in terms of trying to finish anything better than fifth in the West.
In the last five games against SEC competition (dating back three seasons), the Aggies have lost all five contests while being outscored by a combined score of 198-118.
It will help to have one of the best duo of offensive tackles to protect against the speed rushers in the SEC, but the Aggies offense better be able to put up some points under Kevin Sumlin.
Also, what about this defense?
They ranked only 599th in total defense last season, allowing 378 yards per game. Their offense will not get enough possessions to compete with all of these heavyweight teams that can lay the smackdown for 60 minutes.
I still think they will do just enough to pick up a couple of SEC victories, but they will be hard pressed to be .500 in their inaugural season.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 8-5, 3-5 (BBVA Compass victory)
Gary Pinkel has competed against stellar competition before so they will certainly be star-struck in season one in the SEC. One of the most intriguing games in the month of September in all of college football is clearly their home date against Georgia.
However, they currently have not had the healthiest of springs with James Franklin getting dinged up (shoulder) and running back Henry Josey still not even close to 100 percent (ACL, MCL).
They will fight and upset a team down the road, but it will be tough if they cannot get Georgia in their home and SEC opener since it only gets tougher down the road (at SC, Bama, at UF, at Tenn, at A&M).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 8-5, 3-5 (Liberty Bowl victory)
Vanderbilt was one of the more underrated and yet enjoyable teams to follow one season ago.
They hung in with Florida on the road and had both Georgia and Arkansas beat until they could not close the deals towards the fourth quarter.
Even with the loss to Tim Fugger, the Commodores should be solid up front as they always have a few athletes that catch us by surprise.
The schedule is manageable as long as they take care of business in the non-conference slate. As vital as the SEC competition is, their games against Northwestern and Wake Forest may determine their bowl destinations (and whether they even can make bowl plans).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 7-6, 2-6 (Military Bowl victory)
Mississippi State Bulldogs
It could not be stated enough how vital the Bulldogs' home date against the Volunteers is on 10/13. That game could send Mississippi State into the top 25 rankings and perhaps even into a New Year’s Day bowl.
If they were to lose that tough game, a bowl game would be far from a lock as their season may come down to the annual Egg Bowl battle with the Rebels.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 7-6, 2-6 (Armed Forces victory)
Can Joker Phillips get any help these days?
The life of an SEC coach is beyond grueling and the Cats need to pull off a miracle win or two (more like four) if they expect to have any shot at bowling.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 3-9, 0-8
Ole Miss Rebels
Houston Nutt is long gone as the head coach and after yet another disappointing season in Oxford, they can only go up.
Well, at least in time that will occur for the Rebels. This schedule, team and division is a grind and then some.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 3-9, 0-8
Boise State Broncos
Chris Petersen finds a way every season to reload, and 2012 should be no different. Obviously the last two seasons have been disastrous in terms of the way they lost out of playing in a BCS bowl.
Special teams has haunted the Broncos, but the offense was not at its best in their last two losses (Nevada, TCU). Also, it is vital to note that the defense played arguably their two worst games in the entire Chris Petersen era.
Speaking of coach Pete, the guy is flat out ridiculous. I could care less if he were playing the top high school teams on the face of the earth, going 73-6 is absurd.
Remember when Jared Zabransky made the offense? Or was it the system he was in?
Kellen Moore will be missed (most FBS wins ever, 50), but Joe Southwick is more than capable of filling in admirably with the weapons he is surrounded with.
That season opener against Sparty will obviously tell us a whole lot about the Smurfs. If they were to pull off yet another victory over a BCS foe, will somebody give them their dues, please?
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 12-1, 8-0 (BCS Orange Bowl defeat)
No longer a lock to appear in the BCS due to the new rules (no automatic qualifiers), the Big East is still a recognizable conference. Whether they are respected or not is a completely different story though.
Teddy Bridgewater is a tremendous young talent that could lead the ‘Ville to an appearance in the BCS or at very worst into contention in the Big East. Their fates will honestly be decided in September with the likes of Kentucky, Southern Miss and North Carolina all on the non-conference slate.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 9-4, 6-1 (BBVA Compass Bowl defeat)
Butch Jones is doing one hell of a job for the Bearcats and it shouldn’t matter which SEC school they beat in their bowl game, ten wins is fabulous.
They are winning the battle in the trenches and their playmakers have been impressive even though both are gone heading into the 2012 season (QB Callarros, RB Pead were stars). Still, there is solid enough depth to succeed in the Big East.
If they expect to win the Big East and play in a BCS bowl, it is imperative to upset the ‘Ville on the road (Friday, 10/26).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 9-4, 5-2 (Champs Sports defeat)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Scarlet Knights have the schedule to really challenge for a Big East crown, but we should learn a lot from Kyle Flood’s squad right away in September.
Going on the road to South Florida and Arkansas should teach us how far their recruiting and depth overall has gone.
They have some nice momentum after knocking off Iowa State in their bowl game, but that does not necessarily mean they will win the Big East.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 9-4, 4-3 (Military Bowl victory)
The Panthers start yet another new era with Paul Chryst as Todd Graham has recently left.
Pitt has 13 starters returning, and they should impress us at times. We can always count on them to be able to run the ball and play solid defense, but the lack of a few pieces will cost them at the end of the day.
They are still a long ways away from becoming serious contenders with teams such as Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers ahead of the pack.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 9-4 4-3 (Beef O'Brady's victory)
The Big East has Temple to perhaps beat up on, but the Huskies have not made an impact outside of their Big East title and BCS trip to Glendale from two seasons ago.
The loss of Randy Edsall was a bit tough since they had reshuffle the program a tad, but they still have pieces to build around. The main piece would be the leading rusher from the Big East last season, Lyle McCombs (275 carries for 1,151 yards and seven TD's).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 4-8, 1-6
South Florida Bulls
The Bulls have been on the cusp many times before to only let us down. B.J. Daniels is now in his senior season and the hope is Skip Holtz can put together a push towards a Big East crown.
However, the schedule is not too enjoyable with non-conference games against Nevada, Florida State and Miami. Thank goodness they have Ball State and FCS opponent Chattanooga on the slate or else they would be hard pressed to find many victories.
Although they did show promise against West Virginia in the season finale, they continually found ways to lose ball games.
They will lose quite a few Big East games in the process as well, which should be expected this time around.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 8-4, 5-2 (Pinstripe Victory)
The defense for the Orange will miss Chandler Jones because of how versatile he was, but the Big East is slowly improving with Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers all getting better by the day. Doug Marrone led them to a bowl bid just two seasons ago, but those days seem like they happened so long ago.
Ryan Nassib is one of the better passers in the conference, and he actually has some decent weapons too. However, the defense is going to really take this team back from where they ultimately want to end up at.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 4-8, 2-5
I picked the Owls to play in the MAC title game a season ago and they fell just short.
With the loss of several key players and a move to the Big East, the expectations for this season are far more modest. The Owls will be lucky to pick up more than a couple of wins. They are still waiting for their fifth non-conference opponent, so for their we sake we can only hope it is a cake-walk game.
The Big East is a competitive conference and a clear step up from the MAC. Plus, the loss of running back Bernard Pierce will hurt, despite the return of Matt Brown, another capable back.
Way Too Early Projected Record: 2-9, 0-7
Oregon State Beavers
Mike Riley once turned around this program and made them into perennial contenders. Nowadays he is attempting to avoid the basement of the Pac-12 because every program has seemingly improved in the past three seasons but the Beavers.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 1-11, 0-9
The Wildcats defense was clearly atrocious one season ago, allowing on average 35 PPG (107th). Rich Rodriguez has never been known as a defensive guru, and heading off to the Pac-12 will only help make matters worse.
They won't go down without a fight though, and Arizona will upset a team or two down the immediate road.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 5-7, 2-7
Arizona State Sun Devils
The Todd Graham era is underway in Tempe and the hope is that the players will be fighting for all four quarters.
The team did not fight with nearly enough emotion towards the end of the year and it is never easy to continue to play with full effort when you realize your coach will soon be kicked out the door (uncertain future for players etc), but this ASU squad has a way to go before they become Pac-12 challengers.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 5-7, 3-6
The loss of star receiver Paul Richardson is costly since Colorado was expected to have a respectable offense coming back.
Now they go back to square one from last season and the schedule is full of tests that will be exciting to follow.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 4-8, 1-8
This Bruins squad is capable of getting back to a bowl game, but it may even be harder this time around.
UCLA's offense was putrid to put it kindly, and it certainly doesn't help that the Pac-12 is getting deeper and full of more parity by the day (save USC and Oregon—two BCS contenders).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 4-8, 2-7
California Golden Bears
Jeff Tedford could be on the hot seat if his Bears fail to appear in a bowl game this season. The talent is not lacking offensively with Zach Maynard playing pitch-and-catch with his half-brother Keenan Allen, but the defense could be a different story.
They were 25th in total defensive yards allowed (332 YPG), but just five starters return off that team. Throw in a much tougher schedule since teams such as Washington State and Utah are improved, and it will not be easy to go back to the postseason (TOSU, USC in September will be brutal).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 5-7, 3-6
Washington State Cougars
Marquess Wilson has the All-American talents to take Mike Leach and his squad to the postseason right away.
Clearly, the defense needs to get a few more stops since they ranked 82nd in the country (409 YPG allowed).
The offense should be fairly explosive since five starters return and the schedule should allow the Cougars to sneak in with a record at the .500 benchmark.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 7-6, 4-5 (MAACO victory)
The Stanford Cardinals should remain a run-first football team like they were with Andrew Luck as their quarterback.
David DeCastro and Johnathan Martin were both All-Americans, and they certainly will be missed. Brett Nottingham or Josh Nunes will start under center, but the skill position players are better than ever before.
Stepfan Taylor looks to become one of the most productive backs in Cardinal history and Ty Montgomery and a slew of tight ends (Levine Toilolo, Zach Ertz) that can stretch the field.
Shayne Skov (potential suspension from DUI) and Chase Thomas are both legit stars in the Pac-12 and we know the grit of the Stanford team comes from these two.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 9-4, 6-3 (Sun Bowl victory)
Kyle Whittingham has done a tremendous job with the Utes, but with a healthy Jordan Wynn back at quarterback alongside John White IV at running makes this a much improved offense.
The Utes were a pedestrian 109th in the country, averaging 310 YPG. The defense will be led by one of the best interior lineman in the country (Star Lotulelei). An easy schedule is tempting to take Utah to reach the Pac-12 title, but they would need to likely upset the Trojans on that Thursday night (10/4).
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 10-3, 7-2 (Alamo Bowl defeat)
Keith Price and the Huskies should be quite the potent offense next season. Price can sling it with the best of them, and he even has arguably the best tight end in the country (Austin Seferian-Jenkins).
Still, the defense was about as bad it gets in college football, and they are coming off the firing of the highest paid defensive coordinator in the country (Nick Holt). Can you blame them?
The performance against Baylor on defense was like a box of toys you get at the store that says, "Tackling Sold Separately".
If only the Huskies defense was half as good as their offense, they would be constant stays in the national rankings and they would upset Oregon and or USC every season.
Instead, they will have to attempt to outscore every team they play, which should actually get them fairly far.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 9-4, 6-3 (Holiday Bowl defeat)
The most electrifying offense to watch next season might just be these Oregon Ducks that Chip Kelly will once again have clicking on all cylinders.
Many thought there was no way Darron Thomas would enter the NFL Draft, but he did and now Bryan Bennett or Marcus Mariota will compete for the starting gig.
De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner should be the best one-two punch (in terms of running backs) in America and we should see Thomas split out wide and in the slot a bit.
This defense has the potential to be the best ever by far under Nick Aliotti. John Boyett, Kiko Alonso and Dion Jordan are legit players at each level of the defense.
No traps seem to be looming on this schedule, but they will likely have to face the USC Trojans two times. USC might just be the best team in the country—that is, of course, if the Ducks aren't.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 13-1, 9-1 (BCS Fiesta Bowl victory)
Matt Barkley and his fellow Trojans look like a legit top ranked team in the country heading into the season. The offense is NFL explosive and the receivers are to die for.
Robert Woods and Marquis Lee may both be first round picks in the near future, and the offensive line should rank among the best in the country.
Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard are quick, fierce linebackers that fear absolutely no backfield—this team is going bonkers with talent.
T.J. McDonald, Nickell Robey, Jawanza Starling, Isaih Wiley and Torin Harris should all help for any lack of star power they might up front.
Many teams will try to grind out yards at the line of scrimmage, but that seriously may be the only weak link that elite teams could expose.
The schedule is a bit tougher than most may think, but Barkley has the ability to put up 40 against anybody on the slate.
Mark your dates for 11/3 and 11/30 (no confirmed date could be 12/1) because the Trojans and Ducks will be two (assuming they both win their divisions) of your best matchups of the entire season.
The second contest could be a play-in for the BCS National Championship. but at very worst a BCS at-large bid could be on the line if both teams put on a good showing.
If USC runs the table or suffers just one lone loss, they have an excellent shot at landing in the BCS title.
Updated Way Too Early Projected Record: 12-1, 8-1 (BCS Rose Bowl victory)
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