College Football Predictions: 8 Programs That Will Make Huge Headlines in 2012

Luke PetkacFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2012

College Football Predictions: 8 Programs That Will Make Huge Headlines in 2012

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    Believe it or not, the 2012 college football season is set to kickoff in just three short weeks. And when I say “short weeks", I actually mean “miserable and painfully slow weeks that never seem to end.” Obviously.

    This year's season could not get here fast enough, but there's a bright side to waiting what feels like an eternity. There's now time to digest previews and predictions and time to brush up on some tailgating skills.

    Without further ado, here's some 2012 college football predictions. The topic this time: 2012 teams that will be making huge headlines.

    So sit back, relax and try to make it last. There's still three weeks to go.

University of Alabama

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    Well guys, it looks like Alabama is going to be really good again this year. What else is new?

    Nick Saban's Crimson Tide will once again be on the hunt for a National Championship in 2012, looking to add to their rapidly expanding trophy case.

    Alabama has admittedly lost a lot of star power to the NFL, including running back Trent Richardson, safety Mark Barron and linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

    But if there's one thing Nick Saban is good at (besides coaching, obviously), it's reloading his team with new talent. With senior lineman Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack anchoring what looks to be far and away the best offensive line in the nation, the Tide shouldn't have much trouble offensively.

    Quarterback A.J. McCarron has already proven that he can get it done, and junior running back Eddie Lacy has the talent to fill Richardson's shoes.

    The defense (as always) looks to be a stout bunch with plenty of breakout stars, like pass rusher Adrian Hubbard. But the real story for Alabama is their schedule.

    After the home opener against Michigan, they won't face a true challenge until their November 3rd showdown with LSU. This BCS Championship rematch will be played in Baton Rouge and is more than likely to decide the winner of the SEC West.

    You can expect Alabama to once again be making headlines on their road to a 3rd BCS title in four years.

Ohio State University

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    Despite the fact that the Buckeyes will be watching rather than participating in this year's round of bowl games, there's still plenty to look for in Columbus this season.

    Urban Meyer is returning to the sidelines after his one-year hiatus and promises to bring with him his lightning fast spread-offense.

    It's an offense that could do wonders for sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller. Miller is wildly talented, but never seemed the right fit for the old regime's plodding, conservative style.

    Though Miller still has some issues to work on, most notably his accuracy, he certainly has the ability to excel in Meyer's offense.

    ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg reported that Miller, when asked about the offense, said, “It's much faster and more explosive. I love it, man. I love it.”

    The defense, led by junior lineman Johnathan Hankins, will be as stingy as ever, and though the Buckeyes have a fairly difficult schedule, anything less than nine or ten wins would be a disappointment considering all of their talent.

    Never fear Buckeye fans. While there may be no bowl game, there will be plenty of excitement to go around this year.

Louisiana State University

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    It would be difficult for any team starring a player like Tyrann Mathieu to not be making headlines. The “Honey Badger” is essentially a human highlight reel, and he looks to once again help lead LSU to a National Championship berth.

    Les Miles' squad is probably the deepest, most talented team in all of college football this year.

    Led by an absolutely dominant defensive line and a disruptive secondary, there's no reason for LSU to not march straight to the National Championship this year, especially considering that Miles finally has a pocket passer that he can work with in junior Zach Mettenberger.

    The headlines will all be made November 3rd, when LSU hosts Alabama, the squad that gave them such a heartbreaking loss in last years BCS National Championship Game.

    Almost regardless of what happens before or after, it will be the game to watch this season, essentially determining the championship hopes of each team. Throw in a healthy dose of Mathieu, and LSU will be making news all season.

University of Arkansas

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    How will Arkansas fare without Coach Bobby Petrino? That's the question on everyone's mind when it comes to the Razorbacks. Arkansas's title hopes were hit hard following Coach Petrino's termination from the program.

    Now the Razorbacks are another team on a mission to prove that they belong. Arkansas is the proverbial “house that Petrino built.” They improved every single year under Petrino's reign. They went from 5-7 in his first season in 2008, to 8-5 the next, 10-3 the third, and finally improved to 11-2 the last two years.

    On paper, the offense looks as good as ever. Quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis should improve upon an offense that was 15th in the nation in scoring, despite playing in the defensive-oriented SEC.

    Though the Arkansas defense is much more suspect, even a decent defensive showing should be enough to put Arkansas in the title hunt. On paper anyways.

    Interim coach John L. Smith inherited a great team. But it was Petrino's team first. Everyone will be watching to see how the Razorbacks can do without him.

West Virginia University

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    This off-season was one of mass confusion. Conference realignment took college football by storm, and completely changed the landscape of the NCAA. When the dust settled, a host of teams were looking at new opponents for the first time in quite a while

    West Virginia was one of those teams. Making the leap from the Big East to the Big 12, the Mountaineers are looking at a very different style of football. Fortunately for West Virginia, they seem to be a good match.

    The Big 12, known for its high-flying offenses and its rather lackadaisical approach to defense, will mesh perfectly with West Virginia, who are led by quarterback Geno Smith and a dangerous corps of receivers.

    But the real reason that the Mountaineers are so newsworthy this year is that it's hard to get a gauge on exactly how good they are.

    They certainly looked like the real deal in the Orange Bowl, where they absolutely shredded Clemson's defense to the tune of 589 yards and nine touchdowns. But the Mountaineers have never played an entire season in a conference as competitive as the Big 12.

    We'll see what the Mountaineers, considered a championship contender, are truly made of this year. All it means is that the Mountaineers are bound for exciting times ahead.

Texas Christian University

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    TCU is in a similar situation to West Virginia. A previous member of the Mountain West Conference, TCU is also making the leap to the Big 12.

    The Big 12 is a huge step up in difficulty from the fairly tame Mountain West Conference. As good as coach Gary Patterson's squad always is, there's a reason that they go undefeated in conference play nearly every year. The Mountain West Conference is weak.

    In essence, what TCU is really playing for this year is respect. Despite their incredible recent success, the Horned Frogs have more than their fair share of doubters. Many people don't believe that teams outside of the six Automatic Qualifying conferences should ever get BCS bowl berths.

    Even though they've has found success in the bowl games themselves (like in 2010, when they beat the Big Ten co-champion Wisconsin Badgers), there are still those who question how good the team really is.

    For that reason, TCU will be highly scrutinized this year. They have an uphill climb ahead of them, especially considering the recent campus drug bust that led to four players being kicked off the team, including three potential starters. Win or lose, TCU is ready to prove something to the world.

University of Southern California

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    It's the first time in two years that USC is eligible for a BCS National Championship, and boy do they ever look ready for it.

    Though star quarterback Matt Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald are the headliners on Coach Lane Kiffen's Trojan squad, they'll have plenty of help from their supporting cast. The USC offense looks especially deadly, as Matt Barkley has more than a few dangerous toys to play with.

    Wide receivers Robert Woods and Marquise Lee are potential All-Americans, and new Penn State transfer Silas Redd could help fill a need at running back.

    Redd's combination of power, speed and elusiveness made him one of the premier backs in the Big Ten, and he could anchor the backfield alongside redshirt senior Curtis McNeal.

    Even with all that star power, what should make USC particularly interesting to watch this year is their brutal schedule.

    USC's third game of the season takes place in Stanford, who have beaten the Trojans each of the past three years. They also have a date with the Huskies in Washington, have to host Oregon just a few weeks later, and close out the season with a game against an always talented Notre Dame squad.

    It'll be a fun one for USC this year. The fans will be clamoring for a good showing in the team's inaugural Pac-12 season, and the Trojans seem ready to meet the challenge.

Penn State University

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    Alright, time for a show of hands. Who's surprised by this one? No one? No one? Somehow, I figured as much.

    Regardless of what happens on the field, Penn State is going to make headlines. What with everything that's going on in Happy Valley, they're set up to be the most scrutinized team in college football history.

    Luckily for Penn State fans, Coach Bill O'Brien and his staff appear up to the task of rebooting a program torn apart by scandal. Nine players have already transferred to different programs, including star running back Silas Redd and leading receiver Justin Brown.

    Despite the turmoil, O'Brien seems convinced that the transfers will cease and has received support and reaffirmed commitments from many of the team's top players.

    But what's happening at Penn State is more than just X's and O's. There's an entire culture change taking place. Gone are the iconic nameless jerseys that Penn State has always flaunted with pride. They've been replaced with uniforms bearing names much like any other school.

    A community is trying to rebuild after the tainting of a once proud tradition. Penn State is a school that now just wants to fit in with the rest.

    All of America will be watching Penn State this year. They will be making headlines. Hopefully now, for the right reasons.