Can the Alabama Crimson Tide live up to the national title expectations in
Every year, there are several programs expected to compete for conference and national titles; however, some of those teams not only fail to meet expectations, but wind up falling well below the projected win-loss totals drawn up by the fans and members of the media.
This season should be no different after an offseason of turmoil and several prominent programs being forced to rebuild and rebound from down seasons.
Whether or not the teams in this slideshow actually fail to live up to the hype created by the media and their respective fanbases won't be known until the end of the 2012 season, but hey, it's fun to take a few guesses at who is going to underwhelm us, right?
Tyler Wilson is back for 2012 in Arkansas, but can he lead the Razorbacks to a victory over LSU or Alabama?
The scandal that led to the firing of head coach Bobby Petrino put the Arkansas Razorbacks in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons during the spring, but this does not appear to be a cause for concern to fans of the program in Fayetteville, as expectations are higher for the team now than they have ever been.
After all, the Razorbacks will have one of the nation's most dangerous offenses in 2012, led by first-team All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson returning and explosive running back Knile Davis, who missed the entire 2011 season with a left ankle injury.
The defense should be even better than it was last season as well, with one of the most experienced linebacking corps and defensive lines in the entire country.
All of this has Razorback fans expecting their team to be playing for the BCS National Championship in January; however, Arkansas will not be able to navigate the SEC West unscathed.
The Razorbacks were dominated by LSU and Alabama in their only two losses in 2011, and given the fact those two teams are not expected to take a step back this season, there is no reason to believe Arkansas will be able to keep up with the nation's elite programs again.
Arkansas will also have to make road trips to Auburn, Texas A&M, South Carolina and Mississippi State. Given the Razorbacks' struggles on the road last season against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, none of those four conference road games are going to be a walk in the park.
Look for the Razorbacks to take care of business against the middle-tier SEC squads; just do not expect to turn your television on in mid-September and late November and see Arkansas pull off victories against Alabama and LSU.
Will Mike Gundy's offense continue to rank among the nation's best even with a true freshman quarterback?
There are not too many true freshman quarterbacks that have led a team to a Bowl Championship Series game appearance or a Big 12 Conference title, which is exactly what the Oklahoma State fanbase is expecting Wes Lunt to do in 2012.
Lunt enrolled early at Oklahoma State and won the starting job after a solid performance in the Cowboys spring game.
Junior running back Joseph Randle will likely play a bigger role in the Cowboys offense with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm and due to the departures of standout wide receivers Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper.
Oklahoma State's defense has never been its strong suit under head coach Mike Gundy, and it is not expected to be any better this season than it has in the past. The difference this season, though, is that the offense may not be able to put up enough points to cover up the Cowboys problems on defense.
Expectations are high for the Cowboys after winning 12 games and the Fiesta Bowl last season in addition to notching 11 victories in 2010. Unfortunately, the Cowboys will not be the best team in the Big 12 this year as Lunt struggles in his first season as Oklahoma State's quarterback.
Can Brady Hoke and the Michigan Wolverines build off their success from 2011, or will they take a step back in 2012?
After a dismal three-year period under former head coach Rich Rodriguez, the Michigan Wolverines were able to return to the national spotlight in 2011 under Brady Hoke by winning 11 games along with their first Bowl Championship Series game since they defeated Alabama in the Orange Bowl 12 years ago.
Michigan's recent success on the field, as well as its dominance on the recruiting trail, has created an incredible buzz in Ann Arbor that has not been around since the Wolverines won a share of the national title in 1997.
Denard Robinson is returning at quarterback for the Wolverines in what could be a Heisman Trophy-winning season for arguably the nation's biggest playmaker. Junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint is coming off of a breakout 2011 season, and All-Big Ten wide receiver Roy Roundtree is back for one last campaign with the Wolverines.
The only problem is that the Wolverines are losing the heart and soul of their offensive and defensive lines, which are two units Hoke believes hold the key to Michigan's return to national prominence.
All-American center David Molk is gone in addition to defensive tackles Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and defensive end Will Heininger.
Fans of the Wolverines are expecting an even better season than a year ago after the drastic improvements Hoke and his staff were able to make in such a short period of time; however, Michigan will likely take a step back in 2012 before becoming a national contender in the years thereafter.
The Wolverines should be able to win nine games in 2012, but they will not be able to live up to the expectations of the fans who believe Michigan is capable of winning 11 regular season games and a Big Ten championship.
Kellen Moore and Doug Martin are gone. Who will lead the new regime for the Boise State Broncos in 2012?
Even when it comes to small schools like Boise State, once you start to win double-digit games for a couple of seasons, fans of the program expect that winning trend to continue year in and year out, which is exactly what has happened to Chris Petersen's Broncos.
After bursting onto the national scene by defeating Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, the Broncos have consistently been knocking on the door of the Bowl Championship Series bowl games and put together six consecutive seasons of 10 or more victories.
The only difference between the past six seasons and the upcoming season is that the Broncos have had a key player returning they could build around; however, it appears they are without one heading into the 2012 season.
After losing Jared Zabransky in 2007, they were able to build around running back Ian Johnson. Two seasons later, Johnson graduated, and by that time, Kellen Moore began to emerge as one of the nation's top quarterbacks. Moore went on to finish his career with 50 wins, the most ever by a college quarterback.
With Moore and key offensive playmakers Doug Martin, Tyler Shoemaker and several starters on defense gone as well, the Broncos appear to be heading for a down season.
Boise State will be national contenders again in the near future. For this upcoming campaign, though, the Broncos will have to rebuild like every program in the country has to at some point. Unfortunately, rebuilding hardly ever goes over well with fans of the program.
The development of Braxton Miller will determine how many games Ohio State wins in 2012.
Upon Urban Meyer's arrival in Columbus last November, fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes jumped for joy and let out cheers that could probably be heard all the way in Ann Arbor. What else would you expect from a fanbase that could not seem to score a marquee victory on the field or keep themselves out of the cross-hairs of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions?
Meyer will have plenty of talent to work with in 2012, and the players all seem to enjoy playing in the new spread offense, which will be high octane and have some similarities to Oregon's no-huddle rushing attack.
All of this has led to Buckeyes fans believing the program is ready to contend for national championships again and that Ohio State will re-establish its dominance of the Big Ten and arch rival Michigan in no time at all under Meyer.
The schedule sets up well for Ohio State, as they have two of their most important games of the year against Nebraska and Michigan at home. The overall strength of the Big Ten is down compared to the early 2000s, which means the reigns of the conference are waiting to be seized.
How successful the Buckeyes are in 2012 will likely come down to the development of Braxton Miller and how well Ohio State's stable of running backs are able to pick up the slack in starter Jordan Hall's absence. Hall injured his foot last week, required surgery and will be out until at least week three of the college football season.
Miller looked great as a runner last season, but did not get into a consistent groove throwing the football. Part of that was due to the fact the Buckeyes did not have a top-end wide receiver, and as the 2012 campaign approaches, Ohio State is still trying to find a playmaker to help Miller develop his passing.
The Buckeyes will be far better than they were in 2011; however, the expectations of Buckeye Nation will not be met in 2012. Ohio State should win eight or nine games in 2012.
Will Tommy Rees be Notre Dame's starting quarterback in 2012? That's the question everyone wants answered right now in South Bend.
Like several other big-name programs this offseason, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been affected by legal issues off the field involving one of their key players.
Last season's starting quarterback Tommy Rees' status with the team is currently up in the air after being charged with four misdemeanors stemming from an incident at an off-campus party in May, which leaves Andrew Hendrix and red-shirt freshman Everett Golson as the contenders for the starting quarterback job for the time being.
Rees' favorite target from a year ago and one of the nation's best wide receivers, Michael Floyd, is gone, as well as Notre Dame's second-best running back, Jonas Gray.
In addition to the uncertainty at quarterback turnover problems that plagued the Irish last season, Notre Dame will have to navigate its way through the nation's most daunting schedule in 2012.
The Fighting Irish will make trips to Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC, along with home tests against arch-rival Michigan, Stanford, an improving Purdue squad, Brigham Young and a season opening matchup with Navy in Dublin, Ireland.
Expectations never diminish in South Bend, though, given Notre Dame's annual preseason top 20 ranking, which may be justified for the first time in the past several years. The only problem is, the Fighting Irish have picked the wrong season to try and live up to the hype.
Can the Texas Longhorns return to their 2009 form this season?
The Texas Longhorns struggled at the quarterback position once again in 2011 en route to a disappointing 8-5 season.
Neither David Ash or Case McCoy provided the offensive spark head coach Mack Brown has been looking for the past two seasons, but the Longhorns rushing attack and defense have given fans reason for optimism heading into 2012.
Malcom Brown and Joe Bergeron could have breakout seasons for the Longhorns this year, and so could 5-star newcomer Jonathan Gray. The trio of running backs will have to carry the load for Texas in 2012 in order to take pressure off of Ash, who is going to start the season as the Longhorns No. 1 quarterback.
Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom will be ball hawks once again for the Longhorns this season and should help create plenty of turnovers and opportunities for the offense to capitalize on.
As much as many would like to believe Texas can return to the national contender status it held in 2009, it still feels as though the Longhorns are a year away from meeting the expectations of their proud fanbase.
Do not be surprised if Ash struggles and the Longhorns are unable to hang with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and TCU this season.
The Alabama Crimson Tide will have a huge target on their backs entering the 2012 season as the defending national champions.
Many college football fans are probably shocked to see the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide in this slideshow, but when you consider the expectations of the fans in Tuscaloosa, it makes plenty of sense.
With Nick Saban at the helm, Alabama has been and will continue to be all about winning national titles and beating Auburn. Nothing else matters to the Crimson Tide.
Alabama loses several key starters from one of the nation's top defenses a year ago, along with Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson.
There is no such thing as rebuilding in Tuscaloosa, and the Crimson Tide's backups on defense could be starters for just about every other program in the country outside of LSU and USC.
The SEC West will be tougher than ever, though, in 2012 with plenty of talent returning at LSU, who lost in the BCS National Championship Game at the end of last season, and its season opener against Michigan will not be as easy as Alabama fans think.
The Crimson Tide will be in the hunt for a second consecutive national championship this season, but at the end of the day, it appears it may be LSU or USC's turn to lay claim to the No. 1 ranking at seasons end.
As mentioned before, it is national titles or bust for Alabama, which is why this season, it appears they may not be able to meet expectations.