College Football Predictions: 5 Preseason Darlings Who Will Have Rough Years
It's July and all 124 Division I (FBS) college football teams have a clean slate and are filled with hope for a successful 2012.
Some of those squads will harness those hopes and turn them into winning seasons, bowl berths and conference titles.
But others are going to be tripped up and fall, popping their over-inflated dreams which now look so promising.
There is no avoiding this fact.
Here are five teams who are in prime position to have their dreams deflated in 2012.
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Correct me if I'm wrong with this statement: Notre Dame is tabbed a "national title contender" every preseason and then they don't end up contending for a national title.
Well, this year will be no different.
The Irish still don't have a clear-cut starter at quarterback, something that has been consistent since the departure of Jimmy Clausen.
We can assume the starter will be Tommy Rees, but he hasn't been as productive under center as the Notre Dame coaching staff has hoped.
But whether it's Rees, Andrew Hendrix or even true freshman Gunner Kiel, the starter will have to find a way to produce without wide receiver Michael Floyd.
Saying that Floyd was the go-to receiver last year would be a vast understatement; as he accounted for 1,147 of UND's receiving yards, 100 of its 302 receptions and 9 of its 21 touchdowns through the air.
Manti Te'o will be the leader of a decent defense, which will lose three of its top five tacklers from last season.
However, the Te'o and the Irish will need a lot of help to get past a tough schedule.
History has shown that their season opener against Navy in Dublin, Ireland is far from an easy win.
After that, they will cap off September with a couple of brawls against two serious Big Ten title contenders in Michigan and Michigan State.
They also have to make road trips to face two of the top teams in the country, in Oklahoma and USC.
Best case scenario for Notre Dame is 8-4, but things could go as sour as 6-6 or worse.
In the end, the Irish may be clinging to a bowl bid at .500, but either way they'll be far from title contention.
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Much like Notre Dame, Florida doesn't have a clear-cut starter under center, and whether Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel wins the starting job, the Gator offense will still be without its top two rushers.
Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps combined for more than 1,500 yards on the ground last year and will be sorely missed, as the UF rushing attack is shrouded with mystery.
Andre Debose may be the epitome of the entire Florida squad: an extremely highly-touted recruit who is yet to truly live up to expectations.
Florida has no shortage of speed and talent, but lacks the toughness to make it through the brunt of an SEC slate—a task that requires a rock-solid physical and mental makeup.
The Gators will need to be quick off the blocks in 2012, as they will take on Texas A&M and rival Tennessee on the road to start their SEC season.
After that, the journey only becomes more treacherous, as national title-favorite LSU and SEC title contender South Carolina will come to Gainesville.
Then, of course, there's the "not" World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against Georgia in Jacksonville and a road trip to the ACC-Title favorite Florida State at season's end.
Debose, Brissett/Driskel and the rest of the offense will need to supply more support to what should be one of the fastest defenses in the country to avoid a letdown in 2012.
But I don't see that happening.
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Boise State has the small task of replacing one of the most successful players in college football history in Kellen Moore.
Oh, and the Broncos will also have to replace first round NFL draft pick Doug Martin.
Together they were the BSU offense, combining for almost 5,000 yards and 59 touchdowns.
On defense, they'll also have to replace another first-rounder in linebacker Shea McClellin, who was easily one of the most versatile and effective defenders on the squad.
The Caldwell, Idaho native and future Chicago Bear accounted for 12.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and two interceptions in 2011.
Boise State is no stranger to losing talented players, but these are some pretty gargantuan losses which will be tough even for proven head coach Chris Petersen to make up for.
The Broncos' schedule won't be forgiving either. They will start on the road at Michigan State, which will be a very tough place to win and a very tough team to beat.
The next test will come against an always difficult foe in Brigham Young, and they will face their hardest in-conference opponent in Wyoming on the road.
In the following week, they will take on their next-toughest Mountain West foe San Diego State, then they will travel across a few time zones to take on Hawaii.
Boise's regular season will end in Reno at rival Nevada, which of course will be far from a easy win.
If Boise can find a legitimate replacement for Moore at quarterback, they'll have a chance. But either way, don't expect them to contend for a national title berth like in years past.
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The losses at South Carolina start on defense.
Not only will the Gamecocks lose two first round NFL draft picks in Melvin Ingram and Stephon Gilmore, but they will also miss key contributors in Travian Robertson and Antonio Allen.
Together they combined for 231 tackles, including 35.5 for a loss, 14.5 sacks and nine interceptions.
No matter how you cut it, that is a ton of production to replace.
They will have some talented players returning, including elite defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, but there are plenty of players who will have to fill in at other spots on that defense.
A defense which will need to be stout to support the smashmouth rush offense in Columbia, which will be led by one of the most talented running backs in the college game: Marcus Lattimore.
South Carolina will absolutely need Lattimore (who has been hampered by injury in his career) to stay healthy.
If he goes down, USC goes down—plain and simple.
Connor Shaw is expected to take full control over the reins of the Gamecock offense, but whether he has the ability or help at wide receiver with the loss of Alshon Jeffery to carry them through a tough SEC slate remains to be seen.
Road games against LSU, Florida and Clemson loom on the schedule, along with a matchup with another SEC title-hopeful Arkansas at home.
Also, they can't overlook Vanderbilt on the road in their season opener.
In the end, the stars will have to shine brightly for USC to see success in 2012, and even that may not be enough.
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TCU has lost less than the other teams on this list, especially on offense.
The Horned Frogs O won't lose too much and probably returns the most proven quarterback of all these teams.
For the Fort Worth kids, the biggest departure will be linebacker Tank Carder, who was the most versatile player on their defense last year.
He was No. 2 on the team in tackles, including 4.5 for a loss and two interceptions.
In his stead, the defense will be led by an elite defensive end in Stansly Maponga.
Outside of him, I'm not sure as to how well the defense will translate to the Big 12.
On top of that, the TCU offense put up decent numbers last year; but those numbers should drop against tougher competition.
TCU's schedule starts off slow with Kansas and Iowa State, two of the lesser teams of the conference, but will then face a precarious late-season slate.
In the last five games, the Frogs will face the five toughest squads of the Big 12, including Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas on the road.
Kansas State and Oklahoma at home will be far from easy victories as well.
TCU is hoping to continue its recent success immediately in the Big 12, but the Frogs could end up at 7-5 with such a rough ending to the season.
Quarterback Casey Pachall will have to be an absolute stud to lead TCU through the rigors of the Big 12, but in reality, he probably doesn't have it in him.