College Football 2012: 5 Stories to Keep Your Eye on During the Season
It’s only May, but the buzz of college football is already humming, as members from every major conference are already planning out schemes against opponents.
We’re three months away from the opening weekend, but let’s look some interesting story lines as the season approaches. Here’s five stores to keep your eyes on…
Story #1: The Trojan Are Back
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Fresh off its two-year postseason ban by the NCAA for rule violations, the USC Trojans are primed to make noise, but this time—they’re playing for keeps, as they finished No. 6 in last season’s AP Top 25.
The Trojans are lead by quarterback—and Heisman candidate—Matt Barkley, who is projected as one of the first players to be picked in next April’s NFL draft. Barkley will depart after this season, but not before posting some enormous offensive numbers.
Barkley isn’t the only offensive talent wearing a Trojan uniform. Wide receiver Robert Woods returns for his junior season. Woods caught 111 balls (fifth in the nation) for 1,292 yards, ranking him 13th. Also returning as a deep threat for Barkley is sophomore Marquise Lee, who busted onto the national scene with 1,143 yards receiving for 11 touchdowns.
The Trojans have been put on the shelf for the last two years, playing for no justifiable or tangible symbol of success. They are one of the most talented teams for the country, but look for them to be a bit more chippy or “spirited” each week. They have something to play for finally, something very tangible and realistic, given this group—a national championship. The Trojans are hungry, so look for them to make noise throughout college football all fall.
Story #2: Heisman Watch
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The Heisman Pundit released its 2012 Heisman Watch List earlier this month, marking the first phase of crowning this year’s most outstanding football player in the nation.
Eighteen players made the list, highlighted by Barkley, Clemsons’ Tajh Boyd, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and Michigan’s Denard Robinson. Those four are the serious contenders to take home this season’s trophy, but other guys are in the mix as well.
Oklahoma’s Landry Jones will put up big numbers, Montee Ball returns to lead the rushing attack for Wisconsin, and West Virginia's Tavon Austin may be the most underrated player in all of college football.
Keep checking in as the season develops. The List will too, I can assure you of that.
Story #3: New Faces in New Places
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The ongoing bigger picture throughout the country is conference realignment. Powerhouse programs want to join alongside other powerhouses to stake further claim in the right to be in contention as one of the best by season’s end.
This season, Texas A&M will suit up to battle the toughest of the tough in the SEC.
The Aggies are just one of the several examples of teams that are switching conferences, although the travelling and style of their opponents doesn’t entirely suit them. Temple’s football program hopped over to the Big East. TCU will join the Big 12. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are heading for the ACC.
However, you have to go where the money goes, and that’s exactly what the these programs are doing.
Watch all season long as these new programs find the ground beneath them in the chaos nature that is college football.
Story #4: Meyer Lands in Columbus
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It’s hard to go under the radar in today’s culture. It’s difficult to build something up quietly and make an impact with no one expecting it.
Quietly, however, Urban Meyer returns to restore a damaged Ohio State football program.
The Buckeyes were slammed with penalties, suspensions and now, a lingering stigma after news came out late initially in December 2010 of players selling memorabilia in exchange for improper benefits. Then-head coach Jim Tressel reportedly tried to cover the situation up, and for that, he was stripped of his duties.
Meyer is fresh off a TV analyst gig. He emerged in an Apr. 23 issue of Sports Illustrated, describing why he had to get away from coaching and that now, he has a good balance in all phases of his life.
Let’s just hope that he can balance out the program’s reputation and bring it back to promise.
Story #5: The Irish Look to Return
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It wouldn’t be a college football article without mentioning the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Now in his third season, head coach Brian Kelly looks for his project of growing players on both sides of the ball to pay off. There’s still a battle at quarterback as junior Andrew Hendrix, sophomore Everett Golson and freshman Gunner Kiel all look to take hold of the reigns under center.
Defensively, the Irish are lead by talented linebacker, Manta Te’o. The senior recorded 128 total tackles in 2011, expected to bust out for his last year while wearing Irish colors. Te’o is a real NFL prospect, projected to go somewhere in the first round during next year’s NFL draft.