10 College Football Fanbases That Should Be Nervous for 2012

Dan Vasta@CI_StatsGuruSenior Writer IIIJune 30, 2012

10 College Football Fanbases That Should Be Nervous for 2012

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    As the 2012 season is less than eight weeks away (61 days), many fanbases cannot wait for everything to get underway.

    The excitement, pageantry and wait is almost over, but for some programs the time is going by way too quick in the summer right now.

    There are always struggling fanbases that cannot live up to the expectations, and very often they disappoint us because they are simply too high in the preseason.

    Being BCS contenders or pretenders does not matter at the moment, these upcoming 10 fanbases just want to see their program improve throughout the season.

    All of them are coming off rather disappointing seasons, but that does not mean they cannot turn things around. However, one thing is for certain and that is all 10 are under scrutiny heading into the season.

    So, here is your list of the top fanbases that should be nervous heading into the 2012 college football season.

Florida Gators

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    The Gators have been given a ton of respect by a few prognosticators heading into the 2012 season (Phil Steele), but most experts aren't expecting a huge season from Will Muschamp’s young group.

    That does not mean UF should pack it up and go home for the fall, because there is simply nothing better in sports than accomplishing anything vital when everybody says you have essentially no chance.

    With the Gators loaded defense, they have an excellent chance to be in position to win nearly every single game. The fourth quarter may be unkind to UF if they cannot find an offense that strikes fear into opposing SEC defenses, though.

    Speed kills, but this offense needs to find ways to spread out the defenses so everything is not bottled up at the line of scrimmage.

    Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey are gone, but Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown will look to improve upon a rushing offense that was 73rd in averaging only 143 yards per game.

    Losing John Brantley would be considered a nightmare of a loss if this question was asked one or two summers ago, but many believe Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will become much better performers in 2012 than their quarterback trio was last season.

    Many blame the injury bug for a concern or a lack of a running game, but the bottom line was that the passing offense ranked 89th in the country (185 YPG). The receivers deserved a good portion of the blame, but the production has to improve this season.

    Expect Jordan Reed and Trey Burton to be used as part of more two-tight end sets and wide receivers Andre DeBose, Frankie Hammond, Quinton Dunbar and Omarius Hines are just a few that must step up.

    The competition for these Gators is quite the buzzsaw and that is without Alabama being on the slate. Instead, they pick up a nice home game with the defending SEC champions (LSU), and games against three likely preseason top 10 teams should be fun (UGA, SC, FSU).

    At the moment, they are listed as 2.5-point favorites over South Carolina, but let us not forget that those Gamecocks have defeated the Gators for consecutive seasons now.

    Throw in a road game against Tennessee (PK) and the top 10 difficulty of a schedule could be argued as the toughest among SEC squads.

    The reason being that Gator nation should be a bit nervous is due to the upside of their two toughest games on the slate (not at home), as Georgia and Florida State are absolutely loaded on defense.

    UF is right there on the defensive side of the ball, but will the defense remain fully energetic when their offense has a few three-and-outs and forces the defense to get right off the bench after perhaps being on the field for a long drive against the opposing UGA or FSU offense?

    These are the critical points of a UF season that will determine their SEC East (and overall) chances, and if that 105th-ranked offense (total yards per game, 328) does not improve much, Gator nation will be more than just nervous.

Texas A&M Aggies

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    The A&M Aggies have one of the best fanbases in all of college football and they truly love their football at College Station.

    However, heading to the SEC when your team is coming off a 7-6 season is never a good thing.

    It sure hurts, when you are losing one of your best quarterbacks in the BCS era (Ryan Tannehill) as well as your program’s all-time leading receiver (Jeff Fuller, 3,092). Also, having perhaps your starting quarterback charged with three misdemeanors only makes matters worse (h/t Matt Hinton, CBSSports.com).

    Plus, throw in the fact that the SEC West is arguably the best division in all of sports and that you have been outscored 198-118 in the last five meetings against an SEC opponent, and most would be considered dead men walking right about now.

    Now, that does not mean the season is over before it has even started, because Kevin Sumlin is one young, fine head football coach.

    They still have pieces on the offensive side of the ball to compete with some of the teams right away, but it will take some time before they consistently hang with the likes of Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

    A&M has given Arkansas some issues in their last two meetings, but the Razorbacks have not been the dominant team in the SEC as they actually have been a middle-of-the-road SEC squad (in the last five seasons).

    Arkansas is a perfect example since they have competed well against them, but the Razorbacks in the last five seasons are just 21-19 in-conference.

    Many believe the Aggies will have zero chance at going over the .500 benchmark in conference play this season, but eventually they could crack the code.

    Piling up the recruits to fit your system is a must, but they need to bring some freaks in on the defensive side of the ball.

    Ranking 59th in total defense one season ago will balloon to closer to 100 with their brutal schedule if there isn’t an improvement made.

    Yes, coming to the SEC because you are excited is one thing, but competing with those same big boys that have walloped you thus far could turn into a nightmare. 

Missouri Tigers

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    The Mizzou Tigers are fortunate to be playing in the SEC East as opposed to the West, but there is practically zero difference in difficulty of schedules when comparing the Tigers slate to, say, Alabama’s.

    The entire state of Missouri has to be nervous after they beat up on SE Louisiana in the opener because they host what will easily be their most important home game of the season (arguably in BCS era).

    The Georgia Bulldogs come to town and there is an excellent chance that they will be ranked in the top five (or six) due to their preseason expectations.

    Many believe due to some key UGA players likely being out (suspension, dismissals) that the Tigers have a great chance to pull off the slight upset (three-point ‘dogs).

    However, if they cannot pull off the victory it might be time to get even more nervous with South Carolina hosting Missouri, and then if the Tigers were to come out alive, they would have to gear up for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

    Three vital games in the first seven weeks of the season is not the ideal plan that most had in mind, but they could be fighting for their bowl lives if they were to lose all three of those contests.

    Plus, the loss of Henry Josey (major knee surgeries) last season was terrible timing now that they are part of the SEC.

    Josey came off one of the most productive seasons ever as a Tiger back rushing for 1,168 yards (this most in a season), but the chances of him becoming a real factor at any point during the season are not good at the moment.

    Unfortunately, Mizzou’s chances will now rely on quarterback James Franklin and freshman superstar wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (talk about expectations).

    Ranking 64th in passing offense one season ago will not cut it against the SEC’s defenses, and the final stretch of SEC games (at UF, at UT, at A&M) could be the difference between having a winning and losing season.     

Kentucky Wildcats

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    The poor Kentucky Wildcats are absolutely loaded in basketball, but the football team is taking a turn for the worse right now.

    Where do we even begin?

    Joker Phillips is entering his third season with a respectable 11-14 record, but that is not nearly good enough for a team that has been accustomed to appearing in bowls (six since 2002).

    Only 11 starters are returning from last season, but the SEC has been easily the best conference in America from an overall standpoint (or any for that matter), and the schedule just got a whole lot worse from last season.

    A regular-season finale upset over Tennessee gave them their much-needed SEC win, but who on earth will they beat this season?

    They were third to dead last in total offense last season and we cannot expect so much improvement as to where the ‘Cats will be throwing up 30-plus points a game as they outscore their opponents.

    Well, that is exactly what is going to need to happen if they expect to come close to that five-win plateau they have reached since 2005.

    Finishing dead last in the SEC East should be nerve-racking if it does indeed happen (there won’t be too many sure things), but could you blame UK and their struggles with the slate they have?

    Louisville on the road in the opener will not be fun trying to track down Teddy Bridgewater as he is one of the more silent assassin passers in the country.

    Three weeks later, the Gators come calling from the “Swamp” and beyondthebets.com has already labeled that game as a 24-point shellacking.

    At home against South Carolina (17-point ‘dogs) is bad, but Arkansas (24.5) and Georgia (17.5) could turn into some beatdowns if the defense does not become one of the most surprising units in the country.

    Sadly, even if the defense performs well we may not see any different results since the offense still has a long way to go as well (116th,16 PPG).

    Forget being nervous, I would be a bit frightened heading into a season where you will likely not find a victory against an FBS opponent after Kent State and Western Kentucky come to Lexington (Sept. 8, 15).

Boston College Eagles

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    Boston College was accustomed to playing the dark-horse role of the ACC and it helped to once upon a time appear in 12 straight bowl games!

    That streak was snapped last season after they endured quite a bit during their unimpressive 4-8 (3-5 ACC) year that was led by All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly.

    Kuechly led America for the last two seasons in tackles and his loss will be felt on and off the field, since he was a true born-leader. The linebackers should reload just fine, but this team needs all the studs they can get with the schedule they are stacked up against.

    Eight bowl opponents is not exactly cupcake city and throw in Miami FL in your season opener at home, and a loss could decide your bowl fates right out of the shoot.

    It might sound premature to throw away your season based on one game, but if the offense cannot muster much after the dismissal of their program’s all-time rushing leader (Montel Harris, 3,735) then nervousness may start to kick in.

    Frank Spaziani has done a solid job since taking over, but after this past losing season he will be under a ton of scrutiny (he should be a bit nervous) heading into the season. Some fans believe he is gone regardless, whereas others think a trip to a December game would keep him aboard.

    The bottom line is that their offense was dreadful a season ago, ranking 11th in points scored (18 PPG), 112th in total offense (298 YPG), 100th in passing offense (167 YPG) and 82nd in rushing offense (130 YPG). The offense was simply the worst in the ACC, and it wasn’t even a debate worth attempting.

    Those laundry list of problems will not just go away in one single season and though some truly believe they will be going to their 13th bowl game in the last 14 seasons, the chances look slim to none as the months of October and November might just shut this team out.

    It isn’t time to panic since the year hasn’t even started, but being nervous might sum it all up.

Maryland Terrapins

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    Randy Edsall and the Terps were many people’s surprise pick in the ACC to upset a few teams and at the very worst appear in a bowl game.

    I actually question if they can honestly get back to that postseason level any time soon. The return of 15 starters looks nice on paper, but it's those 15 starters who struggled mightily in the ACC one season ago.

    They defeated Miami FL on Labor Day night as they were favorites, but only poor Towson became MD’s other lone victory.

    Losing to Temple, 38-7, hurt a lot of the faithful’s feelings in College Park because they honestly thought a seven- or eight-win season would be on the way.

    Instead, poof, 10 losses occurred and many are wondering how long it will take before the Terps avoid the basement (or at least the bottom tier) of the ACC?

    Danny O’Brien has since transferred to Wisconsin and now CJ Brown will need to bounce back from what was an atrocious offensive team to watch last season. I will gladly boast about a team when they are playing well and exceed expectations, but last year was just plain bad.

    The yards, offensively speaking, were there, but drives were never finished. In scoring offense, Maryland ranked among the worst in the country at 87th.

    Throw in a fairly brutal schedule that includes nine bowl teams (even if they are ACC teams, that is still respectable), and the nerves should be kicking in before the season even starts knowing that the victories may come at a premium price.

Oregon State Beavers

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    Mike Riley has meant a whole lot in Corvallis, but how many consecutive losing seasons can the program endure?

    In 2010 they had a tough 5-7 season, and now they are coming off a brutal 3-9 year in which both sides of the ball were unpleasant to watch.

    Some feel this team is ready to get back to the postseason with 15 starters returning, but we cannot dismiss the playmakers they no longer have in the program.

    Plus, people just seem to throw that schedule to the wayside and that is simply silly with BYU and Wisconsin on the non-conference schedule (both likely losses, Badgers may hang 45).

    The playmakers they are accustomed to having would be the Steven Jacksons, Jacquizz Rodgers or even the Yvenson Bernards (program’s No. 2 all-time leading rusher).

    Malcolm Agnew had a solid freshman season to as he capped off 423 yards and five TDs, but it was nothing to brag home about. Sean Mannion also grew up as the season wore down, as he went through some growing pains (young QB who should develop).

    However, the worst is yet to come in my eyes. Watching them lose to Sacramento State in overtime was a bit rough, but they did manage to hang in there with Stanford for a half.

    Losing your final five games by a total of 106 points completely shuts down any momentum the squad thought they had heading into the 2012 campaign.

    Clearly, taking care of the pigskin should be the biggest concern since they were 113th in the nation (31) at coughing it up. However, when your team is trailing and pressing a bit, turnovers occur and things quickly unravel.

    Nervousness will be taking part again in Corvallis if Riley does not pull another rabbit out of his hat, and they can only pray that their talented receivers can carry this squad to a respectable 2012 record.

Ole Miss Rebels

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    The Ole Miss Rebels fall into the same boat as Kentucky, except most should be expecting the bad, pitiful and the ugly (just like UK).

    The Rebels have a storied fanbase and a program with a ton of history, but this is simply not their time to succeed.

    Bringing in Hugh Freeze will hopefully lead to more victories in the eventual future, but facing five of the toughest teams in America can only make the Rebels a bit nervous this summer.

    Those five teams are loaded with talent (Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, Texas) and they are capable to perhaps roll up a few 50 burgers.

    Also, will the offense get shut out in a few of these games? The offense could be the strength of the team, but they were 116th in the country last season averaging a lowly 16 PPG.

    The biggest question is who on earth will Ole Miss defeat this season in an SEC that features so many tough opponents on the slate?

    Central Arkansas and UTEP (and Tulane) will boost the confidence level some, but it likely won’t matter how great they feel about themselves when they take on that nasty SEC West schedule.

    Scoring points and avoiding 30-point blowouts will not feel like moral victories, but it would for me and my expectations heading into the season for Ole Miss. 

Baylor Bears

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    The loss of the Heisman Trophy winner certainly is not a great feeling heading into a season in which West Virginia and TCU replaces Missouri and Texas A&M.

    Those teams could be comparable in the future or from the past even, but I wouldn’t compare the two heading into the 2012 season.

    The difference in schedules is mission impossible, and that is with a very talented offense returning in spite of RGIII’s departure.

    Nick Florence takes over at quarterback, but will they be able to finish those drives off on the critical third downs?

    Baylor was 27th in offensive third-down efficiency and with all due respect to Mr. Florence, nobody can realistically believe that this Art Briles offense will average anywhere relatively close to 45 points per game (like last season, but anything more than 33 would be a reach for me).

    I personally love the Bears group of receivers (top 10 talent), but it won’t mean squat if they do not get the same amount of possessions per game.

    Also, did I mention that their schedule is equivalent to an SEC team?

    Staring death in the face is always tough for an underdog dark horse that comes out of nowhere, but once they notice you it is almost as if you will be stopped dead in your tracks before you even get rolling.

    That story may be told in 2012 with SMU ready to upset the Bears, but West Virginia (road), TCU, Texas (road), Oklahoma (road), Kansas State and Oklahoma State may all hang 40-plus on a Bears defense that is actually returning eight players.

    Elliot Coffey was their leading tackler and surely he will be missed, but all six of those opponents should be ranked for nearly the entire season (save perhaps Kansas State).

    A losing season is not a mortal lock, but it will be tough to sneak in and play in the postseason this year.

    The teams are improving by the minute, whereas the Bears need to put last season behind them. Nervousness could come to mind for the Bears since finishing third to last in the Big 12 is never a happy or positive thought if it occurs.  

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Notre Dame has struggled thus far in the Brian Kelly era thanks to some, as expected, outlandish expectations.

    Everybody in South Bend may be lowering them a tad, but overall we should all realize that the Golden Domers feel that they can still hang with any team in the country.

    While that isn’t completely far-fetched, we are going to certainly find out just how improved this team has become in one season. They played in five games that were decided by single digits, and two of them were tough losses right from the start last season.

    The drama at quarterback needs to have zero hiccups once the season starts, and while that may seem impossible, they must have the confidence in whomever they decide to take them to the promised land.

    Fans have to be nervous, because this offense was among the worst in the country in turnovers lost last year (110th).

    Coughing it up 29 times just flat out screams nervousness heading into the follow season when you lose arguably your most explosive, all-time leading receiver Michael Floyd (3,686).

    Most great programs may never become nervous per se because they know they will reload with the best of them. While I would not panic if I were a diehard, going against three All-American quarterbacks has to be fearful at least.

    Denard Robinson sliced and diced the Irish apart for 446 yards and five TDs, what on earth does he have in store this time around?

    Plus, that heartbreaking loss was awful to encounter, and OU’s Landry Jones and USC’s Matt Barkley can thread it with the best of them.

    It spells disaster if this Irish team is anything like last season’s, but as we know every season is different and the hope is that Notre Dame will have learned a lot from the agony last year’s nerve-racking defeats.

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