College Football: 10 Schools Poised for Huge Turnarounds in 2013

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIJanuary 30, 2013

College Football: 10 Schools Poised for Huge Turnarounds in 2013

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    Huge turnarounds are what college football is all about. While national championships are wonderful, but there's no feeling like watching your team win one after a long drought.

    There's something about the sweetness of the victories during that season that is infinitely more intense than almost any other game during a period of sustained success.

    Prior to the 2009 National Championship, Alabama hadn't won that title since the 1992 season.

    Prior to the 2010 National Championship, the Auburn Tigers only had one national title, back in 1957.

    When your team is down, the "we'll be back" mentality almost immediately sets in. Sometimes it's years later, and other times it's decades later when your team returns to prominence. Eventually, it happens.

    There is nothing like the feeling of a national (or conference) championship after more than a decade of hoping you can back into the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. No offense to the Potato Bowl, but it's not exactly a destination bowl for teams like Texas or Notre Dame.

    From coaching changes to injury issues, the 2012 season was terrible for many nationally recognizable schools. Luckily, those very coaching changes could be the keys to success next year.

    Here are 10 schools that are poised for major turnarounds in the 2013 season.

    *Ranking was determined first by expected improvement over 2012's season, measured in number of wins. After the teams were arranged, the individual groups (two wins better, three wins better, etc.) were sorted by predicted total number of wins in 2013.

10. Colorado Buffaloes

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    Colorado ended 2012 with a dismal 1-11 record. The only bright spot was that the lone win was over conference foe Washington State. That is a dim bright spot.

    Colorado responded by firing Jon Embree and hiring San Diego State's Mike MacIntyre. MacIntyre carried San Diego State to heights not seen in over two decades while he was with the Aztecs.

    MacIntyre ended his San Diego State career on a nine-win performance that was only four points short of being yet another 10-win season.

    Colorado is looking to contend in a top-heavy conference that just got a whole lot more evenly distributed in 2012. Expectations should still be low for the Buffaloes, but a four- or five-win jaunt is not unreasonable.

    2013 Prediction: Colorado finishes 4-8.

9. Boston College Eagles

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    Boston College hired Steve Addazio away from Temple after canning Frank Spaziani following his 2-10 season in 2012.

    That sets Boston College up for a huge turnaround in 2013. Coming off a two-win season, the Eagles don't have to do much to improve. Most of their losses last year came by two or three possessions.

    The main issue facing the Eagles is a lack of rushing attack. The run game ranked 119th in the country, which led to a 111th-ranked scoring offense.

    Addazio took Temple to a nine-win season in 2011, but faltered during the rebuilding phase. He led the Owls to a scant four victories in 2012.

    For Boston College, four wins would be a 100 percent improvement on the debacle that Spaziani orchestrated.

    2013 Prediction: Boston College finishes 4-8.

8. Ole Miss Rebels

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    Ole Miss already had a good turnaround under Hugh Freeze in 2012. The Rebels went from 2-10 in 2011 to 7-6 in 2012 with a bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers.

    While the turnaround was good, two of the five extra victories in 2012 were over out-of-conference opponents. The huge turnaround is still in the future.

    Ole Miss can improve on the 2012 season by rising even further toward the top. Of course, as a member of the SEC West, there is a ceiling. The Rebels face Texas A&M, LSU and Alabama every season now.

    While it's reasonable to see a victory or two in that mix, but it's not a good idea to hope for three wins there. The Rebels also take on Texas in Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. That game could go either way, as the Texas slide has already shown.

    Freeze brought the Rebels from nothing to bowl winners in one season. The rest of the turnaround is waiting for them in 2013. A nine-win season (including another bowl victory) would complete the major turnaround.

    So would a national championship, but that's probably not going to happen until Freeze brings in a full four recruiting classes suited to his style.

    2013 Prediction: Ole Miss finishes 9-4.

7. Texas Longhorns

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    Texas took a turn for the worse after the 2009 National Championship Game appearance. After Colt McCoy was dropped in the game, Texas had little chance of winning it.

    Over the next three seasons, Texas went from the top of the conference (2009) to needing a miraculous comeback to beat Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl (2012).

    Texas has repeatedly brought in top-notch recruiting classes since that game:

    2010: No. 2

    2011: No. 5

    2012: No. 3

    Texas has put itself in prime position to contend for national championships every single year as far as talent is concerned. So, why are the Longhorns on this list?

    Simply put: Because they haven't done anything since '09. In 2010, Texas won five games and won only eight in 2011. The eighth win that season came over Cal in the Holiday Bowl.

    Texas has the same head coach that it had in 2009, and the quarterback situation should be a lot better in 2013 than it was in 2012. Whichever quarterback steps up through the offseason shouldn't need to worry about controversy after the opening kickoff next year.

    Texas has three top-five recruiting classes taking the field in 2013. If the Longhorns can't turn that into a Big 12 title, then a major change needs to be made.

    2013 Prediction: Texas finishes 11-2.

6. Missouri Tigers

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    Missouri is coming off a disappointing 5-7 inaugural SEC season, and there are many reasons for that. The biggest culprit was injury.

    Missouri, even injury-depleted, was a mere 15 points away from an 8-4 regular-season record with a bowl appearance at the end of the tunnel. The Tigers can easily improve on last season's performance, as there was surely some culture shock in the new conference to add to their woes.

    Missouri and head coach Gary Pinkel have a difficult road ahead, but the Tigers are poised for a huge turnaround to the tune of four more wins or better in 2013. With Alabama missing from the schedule, that looks like an even bigger possibility.

    The other part of the equation is perception. Since Missouri did so badly in 2012, they will be easily overlooked in 2013. If the Tigers can come out strong against the bigger teams, an extra upset or two could easily put them into double-digit wins.


    2013 Prediction: Missouri finishes 8-5.

5. Tennessee Volunteers

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    Tennessee is another team on the list that has the talent to improve for the 2013 season. The Vols terminated Derek Dooley and hired Butch Jones from Cincinnati to replace him.

    Jones won four conference championships with Cincinnati and had five bowl appearances to his name there as well, so he's a great candidate to take the Vols to a higher standing in the SEC.

    Tennessee is coming off a horrific 1-7 performance in conference play for the 2012 season, and there's almost nowhere to go but up. The Vols posted the nation's 15th-ranked passing offense that translated to a No. 22 ranking in scoring.

    The defense, which finished 107th, was the source of all the issues that plagued Tennessee last season. Jones will have to adjust to the departure of quarterback Tyler Bray, but that is nothing compared to what he needs to do on defense.

    If he can bring the defense up to a simple 40th to 50th ranking in 2013, the Vols can end the season 8-5 if they win whatever bowl they make after the improvement.

    2013 Prediction: Tennessee finishes 8-5.

4. Michigan Wolverines

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    Michigan already had one turnaround in Brady Hoke's first season. The Wolverines ended up in the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech. Michigan won that game to finish 11-2 for the 2011 season.

    The Wolverines insisted on keeping Denard Robinson at quarterback until late in the 2012 season, and the result was an 8-5 performance bookended by losses to SEC powers Alabama and South Carolina.

    Michigan's biggest problem was Robinson. He was a running back not-so-cleverly disguised as a quarterback. Robinson only had one season (2010) with a completion percentage over 60.

    Robinson's career passing stats were: 427-of-747 for 6,250 yards, 49 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. That's right: 39 interceptions.

    His rushing stats were far better, and he had 4,495 yards and 42 touchdowns on 723 carries. Robinson's time at quarterback took something valuable away from the Wolverines: playing time for a true quarterback.

    As Devin Gardner stepped up toward the end of the season, it became clear that he should have been under center the whole time. Who knows what could have happened if he had been given the chance to grow?

    Wolverines fans will find out in 2013. Michigan could end up in the Rose Bowl if things play out in its favor.

    2013 Prediction: Michigan finishes 11-3.

3. Auburn Tigers

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    Auburn fired Gene Chizik for the mess he created in the state of Alabama. After Chizik's first season, the balance of power in the state had been restored.

    The winner of the Auburn-Alabama rivalry game went on to win the national championship in 2009 and 2010. After that, Chizik took two short years to bring Auburn down to an 0-8 finish in the SEC.

    Auburn hauled in a 2011 recruiting class that ranked No. 3, and that class will take the field in 2013 as first-year starters. The great news for the Auburn faithful is that Gus Malzahn will be in charge of the team.

    Malzahn was the offensive coordinator for the Tigers from 2009-2011, a stretch that included the national championship hand-delivered by Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. After that he moved to Arkansas State and sustained the success that Hugh Freeze built with the Red Wolves.

    Malzahn will take the reins of a talented group of kids that just need a coach. He can pull the Tigers out of the tailspin and bring them to a bowl in his first season.

    He certainly won't do worse than Chizik did.

    2013 Prediction: Auburn finishes 7-6.

2. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    The Arkansas Razorbacks hit a reverse jackpot when they hired John L. Smith as the interim head coach following Bobby Petrino's demise as leader of the Hogs.

    On the flip side of the coin, Arkansas hired Bret Bielema away from the Wisconsin Badgers. You may remember the Badgers: They slaughtered Nebraska 70-31 in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game.

    The former Wisconsin coach had the Badgers on the cusp of an undefeated season. Including the Rose Bowl loss to Pac-12-champion Stanford, Bielema's Badgers didn't lose a game in 2012 by more than seven points. (Four losses were by three points.)

    Arkansas finished the 2011 season with a Cotton Bowl win over then-No. 8 Kansas State. That put Arkansas at No. 5 in the 2011 Final AP Poll.

    The only difference in 2012 was the head coach. Arkansas is Top 10 material with a competent head coach, and Bielema is definitely a competent head coach.

    2013 Prediction: Arkansas finishes 8-5.

1. Indiana Hoosiers

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    Indiana finished the 2012 season 4-8, but the Hoosiers were scarily close to flipping that to 8-4. If the coaching staff can make the minor adjustments necessary, Indiana is heading to a bowl next season.

    Indiana lost to four teams by one, two, three and four points last year. That means the Hoosiers were two field goals and two touchdowns away from a potential 9-4 season, depending on what opponent they drew in the bowl game.

    The Hoosiers fielded the nation's 17th-ranked passing attack, but had trouble finishing drives in the end zone. The scoring attack ranked 52nd.

    The defense ranked 104th in the country, and that is the major opportunity for improvement. Why do they appear higher on the list than Tennessee if the stats are so similar?

    Tennessee plays in the SEC, and Indiana plays in the Big Ten. While Tennessee got blown out by the top tier of the SEC last season, Indiana was busy losing to Ohio State by only three points.

    Indiana is in a down conference that will make it easier to rise to the eight-win mark. Since the potential for performance is higher, so is the ranking on this list.

    2013 Prediction: Indiana finishes 8-5. (They finish 9-4 if the bowl season is kind to the Hoosiers.)