National signing day looms on the horizon, and it's time for programs to make a final push to the finish.
A recruiting class can make or break a college football team, especially one poised between greatness and disaster. That's why this season's signing day is so important for many schools.
With plenty of disappointments in 2012—and big changes coming in 2013—there are plenty of programs that need to come up big on February 6.
To call 2012 a disappointment for the Trojans undersells how bad their season was.
Considered a top team for the 2012 season, USC finished its year 7-6 with an embarrassing 21-7 loss against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
The one thing the Trojans had going for themselves last season was an offense that was very good, albeit inconsistent at times.
But thanks to the NFL draft, USC loses QB Matt Barkley as well as wide receiver Robert Woods.
If Lane Kiffin would like to keep his job, he needs to start showing results. This may be the last recruiting class he ever gets at USC, so he better make it a good one.
The Oregon Ducks are on the cusp of becoming a tremendous college program, but they need to keep the momentum going if they hope to take the next step—winning a national championship.
However, it's unknown how well Oregon will do without former head coach Chip Kelly now that he's in the NFL.
Also looming on the horizon are possible NCAA sanctions for recruiting violations.
In other words, the Ducks' recruiting pitch has taken a big hit in the last couple of months.
While Oregon usually limits its range of prospects with specified recruiting—targeting speed and athleticism—it's a little disconcerting that it only has 13 commits.
According to A.J. Jacobson of Duck Sports Authority, Kelly's departure has not negatively influenced this season's recruits. If that's truly the case, they'll need a strong push to the finish line to keep the program going.
Texas A&M enjoyed a stellar first season in the SEC, going 11-2 with huge wins over Alabama and Oklahoma.
It was led by Johnny Manziel, who did just about everything for the Aggies this season on his way to winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy.
While most of his production happened on the field, you better believe it's having an influence off the field as well.
Combine all of their 2012 success, and the Aggies have a roaring PR machine, perfect for recruiting.
In the opinion of ESPN, A&M's 31 current commits—more than any other program—give it the fifth-best class in the nation, behind just Florida and Alabama in the SEC.
Kevin Sumlin has his program on the verge of taking over the SEC and college football, but a strong recruiting class is needed to cement his position.
If he can get that, there may be no stopping Johnny Football and his Aggies in 2013 and beyond.
Notre Dame didn't win the national championship, but it doesn't seem to have hurt the program's image much.
Riding a 12-1 season—and boosted by the fact that Brian Kelly is staying—the Irish have 22 commits in what looks to be their best class in years.
But Notre Dame's return to college football prominence won't be complete until the program wins a national championship. Getting there doesn't matter if you're going to get destroyed by your opponent.
Kelly has a wonderful foundation to work with. On one side of the coin he has a dynamic quarterback, and on the other he has one of the nation's best defenses.
The only thing left is for the Irish to fill in the holes. If they can do that with this class of recruits, there could be no stopping them in years to come.