10 College Football Teams You Think Have a Shot at the BCS Title, but Don't

Michael Carroll@mjcarroll531Featured ColumnistAugust 22, 2012

10 College Football Teams You Think Have a Shot at the BCS Title, but Don't

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    On Jan. 7, 2013, the BCS champion for the 2012 season will be determined in Miami. Two teams will have the opportunity to play for The Coaches’ Trophy, meaning 122 teams will not.

    With the Associated Press and USA TODAY preseason Top 25 polls released, college football has gotten an even better look at which teams should be the nation’s best this season. That means the previous list has gotten even shorter, as at least 23 of the Top 25 teams will be out of contention for the BCS national championship once the regular season ends.

    Let's look at the 10 so-called "elite" teams in college football that will not reach the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

    Feel free to voice your opinions in the comments section below.

    *Rankings in the slide titles appear as follows: AP Rank/USA TODAY Rank.

Boise State (No. 24/22)

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    Boise State University's ranking in the Top 25 of both polls is a surprise.

    As every season, the Broncos will need to beat their toughest opponent to start the season—this year, Michigan State University—and then dominate the rest of their competition to even be considered for a BCS bowl game.

    That alone is challenging for any college football team, but Boise must do it all without arguably its most famous alumnus, Kellen Moore. Moore—the all-time leader in quarterback victories (50) in the FBS—is now a member of the NFL’s Detroit Lions.

    According to its 2012 Spring Football Prospectus, the Broncos have five returning starters on offense and three returning starters on defense. With that said, the Broncos essentially have to rebuild this season.

    Head coach Chris Petersen has done an impeccable job maintaining an elite program considering its mid-major conference affiliations. But accounting for Moore’s departure could be Petersen’s biggest challenge since Moore became the starting quarterback in 2008.

    Ryan Dinwiddie and Jared Zebransky were great quarterbacks for Boise State before Moore arrived on campus. Petersen can very well turn whoever becomes the new starter into a great quarterback, but there are doubts about the Broncos becoming national championship contenders.

    On defense, all three returning starters are cornerbacks. This means Boise will need to replace the entire front seven and both safeties.

    Michigan should beat Boise on Aug. 31. If these two teams were playing on Boise's Smurf Turf, the Broncos may have had a better chance. The green landscape of Spartan Stadium in East Lansing hosts this one, though.

    You might think Boise has a chance to reach the 2013 BCS National Championship Game if it goes undefeated. Surely, anything is possible. But this season the Broncos will have to root for Michigan State to be a Top 25 team at the season's end.

    That is not likley to happen.

TCU (No. 20/17)

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    Texas Christian University finally gets its chance to play with the big boys as a newly minted member of the Big 12 Conference.

    As Boise State, TCU has hung around the Top 25 consistently over the past decade, despite its mid-major conference affiliations.

    The Horned Frogs are just two seasons removed from winning the Rose Bowl. In 2011, Coach Gary Patterson’s bunch finished at No. 14 in the final AP Poll.

    Some predict a worse outcome in Fort Worth in 2012.

    Coach Gary Patterson has had about six months to account for the player suspensions in February, so the team’s lineup will look a bit different than expected following the 2011 season. On top of that, Patterson will need to navigate his team through the Big 12 rather than the Mountain West.

    TCU closes out the season against five teams ranked in the preseason Top 25 of both polls (Oklahoma State University, West Virginia University, Kansas State University, the University of Texas, and Oklahoma State University). The Horned Frogs will visit Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas.

    Southern Methodist University and Baylor University—teams TCU lost to in 2011 by a combined nine points—also appear on the schedule.

    Depth could become an issue for TCU in 2012, as well. In the Big 12, the Horned Frogs will face much more talented teams than they saw in the Mountain West. Better recruits should come through Fort Worth, simply because the Horned Frogs are in the Big 12, but whether Patterson can lure talent from the more prestigious programs in the conference remains to be seen.

    While TCU broke into the Top 20 in both preseason polls, it will not break into a BCS bowl game, let alone the national championship.

Oklahoma State (No. 19/19)

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    Like TCU, Oklahoma State University has the unfortunate reality of being a Top 20 college football program, but a second-tier team in the Big 12.

    Running back Joseph Randle will have a bigger role in his team’s offense this season. He carried the ball 208 times for 1,216 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, even though Oklahoma had an elite passing attack.

    Quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon were first-round selections in the 2012 NFL Draft. Blackmon was the two-time defending Biletnikoff Award recipient as the nation’s best receiver.

    Oklahoma had an outside shot of reaching the 2012 BCS National Championship Game, as the Cowboys finished 2011 ranked No. 3 in the final AP Poll. The lone defeat to Iowa State University was enough to kill the dream for the Big 12 champions.

    Oddly enough, the only quarterback returning with experience will not start for the Cowboys. Clint Chelf was passed over for true freshman Wes Lunt. Yes, you read this correctly, a true freshman.

    Oklahoma will face three teams ranked ahead of it in both preseason polls: Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma. With the Sooners posing the toughest test for the Cowboys in terms of road games, head coach Mike Gundy could lead his team back to a BCS bowl game if it can protect home field advantage in Stillwater. This is a big if.

    This slideshow, though, is about the 2013 BCS National Championship Game and teams’ chances of appearing in it. At the end of the day, inexperienced quarterbacks play all the way down the roster will hurt Oklahoma State’s chances of repeating as Big 12 champions, let alone BCS bowl game participants.

Virginia Tech (No. 16/20)

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    The longest-tenured head coach in FBS in 2012 will be Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech, who took the reigns in Blacksburg in 1987.

    Now, why choose to begin the slide on Virginia Tech with this tidbit? Aside from everyone wondering who holds this honor with Penn State University's Joe Paterno now gone, there are more than two decades of Hokies' football under Beamer can be used to support the argument that they will not reach the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

    Beamer has been an outstanding regular season coach over the last 20 years. Virginia Tech has been ranked in the AP Top 25 at least once every season since 1993, and has gotten to a bowl game in each of those seasons. The Hokies have reached a BCS bowl game six times.

    In bowl games, though, Beamer has not done as well as Virginia Tech fans expected in those seasons. Under Beamer, Virginia Tech has a .421 winning percentage in bowl games (8-11). In BCS bowls, its record is 1-5. The Hokies played for national championship once, when they lost the 2000 Orange Bowl to Florida State.

    In 2011, Virginia Tech finished with the No. 21 ranking in the final AP poll. It dropped the 2012 Sugar Bowl to Michigan.

    This season, the folks who put together the AP 2012 preseason Top 25 poll raised Virginia Tech five spots over where it finished last season.

    This may have been a bad move.

    According to Athlon Sports, “…the Hokies have to replace eight starters, including four offensive linemen, the school’s two all-time leading receivers and running back David Wilson, the ACC Player of the Year.”

    Wilson was taken No. 32 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Wide receiver Danny Coale was a fifth-rounder. These were the Hokies’ leading rusher and receiver in 2011, respectively.

    On offense, the constant is quarterback Logan Thomas. Thomas threw for 3,013 yards and ran for 469 more in 2011. Combined, Thomas scored 30 touchdowns, with 11 coming on the ground.

    Can Thomas carry the load on offense for Virginia Tech? Perhaps more relevant for this slideshow: Can Thomas carry the Hokies offense into the national championship discussion in December?

    Defensively, the Hokies look very strong. Eight starters return from a unit that ranked No. 7 nationally in scoring defense in 2011 (17.6 points allowed per game).

    Florida State and Clemson University look to be threatening Virginia Tech in the ACC championship battle for 2012. The ACC was the weakest of the six BCS conferences in 2011, though, which does not help any teams in the conference get closer to the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

    Beamer will likely have to lead his team to an undefeated season to reach the BCS title game, a season in which it is considered the third-best team in the ACC heading into 2012. I do not think Virginia Tech’s offense will give the defense enough help to vault into a BCS bowl game.

Texas (No. 15/15)

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    Texas has not had a preseason AP poll ranking this low since 1999. The Longhorns have not finished a season ranked in the Top 25 of the final AP poll since 2009.

    Head coach Mack Brown has not firmly installed a No. 1 quarterback as of Aug. 21.

    Why, then, is Texas considered a Top 15 team? Program prestige.

    Texas is a brand name in FBS. Because of that, the Longhorns scoop up elite recruiting classes every year.

    The biggest question at schools like Texas prior to every college football season is this: Can a team of all-stars play well enough as a group to win the national championship? In Austin, the answer has been no since 2006.

    Colt McCoy will enter his third NFL season, and Texas has not yet found a suitable successor. This explains the Longhorns’ inability to finish in the Top 25 since McCoy’s final season in 2009.

    According to its media guide, Texas brings back nine offensive starters and seven defensive starters. Additionally, 14 offensive players and nine defensive players returning in 2012 started at least one game in 2011.

    With recruiting mastermind Brown at the helm, Texas always puts talented teams on the field. There is a very thick line between talented and elite, though, and no Longhorns squad has been elite in this decade.

    Texas has gone 1-8 over the past two seasons against teams ranked in the Top 25. As the old saying goes, to be the best, you have to beat the best. Texas has not beat the best lately.

    As mentioned, Texas has enough talent to win a national championship every year. Until either David Ash or Case McCoy solidifies himself as the No. 1 quarterback—and a good one at that—the Longhorns will not find themselves competing for the BCS title, though.

    You might think Texas has a chance in 2012, simply because it is Texas. Unfortunately for those in Austin, that is not the case.

Michigan State (No. 13/13)

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    On July 30, a slideshow on why Michigan State University should have the best defense in the FBS in 2012 appeared on BleacherReport.com. This time around, the Spartans' faulty offense will be discussed.

    Like Kellen Moore at Boise State, Kirk Cousins has moved on to the NFL after re-writing Michigan State's record books. Therefore, the biggest question in East Lansing is this: Can new starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell keep the Spartans from a setback?

    Running back Le’Veon Bell will carry a lot more responsibility on offense. Bell had 1,215 yards and 13 touchdowns from scrimmage in 2011. Expect those totals to rise significantly this season.

    Along with Cousins, Michigan State lost most of its weapons from last season. According to the Spartans' media guide, they must replace 77 percent of its receptions and 84 percent of its receiving yards from 2011. Oh yeah, and Cousins had 94 percent of the team’s passing yards.

    The top Big Ten teams will beat each other up this season. Five teams from the conference are ranked between No. 8 and No. 18 in the preseason AP Poll. With that said, the Big Ten champion will need to separate itself from the rest of the pack if it wants to get into the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

    Michigan State will have the best defense in 2012, but that does not mean it will have the best team in 2012.

Arkansas (No. 10/10)

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    University of Arkansas' Tyler Wilson could be the best quarterback in FBS in 2012. As of Aug. 19, CBS Sports ranks Wilson No. 2 overall amongst prospects eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Knile Davis also returns. Davis is the No. 59 overall prospect and third-highest running back prospect on the same list. Davis missed all of 2011 because of an injury, but he is two years removed from rushing 204 times for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns.

    The Razorbacks finished 2011 ranked No. 5 in the final AP poll, but have undergone immense changes since then.

    Foremost, head coach Bobby Petrino is gone, thanks to an inappropriate encounter with a former staff member. John L. Smith is Petrino’s replacement in Fayetteville, but Smith has not held a head coaching position in FBS since 2006 (Michigan State).

    Arkansas will also need to replace Wilson’s core of receiving targets from 2011. Three wide receivers from last season went in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

    With Petrino and most of the passing attack from last season gone, it speaks volumes to how highly Wilson and Davis are regarded heading into 2012. Wilson and Davis could keep Arkansas' offense amongst the national elite, but national champions need to play well on both sides of the ball.

    New defensive coordinator Paul Haynes has to improve a poor defense from a year ago. Arkansas allowed 362.8 yards per game in 2011.

    The offense masked the defensive problems in 2011, but that might not be as easy to do this season. Arkansas likes to throw the ball downfield, but it will have to work in a largely inexperienced wide receiver group.

    The biggest problem for Arkansas, though, is its standing within the SEC. Though the Razorbacks finished No. 5 in the country last season, they were only the third-best team in the SEC West. Alabama and LSU—the two teams that met in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game—also call the SEC West home. The Crimson Tide and the Tigers handed the Razorbacks their only two defeats.

    Alabama and LSU figure to be two of the top three FBS programs in 2012 again. So Arkansas will definitely need to beat both teams to reach the 2013 BCS National Title Game, as well as whichever squad comes out of the SEC East on top. This is not likely to happen.

Florida State (No. 7/7)

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    Florida State is becoming one of the most overrated FBS programs.

    The Seminoles dominated in the 1990s, but have not finished a season ranked in the Top 5 of the final AP poll since 2000. Their highest ranking since then was No. 11 in 2003.

    Since 2000, Florida State has finished only three seasons ranked higher in the final AP poll than in the preseason AP poll. In other words, the program has not met expectations.

    This year, though, the Seminoles begin with the No. 7 ranking in both polls. Why?

    Head coach Jimbo Fisher enters his third season, which means another batch of his recruits are in Tallahassee. Fisher is one of the best recruiters in FBS, as he hauled in the No. 6 Class of 2010, the No. 1 Class of 2011 and the No. 2 Class of 2012, according to ESPNU. So far this cycle, ESPNU says the Seminoles have the No. 11 Class of 2013.

    Quarterback E.J. Manuel returns. So do eight of his fellow offensive players.

    On defense, Florida State shines. The Seminoles return eight starters from a unit that finished No. 4 nationally in scoring defense (15.1 points allowed per game).

    Why, then, has Florida State failed to meet expectations?

    According to NationalChamps.net, the Seminoles have been the most penalized team in FBS since 2000. Penalties can really kill drives, and one penalty can mean the difference between a field goal and a punt, a run play and a pass play, or a third-and-10 and a first-and-five (on defense). Little things like this can add up to make a big difference.

    Florida State was unable to win what turned out to be the weakest BCS conference in 2011—the ACC. In fact, the Seminoles finished as the third-best team in the conference.

    As Virginia Tech, Florida State will need to win the ACC by running the table to reach the 2013 BCS National Championship Game. This seems like too much for the Seminoles to handle.

Georgia (No. 6/6)

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    Though the University of Georgia has a significantly better chance of reaching the 2013 BCS National Championship Game than does Arkansas, the hopes of both programs will be depressed by the depth of the SEC.

    Georgia enters 2012 as the sixth-best team in FBS as per the polls, but conference rivals Alabama and Lousiana State University are ranked in the top three of both preseason polls.

    Alabama and LSU could very well meet in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game, which would be a rematch of the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.

    If the Crimson Tide and the Tigers play as expected in the SEC West, it might not even matter how well the rest of the SEC plays.

    There is a BCS rule that says a maximum of two teams per conference can play in BCS bowl games. Since Alabama and LSU represented the SEC last season, all other SEC teams were left out, regardless of whether they were good enough from a rankings standpoint.

    Highly-ranked SEC teams like Georgia, South Carolina and Arkansas could suffer the same fate this season.

    With this considered, is there really a need to explain why Georgia was placed on this list?

    The Bulldogs lost seven players in the 2012 NFL Draft. Kicker Blair Walsh was good enough to get drafted, and punter Drew Butler is also gone.

    In addition to filling these voids, Georgia will have to replace Isaiah Crowell, its leading rusher from 2011. Crowell—a true freshman last season—was dismissed from the team on June 29 because of weapons charges, which led to an arrest.

    The Bulldogs have depth at running back, but a depleted offensive line could prevent Crowell’s replacements from realizing their full potential. Three blockers from 2011 are no longer in Athens, and two of them—Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones—were NFL draft picks.

    Offensive line and quarterback are the offensive spots where experience counts most, and while Georgia lacks line experience, one of the nation’s elite quarterbacks, Aaron Murray, returns. Murray will need to step up his game to make it two SEC East titles in a row for the Bulldogs.

    The defense in Athens looks solid. Nine starters return from a unit that finished No. 23 nationally in scoring defense (20.6 points allowed per game). It should be a Top 5 unit by the season’s end.

    Head coach Mark Richt has led Georgia to two SEC championships (2002, 2005), but the fact that Richt was on the hot seat for most of the 2011 season shows how much Bulldog Nation feels it has waited too long for another conference crown.

    The winner of the SEC Championship Game virtually punches its ticket to the national title game, but with a stronger West than East, Georgia's 2012 should look similar to its 2011.

Oklahoma (No. 4/4)

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    Like Florida State, the University of Oklahoma is entering the group of consistently overrated FBS teams.

    Oklahoma has a pedestrian 7-6 record in bowl games under head coach Bob Stoops. In BCS bowl games, that record drops to 3-5. In national championship games, the record drops to 1-3.

    As Big 12 rival Texas, Oklahoma has been over-rated in the polls every season, simply because it is Oklahoma.

    With the exception of 2010, 2000 was the last season in which the Sooners finished with a higher ranking in the final AP poll than in the preseason AP poll.

    A No. 4 preseason ranking means voters expect Oklahoma to run away with the Big 12 championship, leaving all others in the dust (West Virginia is ranked No. 11 in both polls). The Sooners can win the conference, sure, but not as easily as the polls suggest.

    The Big 12’s newest members, West Virginia and TCU, find themselves ranked in the Top 20 of both polls. So do Texas and Oklahoma State.

    Kansas State is also expected to be a Top 25 team. Despite losing 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, Baylor is still considered a Top 35 program in 2012.

    Oklahoma plays every one of these teams in 2012. As a result, the chances of Stoops leading the team to an undefeated season is nill.

    Quarterback Landry Jones came back to Norman after likely being a first-round selection had he entered the 2012 NFL Draft. If Jones can lead the Sooners to the 2013 BCS National Championship Game, he should easily win the 2012 Heisman Trophy.

    Unfortunately, Jones has lost many of his weapons from last season, just like Tyler Wilson has at Arkansas. Seven of the top 12 leaders in receptions from 2011 are gone.

    As the head coach of a FBS program steeped in tradition and success, Stoops clearly has enough pull in recruiting to replace what he has lost in the passing game. As mentioned in the Texas slide, though, can Oklahoma’s all-star talent play well enough as a team to win the national championship?

    Jones has to build chemistry with a brand new crop of receivers. Quarterbacks can only do so much on their own, but ultimately, they need receivers to catch their passes and turn short throws into long gains.

    In short, a deep conference, brand new unexpected challenges in the passing game, and the Sooners’ inability to win a national championship since 2000 should prevent Oklahoma from reaching the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

    In many ways, Oklahoma has not caught up.