College Football 2012: 43 Days to Go, 43 Things We're Looking Forward to Most

Alex Callos@@alexcallosCorrespondent IJuly 18, 2012

College Football 2012: 43 Days to Go, 43 Things We're Looking Forward to Most

0 of 43

    The countdown to the start of the college football season is now officially underway, and only 43 days remain until the regular season begins.

    While there is still not a lot to talk about, as camp has not even started for these teams, it is never too soon to look ahead to the upcoming season and think about what will make 2012 so special.

    There are certainly plenty of things to look forward to for each team, but there are also some highly anticipated national stories.

    With 43 days to go, here are 43 things we are most looking forward to about the college football season.

43. TCU Joining the Big Time

1 of 43

    It is one thing for West Virginia to be joining the Big 12. It has been in big-time college football recently.

    For TCU, it will be a different story and is certainly one of the most interesting aspects of the upcoming season.

    TCU is much more talented than a lot of mid-major teams joining the big time, and it is certainly one of the top 20 teams in the country.

    Seeing how it does next season will be extremely interesting.

42. Rich Rodriguez Returns

2 of 43

    After a short absence from the college football world, Rich Rodriguez returns to take over an Arizona Wildcat program that struggled to a 4-8 season.

    There is a lot of work to do for the program, and it will be intriguing to watch whether or not he can rejuvenate it.

    Will he have the success he did at West Virginia or falter like he did at Michigan?

41. More Touches for the Black Mamba

3 of 43

    With LaMichael James now out of the picture, that means more touches are coming for De'Anthony Thomas—and the "Black Mamba" will prove to be the most explosive player in college football.

    He had 16 touchdowns last year on only 101 touches, while averaging nearly 11 yards per carry and over 13 per reception.

    Kenjon Barner still may get more carries than Thomas, but if he stays healthy, his touches will nearly double in 2012.

40. John L. Smith at Arkansas

4 of 43

    John L. Smith is the interim head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, and he is also in the middle of some off-field issues.

    There are few teams in the country that are as talented as the Razorbacks, and many thought they could compete with the big boys next season.

    With Smith, will that still be able to happen?

39. Boise State Without Kellen Moore

5 of 43

    It seemed like Kellen Moore spent the better part of a decade at Boise State, and now that he is finally gone, how will the Broncos fare without him?

    They lost as much talent as anybody in the country, and it is hard to imagine them being anywhere close to as good as they were the past few years.

    Maybe they can dig up another year of eligibility for Moore.

38. Talented Quarterbacks in the Big 12

6 of 43

    There are few conferences in the country with talent at quarterback like the Big 12.

    Landry Jones of Oklahoma may be the most well-known, but Geno Smith at West Virginia could be the best of them all.

    No player means more to his team, however, than Collin Klein at Kansas State, and don't count out Casey Pachall at TCU. 

37. Missouri and Texas A&M in the SEC

7 of 43

    Like the Big 12, the SEC will welcome two new members, as Missouri and Texas A&M join the league.

    The teams may be headed in opposite directions, as Missouri has a lot of talent coming back and should fare better in the SEC East next season.

    With Kevin Sumlin taking over the Aggies program, they will be competitive in time in the SEC.

36. Will Matt Barkely Live Up to Expectations?

8 of 43

    There is no question that Matt Barkley is the front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy.

    The award typically goes to the best quarterback or running back in the country, and he is the early favorite.

    With USC having the best team in the country, it would take a few losses and a subpar season for Barkley to throw away the Heisman.

35. Montee Ball Going for the Touchdown Record

9 of 43

    Last year, Montee Ball needed two touchdowns in the Rose Bowl to break Barry Sanders' single-season rushing record, and while he did get one touchdown, he only tied the former great.

    This year, he will get another shot, but the Badgers are likely not going to be nearly as good as they were a season ago.

    Ball will certainly have his work cut out for him, but there is definitely a chance.

34. How Will Bill O'Brien Do at Penn State?

10 of 43

    When Bill O'Brien took over the Penn State program, he certainly knew there were going to be some hurdles to climb, but never could he have imagined it would turn out like this.

    With all that is happening in Happy Valley, O'Brien and the Nittany Lions program could be facing some of the harshest penalties college football has ever seen.

    How O'Brien will handle it is a big story heading into 2012.

33. A Wide-Open Big East Conference

11 of 43

    While many people don't consider the Big East a conference that even deserves a BCS berth, it does get one, and there are multiple teams that have a shot at representing the league in their most prestigious bowl game.

    Louisville may be the front-runner, but teams like Rutgers, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and South Florida all have a legitimate chance.

    No other conference in the country has more than 50 percent of its teams with a legitimate shot at winning their league.

32. The Battle for Pac-12 Supremacy

12 of 43

    Oregon and USC are not only the class of the Pac-12, but they are also two of the top five teams in the country. 

    On Saturday, Nov. 3, these two teams meet in the regular season in Los Angeles. It is likely that they will meet again for the Pac-12 championship.

    Outside of the SEC, there is no better regular-season matchup in 2012.

31. Can Brady Hoke and Michigan Continue Their Success?

13 of 43

    Brady Hoke and the Michigan Wolverines took a huge step in the right direction last season, but will they be able to improve enough to win the B1G title this season?

    While they have some excellent recruiting classes taking shape over the next few years, this year may be their best shot with Denard Robinson still running the show.

    A step forward would be a big deal for Hoke in his second season.

30. Will Florida State Finally Live Up to Expectations?

14 of 43

    Florida State is a top-10 team, but will it finally live up to expectations next season? 

    It has struggled with injuries and disappointment over Jimbo Fisher's past two years.

    There is too much talent in Tallahassee for the Seminoles not to be playing in BCS bowl games and winning ACC titles.

29. Can the Florida Gators Show Signs of Improvement?

15 of 43

    Florida was very young last season, and that will be the case again in 2012.

    The Gators have a very inexperienced group, and they only won seven games last year. Filling the hole at the quarterback position will be one of the biggest questions heading into the season.

    On the defensive side of the ball, they should be solid.

28. Kicking off the Season in Ireland

16 of 43

    Even though the game may not be that close, as Notre Dame is the heavy favorite, this game is interesting for a few reasons.

    For one, it is taking place in Dublin, Ireland, during the first weekend of the season. While it is not the first game of the year, it is on opening weekend.

    What is also interesting is the 9 a.m. kickoff. This means college football all day long.

27. Nick Saban and Les Miles Go Head to Head

17 of 43

    Nick Saban and Les Miles split their two head-to-head matchups last season, but Saban got the best of Miles in the national championship game.

    This year, they will square off only once—at least, hopefully. That game will be played on Nov. 3 in what is shaping up to be a huge college football weekend.

    Who will come out on top this year?

26. Big Non-Conference Matchups Early On

18 of 43

    There are some huge non-conference games set to take place throughout the early part of the season, and few are bigger than Michigan and Alabama during the first Saturday night of the season.

    This is one of many huge non-conference games that will take place, including Boise State vs. Michigan State and Notre Dame vs. USC, among others.

    There are big non-conference games nearly every week of the year.

25. Will the Oklahoma Offense Return to Old Form?

19 of 43

    Oklahoma suffered some major injuries last season, and it's already behind the eight ball this year with what has happened at the wide receiver position.

    When the Sooners are good, however, there are not many teams that are more fun to watch.

    Can Landry Jones lead them to the top of the country in offensive production once again?

24. Will Zach Mettenberger Be Good Enough for the Tigers?

20 of 43

    The key to the LSU Tigers' potential success is the play of new quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

    LSU might have the most talent in the country, but to win a national championship, Mettenberger will need to be at least average.

    If he can do that, the Tigers will be tough to beat.

23. The Development of Braxton Miller in the Urban Meyer Offense

21 of 43

    Braxton Miller has a world of potential and flashed that on a few different occasions last season.

    As a true freshman, he showed that he has the talent to contend for a Heisman Trophy in a few seasons.

    Now playing in the Urban Meyer offense, it will be the Braxton Miller show in Columbus for the next three years.

22. Can Georgia Knock Off LSU and Alabama?

22 of 43

    There is no question that Georgia is the class of the SEC East, along with maybe South Carolina, but will it be able to get over the hump and knock off one of the powers of the SEC West?

    If Georgia is able to do that, it will likely be playing for a national championship.

    The talent is there, but whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

21. Can West Virginia Win the Big 12?

23 of 43

    There is no doubt that West Virgina has the offense to win the Big 12, but will its defense be able to hold up?

    That side of the ball is filled with question marks, and the Big 12 is not the Big East.

    The offense will certainly be something to watch, and West Virginia will likely contend with Oklahoma for the Big 12 crown.

20. How Will Stanford Do Without Andrew Luck?

24 of 43

    Andrew Luck helped put Stanford football on the map the past few seasons, but how will the Cardinal fare without him?

    He leaves some very big shoes to fill, and while Stanford was one of the top teams in the country last year, it will be asking a lot for it to repeat that success in 2012.

    Just how good can Stanford be next season?

19. Mike Leach Returns

25 of 43

    After a few years of absence, Mike Leach returns to the college football world as head coach of the Washington State Cougars.

    While there are a lot of character questions with this guy, there is no doubt that he can coach.

    Will he be able to turn the Washington State program around?

18. Charlie Weis in Lawrence

26 of 43

    While many people do not like Charlie Weis, and some will be looking for him to fail next season, there is no question that most college football fans will be checking out how the Kansas Jayhawks are doing on a weekly basis.

    Kansas has had a good season or two over the past few decades but has not been able to sustain too much success.

    Can Weis bring a little bit of that in 2012?

17. Can Clemson Rebound and Contend for the ACC Title?

27 of 43

    Clemson was the best team in the ACC last year but did not show that in the Orange Bowl, as it was dismantled by West Virginia.

    Will Clemson be able to forget about that beatdown and contend for the ACC title in 2012?

    It has the talent to do so, and if Florida State falters, Clemson would be the team to step in and contend for the conference crown.

16. Can Texas Surprise Some People and Contend in the Big 12?

28 of 43

    A lot of people think if the Texas Longhorns can get their quarterback situation figured out, they have the talent to win the conference.

    While that is a big question, the Longhorns might have as much young talent on defense as anybody in the country.

    Will they be able to knock off the teams with talented quarterbacks picked to finish above them?

15. Talk of a Four-Team Playoff

29 of 43

    Even though the four-team playoff in college football is still two years away, that does not mean it will not be fun to discuss all season.

    News continues to surface as to how exactly it will work, and there is no doubt that questions will pop up all season asking who would be in it if it was in effect in 2012. 

    It is still a couple of years away, but never too early to discuss.

14. USC Trying to Take Down the SEC

30 of 43

    The consensus once again this season is that two of the top three teams in the country reside in the SEC.

    Most people think USC is the team that has a chance to knock off one of those two teams.

    If the Trojans can run the table, they will likely meet an SEC team in the BCS National Championship and will be playing all season in preparation for that.

13. Watching a New Alabama Defense

31 of 43

    Alabama lost more talent on defense than anyone could imagine. It enters 2012 having to replace a lot of that talent.

    If teams want to get to Alabama, they had better do it early, as this young group is certain to improve.

    Repeating as national champion is possible, but the defense will have to grow and mature for the team to do so.

12. The End of the WAC

32 of 43

    The slow death of the WAC will come to fruition at the end of the season, as all of the teams have found other conferences with the exception of New Mexico State and Idaho.

    While this may not be a major storyline for some, this conference has a storied history, and seeing it come to a close will be the end of an era. 

    Needless to say, it's about time.

11. The Slow Death of the Big East

33 of 43

    The Big East could be nearing its end as a football conference.

    Syracuse and Pittsburgh do not have much longer, and while there are new teams coming, it is hard to imagine the league reaching the same heights it once had.

    This is not necessarily something fans are looking forward to, but it is a huge storyline that will keep fans tuned in all season long.

    There could be big news on the Big East front by the end of the season.

10. The SEC Quest for a Seventh Consecutive Title

34 of 43

    Many people outside of the South may not be looking forward to this too much, but there is a legitimate chance the SEC could win its seventh consecutive national championship.

    That has fans from all SEC schools looking forward to the upcoming season.

    Is it also possible for another all-SEC national championship?

9. The Continuous Rise of the Non-BCS Schools

35 of 43

    There seem to be more and more non-BCS schools every year that are contenders, and 2012 should be no different.

    Teams such as Southern Miss, Boise State, SMU, Northern Illinois, Arkansas State and a few others have a chance to crack the Top 25 next season.

    It is always fun to see the big boys crumble at the hands of the little guys.

8. Notre Dame Could Lose a Lot of Games

36 of 43

    This may not be something Notre Dame fans are looking forward to, but the fact is the Fighting Irish play one of the toughest schedules in the country and could lose a handful of games next season.

    That will definitely make a lot of people across the country happy.

    For fans whose team is not that good, rooting against Notre Dame is a big deal, and watching the Irish lose is often the highlight of the season.

7. Heisman Dark Horses

37 of 43

    Matt Barkley is certainly the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, along with Montee Ball—but what if USC loses early, and Ball struggles a game or two?

    That could leave it wide open, and players returning from injury such as Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina and Knile Davis of Arkansas could step right in.

    Landry Jones and Geno Smith from the Big 12 are also candidates.

6. New Teams Contending for Conference Titles

38 of 43

    North Carolina State was a team running on all cylinders by the end of the year last season and could see itself reach double-digit wins next year along with contending for an ACC title.

    There are some other teams ready to step onto the scene, including Rutgers, Louisville and Washington.

    Nothing is better than surprise teams bursting onto the scene.

5. The Battle for the SEC West

39 of 43

    LSU and Alabama are the favorites for the SEC West title, but do not count out the Arkansas Razorbacks just yet.

    They are explosive on the offensive side of the ball. Much more so than their SEC West counterparts.

    Beating both LSU and Alabama will be tough, but don't be surprised if the Razorbacks are right in the thick of things by the end of the season.

4. The Constant Coaching Carousel

40 of 43

    There are once again plenty of coaches on the proverbial hot seat, and one of them is Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley.

    Among the other names who could be fired are Frank Spaziani at Boston College and Jeff Tedford at California.

    The coaching carousel will start sooner or later during the 2012 season.

3. The Saga Continues at Penn State

41 of 43

    So much has been made about what is happening at Penn State that it is almost certain to continue the rest of the season.

    The death penalty is a strong possibility, and the Nittany Lions are all over the news.

    Seeing this play out all season will certainly be one of the highlights of 2012.

2. Urban Meyer Comes Home to Columbus

42 of 43

    There have not been many head coaching hires more anticipated before a college football season than Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

    He is coming back to his home state and takes over a team that will have to wait one year before it's bowl eligible.

    Columbus is buzzing and ready for Meyer to lead its team.

1. It's College Football

43 of 43

    For college football fans, there is nothing like it, and just the sport itself is something to look forward to.

    Until the season kicks off, there is great anticipation for what is to come.

    Every team has its own favorite storyline and a chance to win its conference.

    Simply put, nothing is better.