1 Thing to Fear About Every College Football Team
Every Division I-FBS team, from defending BCS Champion Alabama to 1-11 UMass, has someone or something opponents dread facing in the week leading up to a game.
While not every team has a defensive freak (Jadeveon Clowney), multiple future first-round NFL draft picks at offensive skill positions (Clemson) or a four-time national champion coach like Nick Saban, here is a breakdown of each team's most feared person or thing.
Air Force Falcons
What to fear: The entire rushing attack
The Falcons should be feared, and you may as well chalk up a loss to these guys if your team can't defend against the run.
What to fear: Terry Bowden
Terry Bowden built national contenders at three different levels. At North Alabama, Bowden's teams made the playoffs in three consecutive years. In his first season at Auburn, the Tigers went undefeated and untied.
At Samford, he took a terrible team to a one-loss season in his first year, and that was before he coached at either of his other institutions. From Salem to Samford, to Auburn, to North Alabama and now to Akron, Bowden has been successful wherever he has gone.
You may think "Akron who?" when you see their logo on the schedule, but Bowden is already behind his own success curve as it is. He won't wait much longer to show results.
Alabama Crimson Tide
What to fear: The system
Seriously, it seems that Alabama can lose any number of players to the NFL, graduation, food poisoning or general lack of effort and still end up in the national championship game.
Nick Saban has a system in place that has proved improbable to beat. Just when you figure out which running back to focus on, a wide receiver comes out and gouges you for 60 yards.
Key on the receiver, and the tailback will run one down your throat. Saban is the head of the serpent in Tuscaloosa. Three of the last four crystal footballs are sitting in Bryant-Denny, and that's plenty of reasons to fear the system.
What to fear: Ka'Deem Carey
Heisman candidate? Check. A 2,000-yard rushing threat? Check. A beast that could have contributed in record-breaking fashion at almost any school in the nation? Check.
Ka'Deem Carey is possibly the best offensive player on the West Coast. (Other people will beg to differ, but they'll be recognized in later slides.) Carey is never to be overlooked, underestimated or temporarily lost from view on the field.
If your team isn't ready to take him on at every level of the defense, you may as well just spot the Wildcats 21 points and ask them to bench him for one half...it would probably be less dangerous.
Arizona State Sun Devils
What to fear: Will Sutton
Will Sutton isn't the only thing Arizona State has worth fearing, but he's the key player on the Sun Devils defense. He finished 2012 with 63 tackles (40 solo), 23.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, five pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and three forced fumbles.
Sutton is essentially the Jadeveon Clowney of the Pac-12. If that doesn't scare you, nothing will.
What to fear: A competent head coach (in this case, Bret Bielema)
The beauty of the 2013 season for the Arkansas fan is that it doesn't really matter what head coach they got, as long as he was able to do the job well. Bobby Petrino did everything that got Arkansas to No. 8 before the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks trounced it at home.
John L. Smith (Petrino's replacement) did everything that had Arkansas miss out on the 2012 postseason entirely. The only thing that changed was the head coach. Now that Bret Bielema is in charge at Arkansas, expect nothing less than a postseason appearance, even with a new starting quarterback.
The pieces are all in place, and the difference-maker is Bielema.
Arkansas State Red Wolves
What to fear: David Oku scoring a touchdown
David Oku was Arkansas State's leading rusher in 2012 with 1,061 yards and 16 touchdowns off 243 carries. Oku will be back in 2013 with a vengeance.
Oku will be the solid rock that helps the team get by while the new starting quarterback is broken in. If you can shut down Oku, you have a chance of winning the game.
Unfortunately (for the opposition), only three teams shut him down last season. The Red Wolves won every single game in which he found the end zone. If he scores against your defensive coordinator, the odds tip heavily in Arkansas State's favor.
Army Black Knights
What to fear: Rushing versatility
Army has another fearsome rushing attack, just like Air Force. The major difference is that Army's is better. It's more than 50 yards per game better.
Army finished the 2012 season with the nation's best rushing offense by far at 369.8 yards per game. That's the Black Knights' most formidable weapon, at least on the football field.
Army had two 1,200-plus-yard rushers last season and four players with more than 400 yards on the ground. The biggest issue when you face Army is simply figuring out where the ball is going to be coming from. By then, it may be too late.
What to fear: Gus Malzahn
Regardless of what happened under three season of Gene Chizik, Malzahn is back to take the Auburn Tigers back to the top. Common sense says that it will take Malzahn more than just one offseason to build a national champion at Auburn.
Of course, common sense also says that Chizik shouldn't have won a national title, yet it happened. Be on your guard when Malzahn takes to the sideline this fall. He orchestrated the offense during the 2010 title run, and he's got to be furious at what his precious Tigers were reduced to over the recent past.
Malzahn will be out for blood, and he could coach a contender as quickly as 2013 if the kids will pay attention and take him seriously.
Ball State Cardinals
What to fear: Jahwan Edwards
Jahwan Edwards scored for the Ball State Cardinals in all but five games last season. Ball State lost four of those five games, and the Cardinals did win all eight of the other matches.
Edwards put together a 1,410-yard, 14-score year that led Ball State to the postseason. Edwards will be the spearhead of the Ball State offense once again, and he's lethal.
What to fear: Philip Montgomery
Baylor's offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach has been working miracles for the Bears season after season. After Robert Griffin III left for the Washington Redskins, things didn't look to good for the Baylor Bears.
Enter Nick Florence, Terrance Williams and Lache Seastrunk. Even without RG3, the Bears did more than fine in 2012. Now, things look down again for the Bears, as Florence and Williams have left the program.
Well, Baylor fans shouldn't weep, as Philip Montgomery is still there. The offense will be excellent again, even if it takes the new players a couple of games to get into rhythm together.
Fear Montgomery. If not, the Big 12 title may go to Baylor at the end of 2013.
Boise State Broncos
What to fear: Chris Petersen
Chris Petersen has put together a highly successful run at Boise State for more than half a decade, and he is not to be overlooked. The Boise State Broncos are BCS contenders, but they are missing a great quarterback.
Given the things Petersen has accomplished in the past few years, it's only a matter of time before Boise dominates the Mountain West Conference again. Even a slight improvement from quarterback Joe Southwick would mean a potential BCS berth in 2013.
Boston College Eagles
What to fear: Alex Amidon
With a new head coach in place, Boston College is going to be focusing more on the run. This may seem like bad news for the corps of wide receivers, but it's exactly the opposite.
Alex Amidon turned in a 1,200-plus-yard season in 2012, and the focus on the run game will simply open him up to more opportunity.
Amidon will have a stellar final season before heading to the NFL draft, and he'll do it against anyone who refuses to respect him.
Bowling Green Falcons
What to fear: Chris Gallon
Chris Gallon tore up the field for the Bowling Green Falcons last season as a freshman. He caught just 54 passes and took them for 720 yards and six touchdowns. That's an average of 13.3 yards per reception.
Gallon may not be the best wide receiver in the country, but it isn't easy to tell that when he's producing. If Bowling Green knows what's good for it, Gallon will catch at least 80 passes in 2013. Opposing teams should always know where he is.
Whether or not that will contain him remains to be seen.
What to fear: The balanced offense
Buffalo doesn't have a top-10 rushing game, but the Bulls certainly have a backfield to fear. In 2012 alone, there were three separate rushers who amassed 500 or more yards.
Alex Neutz was busy at wide receiver as well. While teams were concentrating on stopping the run, Neutz gained 1,015 yards and scored 11 touchdowns off just 65 catches.
If you're paying too much attention to the run, Neutz will get you. If you're paying too much attention to Neutz, the tailbacks will start slashing you. It's best to respect the overall offense rather than key in on one side of the two-headed beast.
What to fear: Kyle Van Noy
As one of the nation's top linebackers, Van Noy should be feared by any team in the country, regardless of conference affiliation. In 2012, Van Noy racked up 52 tackles (37 solo), two interceptions (one pick-six), 22 tackles for loss and 13 sacks.
Those aren't all his stats, but those are the most pertinent to this piece. Van Noy is going to be missed greatly at BYU, but the Cougars at least get to watch him wreak havoc through 2013.
California Golden Bears
What to fear: New faces
California is under the command of Sonny Dykes and Tony Franklin. While Cal had some bad seasons that led to the dismissal of previous head coach Jeff Tedford, this new pair of field generals will definitely breathe life back into the offense.
You may be familiar with them already, as they took Louisiana Tech to new heights together over the past three years. These guys may not have Cal near the top in 2013, but they still should not be taken lightly. Good things are coming for the Golden Bears.
Central Michigan Chippewas
What to fear: Zurlon Tipton
Zurlon Tipton logged 1,492 yards and 19 touchdowns off 252 carries last season, and he will be the key player for the Central Michigan Chippewas in 2013. Well, other than the new starting quarterback, of course.
Tipton will be responsible for creating opportunities in the receiving aspect of CMU's scheme all season long. While the new passer gets comfortable in his role, Tipton will be the foundation that the rest of the offense is built on.
What to fear: Tommy Tuberville
Tommy Tuberville has joined Cincinnati from the Texas Tech Red Raiders. After bringing a defense to Texas Tech that allowed the Red Raiders to hand West Virginia its first loss of the 2012 season, hopes should be high for the Bearcats.
Opponents of the Bearcats should be wary of the defense that Tuberville could install in his first season. If not, then the Bearcats will be happy to cruise to the conference title in 2013.
What to fear: Chad Morris
Chad Morris is the offensive mastermind behind Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and a wealth of talented skill-position players at Clemson. He has had the Tigers vying for the ACC title for the past two seasons in particular, and 2013 should be more of the same.
During Clemson's final year with Boyd at the helm, look out for any wrinkles that Morris might throw into the game plan. Every one of his kids on offense is talented enough to handle any orchestration he places in front of them, and Clemson will be lethal this fall.
What to fear: Mike MacIntyre
Mike MacIntyre made his mark at San Jose State over the past three seasons. After taking the Spartans to a point where they could hang with the likes of Stanford, MacIntyre was picked up by the Colorado Buffaloes for 2013.
MacIntyre has more than just a rough road ahead of him, as Colorado finished 2012 with a 1-11 record. Don't write the Buffaloes off next season, or you may become the victim of the new regime long before you're ready.
Colorado State Rams
What to fear: Jim McElwain
Jim McElwain was the offensive genius behind the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2009 and 2011 national championships. He was picked up as a head coach by Colorado State before the 2012 season, and he is entering his second year with the Rams.
McElwain started his reign off with a win over in-state rival Colorado last season, and the Rams finished with four wins. That was one more win than they got in 2011. While that was obviously an improvement, just wait to see what a coach can do after a complete year of teaching his own system.
What to fear: Lyle McCombs
Lyle McCombs was Connecticut's leading rusher last season, even though he didn't do as well as he did in 2011. Most of that can be attributed to the offensive line's lackluster performance, but the Huskies did manage to upset the Louisville Cardinals even without qualifying for the postseason.
Connecticut still needs more than just one major player to step up on offense, but McCombs will anchor the offense until that actually happens.
Duke Blue Devils
What to fear: Jamison Crowder
Jamison Crowder is the headliner of the Duke offense. He caught 76 passes for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns during last year's run to the Belk Bowl. Crowder was competing with Conner Vernon for those yards, too.
Crowder will have the benefit of being the go-to receiver, but he'll also be catching passes from a brand-new quarterback. Crowder is still the most devastating player on the offensive side of Duke's 2013 roster, though.
East Carolina Pirates
What to fear: Ruffin McNeill
Ruffin McNeill has already brought East Carolina to its best performance since 1999, and he's still building the program he wants for the Pirates. ECU finished last season 8-5 after a nine-point loss in the New Orleans Bowl against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns.
East Carolina may not be ready to compete with the big dogs in the FBS yet, but the Pirates are well on their way. If McNeill continues improving as he has so far, ECU could be staring at a 10-win season sooner rather than later.
Eastern Michigan Eagles
What to fear: Dylan Mulder
I know what you're thinking: "Who in the blue blazes (or something less safe for work) would fear a kicker?" Well, the Eastern Michigan Eagles won only two games last season, and there weren't a ton of bright spots on the field.
As a freshman, Dylan Mulder connected on 10 of his 11 kicks, three of which were from 40 or more yards away. Anyone who has ever watched a kicker lose a game (*cough cough* Alabama fans) knows that a practically automatic kicker is something to cheer about.
On the flip side of that coin, a foot sniper is something for any defending special teams unit to be more than a little nervous about.
What to fear: Will Muschamp
Will Muschamp led the Florida Gators to an improbably successful season in 2012, and they almost landed in the national championship game. While Muschamp was certainly hired to build Florida back into a national contender, many did not expect anything better than a limp into the postseason.
Muschamp has assembled a stellar unit down in the Swamp, and 2013 should yield another trip to the postseason. Whether they make it to a BCS bowl again or not is another question entirely, but Muschamp should make any opposing coach jittery for at least the week prior to the game.
Florida Atlantic Owls
What to fear: William Dukes
Wide receiver William Dukes led Florida Atlantic in offensive yardage last season with 979 yards and four touchdowns off 63 catches.
Dukes was a sophomore last season, and he should be heavily anticipated when the Owls kick off this fall. There are other offensive contributors who command a level of respect, but Dukes is the key player on that side of the ball by far.
Florida International Golden Panthers
What to fear: Kedrick Rhodes
Kedrick Rhodes was Florida International's most potent offensive weapon last season. He led the team in offensive yards with 714 off 167 carries. The Golden Panthers have plenty of options on offense, including a wide receiver who averaged over 25 yards per reception.
Rhodes is the single biggest threat to an opposing defense, especially if you consider his 1,149-yard performance in 2011. That potential still lurks inside him somewhere. He should be trying as hard as he can to bring it out this fall.
Florida State Seminoles
What to fear: Rashad Greene
Rashad Greene has had an incredible career since he got to Florida State. Greene is one of the best receivers in college football today, and he earned his spot on this list in an extremely close race.
Florida State has a new quarterback, and the Seminoles also field a great defense. Still, Greene's ability to take over a game in fantastic fashion puts him right here in the "most-feared" position.
Fresno State Bulldogs
What to fear: Davante Adams
Adams could be the most lethal player in the entire conference, not just at Fresno State. The Bulldogs are definitely thrilled to have him on their side.
What to fear: The offense
Aaron Murray will line up at quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2013. He will be joined by Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall at running back, and he's got a slew of wide receivers who have all contributed to Georgia's back-to-back appearances in the SEC title games in 2011 and 2012.
Every single stat that Murray has was provided by any one of over a dozen capable targets, and this coming season will be no different. If you can't cover every inch of the field, Georgia absolutely has a player who can get to the hole you've left.
Georgia State Panthers
What to fear: The unknown
Yes, Georgia State is making the jump to the FBS level of football in 2013, as the schedule clearly reflects. The Panthers have not had much success on the football field yet, but they have also not been motivated by a solid schedule full of high-quality teams.
While it's unlikely that the Panthers will be able to qualify for the postseason this year, there is no reason that they can't get fired up enough to upset a major program.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
What to fear: Jeremiah Attaochu
The Georgia Tech defense held the mighty USC Trojans (who were without Matt Barkley) to a scant seven points in the 2012 Sun Bowl, but Jeremiah Attaochu is one of the best linebackers in the country on any depth chart.
Attaochu finished 2012 with 69 tackles (44 solo), 12 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and one forced fumble. He should set any offense on edge with his prowess in 2013, and most offenses simply won't have an answer for him. That bodes well for the Yellow Jackets.
What to fear: Norm Chow
Norm Chow has been the head coach at Hawaii for just one season: the 3-9 run of 2012. While that doesn't leave a lot of evidence for intimidation, Chow hasn't been in charge long enough for anyone to cast true judgement.
He will be fighting to keep himself in his current position, and the Hawaii Warriors will be battling equally hard to regain their reputation of success. Never underestimate those who have nothing to lose.
What to fear: David Piland
Why fear a quarterback who led his team to only five wins in 2012? Well, Houston is used to having a high-flying offense, and its quarterback is currently the team's constraint.
Defenses need to fear David Piland, simply because he can key a Houston bid for the American Athletic Conference title.
The Cougars did not fare well in 2012 without Case Keenum, who led them to a 13-1 season in 2011. However, it's only a matter of time before they field an offense that can pull off wins by the dozen again.
What to fear: Najee Lovett
Najee Lovett caught 50 passes for 548 yards and six touchdowns in 2012. Given all the departures from the squad, Lovett is left as the biggest returning contributor from the 2012 iteration of the Idaho Vandals.
Lovett may not be used to being the go-to guy on offense, but he will need to adjust to his new role as leader quickly. Replacing a running back, quarterback and star receiver is infinitely difficult if the lone returning skill player loses heart.
That should not be a problem for Lovett.
Illinois Fighting Illini
What to fear: Jonathan Brown
Probably the best player on the team and definitely one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten, Jonathan Brown will grace the Illinois football field for his senior season in 2013.
He finished 2012 with 59 tackles (28 solo), 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one pass breakup and one forced fumble. Illinois may not be ready to contend for a conference title this season, but the Illini aren't completely devoid of star talent.
What to fear: The Hoosiers are the sleeping giant
After dropping half of their 2012 losses by less than a touchdown, Indiana will be out for vengeance in 2013. It could be the most underrated team in the Big Ten this fall.
From the quarterback to the secondary, any area of the Hoosiers' squad could provide the four-point push that would have put them in the postseason last year.
Circle Indiana if the Hoosiers are on your team's schedule. That's possibly the biggest trap game of the season for you.
What to fear: C.J. Fiedorowicz
Iowa has a great tight end in C.J. Fiedorowicz who could contribute to at least a bowl bid for the Hawkeyes during the holiday season. Even as a tight end, Fiedorowicz caught 45 passes for 433 yards and a touchdown.
He finished the season at No. 3 in total receiving yards; the top two players were tied with 571 yards each. Fiedorowicz averaged almost 10 yards per carry, and that makes the tight end position one of the precious few that the Hawkeyes don't have to concentrate on through 2013.
Iowa State Cyclones
What to fear: Sam Richardson
The third-string quarterback from 2012, Sam Richardson has taken over the starting spot at Iowa State for the 2013 season. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was the best of any passer in the program last season.
For anyone relieved that Steele Jantz and his backup didn't do that well last season, the cavalry is on its way. Richardson tossed eight touchdowns to just one pick.
In 2013, he'll likely see a setback due to being used so much more, but he's still an upgrade for the Cyclones. He has the raw ability to put them in contention for the Big 12 title. It's just a question of whether the rest of the team can keep up.
What to fear: Tony Pierson
The Jayhawks have a lot to do before taking aim at the Big 12 title, but Pierson is an excellent start. He is one of the best hybrid running backs in the Big 12, and he could help Kansas turn a corner, especially if teams don't realize he's coming.
Kansas State Wildcats
What to fear: Bill Snyder
The miracle worker, Bill Snyder, will be back for yet another season at Kansas State in 2013. Though the Wildcats lost Collin Klein to the offseason, they will continue to be legitimate contenders for the conference crown as long as Snyder is there.
Snyder is 159-82-1 at Kansas State, and that's about 30 wins better than in the entire 50-year period before he was hired by the Wildcats. He is one of the best coaches in the game, and sleeping on his team would be a huge mistake.
Kent State Golden Flashes
What to fear: The tailback tandem
Dri Archer and Trayion Durham combine to form one or the best one-two punches in the country. Last season, they logged over 400 carries, 2,700 yards and over 30 touchdowns (including receiving scores) together.
As long as Archer and Durham are healthy, Kent State can win any game it enters. Even the LSU game in Week 3 isn't impossible for the Golden Flashes, though it will be one of the most difficult matches of their season.
What to fear: Mark Stoops
Mark Stoops is entering his first season as the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, and he didn't wait to bring energy back to the program. Over 50,000 fans attended the spring game, and he is already making a splash on the recruiting trail.
Stoops has an arduous task ahead of him, but he can build a contender at Kentucky. That's even more true if teams overlook his squad for the first couple of seasons.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
What to fear: Momentum
While the offensive coordinator and head coach have both moved on to coach for California, Louisiana Tech won't forget how to be successful just because they're gone.
The Bulldogs have put together some amazing seasons over the past few years, and the loss of starting quarterback Colby Cameron won't be devastating. It will be a major setback, of course, but the success of the previous seasons is attainable.
In fact, there isn't a single game on the 2013 schedule that the Bulldogs can't win.
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
What to fear: Terrance Broadway
Terrance Broadway will enter 2013 with his eye on a third straight postseason appearance. Louisiana has won the past two New Orleans Bowls, but this time, he will be aiming for a more prestigious bowl.
Broadway passed for 2,842 yards and rushed for 769 more in 2012. He's one of the most underrated dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. If he can bring his interceptions under control, the sky is the limit for the Ragin' Cajuns.
What to fear: Kolton Browning
Kolton Browning finished 2012 with 3,049 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. He tacked on 488 rushing yards and seven more scores via 146 attempts.
Browning has the potential to finish the 2013 season as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. He will gladly take advantage of any team who doesn't think he's worthy of its full attention. After all, he did it to Arkansas (and almost Auburn) last season.
What to fear: John Chavis
Any number of people on LSU's payroll or roster could be on this list, but it's Chavis who has managed to put LSU's defense near the top of college football year after year.
And he has overcome a ton of obstacles over the past few seasons to do that. Even with suspensions, injuries and whatever else you can imagine, Chavis posted the nation's No. 12 scoring defense in 2012.
If Chavis has all the players he planned to have in 2013, the entire country should be afraid.
What to fear: Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He proved it beyond a doubt by shredding one of the best defenses in the country in the Sugar Bowl last season.
He will be on just about every preseason watch list that's possible in 2013, and the Louisville Cardinals should be the American Athletic Conference favorite from the opening kickoff.
Marshall Thundering Herd
What to fear: Rakeem Cato
Who was the best passer in 2012? Well, by yards per game, it was Marshall's Rakeem Cato. He tagged defenses for 350 yards per game, and he has the talent to take Marshall to the 2013 postseason handily.
Cato passed for over 4,000 yards and tossed 37 touchdowns to 11 interceptions last season. If he can bring that interception total down and the defense can step up, the Thundering Herd will be playing in more than just 12 games this year.
What to fear: Stefon Diggs
Clearly the best player for the Maryland Terrapins, Stefon Diggs will lead the offense once again in 2013. He caught 54 passes for 848 yards and six touchdowns last season alone, and he added 114 rushing yards off 20 carries as well.
He's a threat any time he touches the ball, and he will play the biggest role in Maryland's potential success this fall.
What to fear: Rob Blanchflower
Rob Blanchflower was the most productive tight end on the squad last year, and he is also the best all-around offensive target returning for the 2013 season.
Blanchflower caught 43 passes for 464 yards and two touchdowns in 2012. If he can improve on that performance, Massachusetts can win much more than just one game.
What to fear: Jacob Karam
Memphis quarterback Jacob Karam went 176-of-274 last season for 1,895 yards, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also scrambled for 221 yards and another trip to the end zone.
Karam won't lead Memphis to a BCS bowl in 2013, but he is talented enough to get the Tigers into the postseason. That is, if the rest of the team is up to snuff.
What to fear: Duke Johnson
There are many fearsome people at Miami, but Duke Johnson is by far the best. Johnson rushed 139 times for 947 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012, and the Hurricanes were candidates for the conference title game.
Miami will be in the hunt for the ACC crown and the Orange Bowl again in 2013. If Johnson performs at his peak all season, he could take the Doak Walker Award home as well.
What to fear: Offensive experience
On offense, the Redhawks return eight starters. On defense, they return six. Unfortunately for Miami, one of the offensive losses was quarterback Zac Dysert.
This coming season will not be easy for Miami, but the offense will be the strength of the team. That, and every player on offense will be fighting as if his life depended on it. It's not easy to replace a quarterback, but the Redhawks have a good foundation for the new guy to build on.
What to fear: Taylor Lewan
Possibly the best offensive lineman in the country, Lewan strutted around the Outback Bowl, holding Jadeveon Clowney to less-than-respectable stats all day long.
If you've heard of Clowney and know enough to be afraid of him, how much more should you fear the guy who manhandled him for an entire game?
Lewan is that guy, and the Michigan Wolverines will ride his skill to the postseason yet again in 2013.
Michigan State Spartans
What to fear: Andrew Maxwell
Andrew Maxwell completed 234 passes for 2,606 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions through the 2012 season. He has a year under his belt, now, and Michigan State should be back to contend for the Big Ten title in 2013.
While losing Le'Veon Bell to the NFL was a setback, it's not nearly as big a setback as the loss of Kirk Cousins the year before. Maxwell should be ready to lead the offense as intended in 2013.
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
What to fear: Logan Kilgore
Middle Tennessee State is moving from the Sun Belt to the American Athletic Conference this season, and quarterback Logan Kilgore will lead the inaugural charge.
Kilgore tossed 212 completions for 2,571 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions through his final season in the Sun Belt, and he should compete in his new conference.
It's doubtful that the Blue Raiders will take the conference, but with all the new teams joining in 2013, they could easily establish themselves above the middle of the pack.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
What to fear: Donnell Kirkwood
Kirkwood had a good year in 2012, but he'll be looking for more in 2013. He carried the ball 218 times for 926 yards and six touchdowns.
That isn't a great set of stats, but he has a lot of potential. Given the circumstances around the rest of the offense, he is the biggest threat anywhere on the field at all times.
*For anyone wondering about A.J. Barker, he will not be returning to Minnesota.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
What to fear: Tyler Russell
Tyler Russell is the leader of the Mississippi State offense, and he performed extremely well for the first half of 2012. Overall, he went 231-of-394 for 2,897 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last year.
Out of his 10 interceptions, six came in the final two games against Ole Miss and Northwestern. If he can keep himself calm and collected in the pocket, the Bulldogs are capable of beating anyone on their schedule.
What to fear: A healthy team
Missouri was so plagued by injury last season that there was practically no game in which the Tigers were at 100 percent.
Missouri nonetheless almost beat Florida, Vanderbilt and Syracuse last season. With a depth chart full of healthy players, there's no telling what the Tigers can do.
What to fear: Keenan Reynolds
Navy runs a triple option, but quarterback Keenan Reynolds has officially changed that. While he successfully ran the option and won six of the eight games he started, he was much better in passing situations.
Reynolds went 61-of-108 passes for 898 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. As the coaches build the new offense around him, expect to see Navy win a lot more games in 2013. Anyone that's good enough to alter an offensive philosophy should make any opponent more than a little nervous.
What to fear: Taylor Martinez
Taylor Martinez is an excellent quarterback. He's a threat to score with his arm or his legs on any play, even if it looks like a lost cause on the screen.
Martinez completed 228 of his 368 passes last season for 2,871 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also ran for 1,019 yards and 10 more scores via 195 attempts.
Nevada Wolf Pack
What to fear: Cody Fajardo
Cody Fajardo passed for 2,786 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year. Even with the loss of superstar tailback Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada's outlook for the 2013 season is good.
Fajardo added 1,121 yards and 12 more touchdowns via 190 carries to his 2012 total. He is good enough to help account for the loss of Jefferson in 2013. He is the most monstrous person on the Nevada roster, and any team who doesn't prepare well for him will simply limp away with a huge loss.
New Mexico Lobos
What to fear: Kasey Carrier
Kasey Carrier was far and away the greatest offensive weapon in New Mexico's arsenal. He tallied over 1,500 yards of total offense, and he scored 15 touchdowns. The Lobos as a team scored only 39 touchdowns.
Carrier will be the one person that none of the coaches need worry about in 2013, but he'll be the one player that opposing defenses need to constantly keep an eye—or 22—on.
New Mexico State Aggies
What to fear: Austin Franklin
If Austin Franklin can get his grades to where the coach wants them, then he'll be back on the field in the fall for the New Mexico State Aggies. He finished 2012 with 74 receptions, 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns for New Mexico State, solidifying himself as the key player on the offense.
If he's back, he will again be the defining player for the Aggies this season.
North Carolina Tar Heels
What to fear: Bryn Renner
Despite his less-than-jovial reaction to the fainting goats prank, Bryn Renner is a wonderful asset to the North Carolina Tar Heels. He went 276-of-422 for 3,356 yards, 28 touchdowns and just seven interceptions last season.
However, he also had Giovani Bernard snagging yardage for him this past year, which will not be the case in 2013.
Renner will be expected to lead UNC back to the top of the ACC this fall, and he has the talent to do so. The only question is whether the rest of the team can compete with the likes of Florida State, Clemson and Miami.
NC State Wolfpack
What to fear: Shadrach Thornton
Shadrach Thornton was NC State's leading rusher in 2012 with 694 yards off 154 carries.
Thornton will not have the threat of Mike Glennon under center this time around, so his road to success will be tougher come this fall. However, he'll still be the go-to player on the offensive side of the ball. He will be the linchpin for NC State's success in 2013. Stop him, and you'll stop the Wolfpack.
North Texas Mean Green
What to fear: Brandin Byrd
Brandin Byrd gouged defenses for 860 yards and proved that he's an every-down back by carrying the ball 205 times last season. Byrd will be the leader of the 2013 offense, and he will provide relief if quarterback Derek Thompson can't put a lid on his proclivity to toss interceptions.
Northern Illinois Huskies
What to fear: Jordan Lynch
Jordan Lynch led the Northern Illinois Huskies to the first BCS bowl in school history. It was also the first BCS appearance by any team from the Mid-American Conference. While the Orange Bowl didn't end like the Huskies would have liked, they were within striking distance of the Florida State Seminoles until the fourth quarter.
Lynch amassed over 3,000 passing yards and over 1,800 rushing yards through the 2012 season. He tossed 25 touchdowns, six interceptions and ran for 19 more scores in the process. He's lethal as long as his offensive line can buy him enough time to work his magic.
What to fear: Venric Mark
Venric Mark was crucial to Northwestern's successful 2012 bowl-winning season, totaling 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns via 226 carries for the Wildcats.
Mark might have a tough time repeating the statistical feat, but Oregon has been running the zone read for a while now, and the Ducks are consistently successful. This means that Mark could very well be the reason that Northwestern has a legitimate shot at the Big Ten title when December rolls around.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
What to fear: Brian Kelly
Sure, there's Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt and a host of other names to fear at Notre Dame, but the whole reason that they are even on the map is because Brian Kelly masterminded the entire outfit.
Kelly has brought success to Notre Dame again, and that alone should strike fear into the hearts of his opponents. The championship appearance will only fuel the fire in South Bend.
What to fear: Tyler Tettleton
Tyler Tettleton was 228-of-367 last season for 2,844 yards, 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He's a clean, level-headed passer with a tank to assist him. That tank is running back Beau Blankenship.
Tettleton has his beast of burden to force the defense to respect the run, and all he has to do is decide how often to use him. If he can keep a clear head through 2013, he will gouge defenses all the way to the postseason.
Over-preparation for Blankenship will merely allow Tettleton to slash your secondary. Watch out.
Ohio State Buckeyes
What to fear: Braxton Miller
While Urban Meyer is a great head coach, and he has earned respect from his peers all over the country, the bigger thing to be cautious about is Braxton Miller.
Miller finished 2012 in command of the only undefeated FBS team in the country. He had over 2,000 passing yards and over 1,200 rushing yards, which cemented him as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.
Miller could lead the Ohio State Buckeyes to the national championship game in 2013, and overlooking him certainly won't stop him from doing so.
What to fear: Bob Stoops
Bob Stoops and the rest of the Oklahoma Sooners just lost their starting quarterback, Landry Jones, this offseason. The key to Oklahoma's success in 2013 is Stoops alone. How well can he adjust? How quickly can he develop a plan that will hinge less on the passer than during Jones' reign of terror?
Stoops' teams are always highly regarded, and 2013 should be no different. If teams overlook Oklahoma because of the absent players, then the Sooners could slip right into the conference crown while no one is looking.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
What to fear: The quarterbacks
With Wes Lunt out of the picture, Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh will have the dual-quarterback slots locked up. This will allow them to focus more on practice, timing and overall offensive execution in preparation for the 2013 season.
Chelf and Walsh combined for over 3,100 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season. Chelf is currently listed as the starter, but don't prepare for either passer too much. The other one is always fresh on the sideline to take over in any emergency.
Preparing for two quarterbacks is difficult, especially when both are good.
Old Dominion Monarchs
What to fear: Taylor Heinicke
Taylor Heinicke set an NCAA record last season against New Hampshire by throwing for 730 yards in one game. That's correct, one game. Also of note: The Old Dominion Monarchs won that game by three points, so it was not an Alabama-vs.-Western Carolina situation.
The Monarchs needed Heinicke to step up in record-breaking fashion, and he did. Now, the Monarchs are moving to the FBS, and he will help usher in the new era. If 730 yards doesn't scare you, you either have a great defense or don't realize that there are some FBS defenses who would be incapable of stopping him.
Ole Miss Rebels
What to fear: Hugh Freeze
Ole Miss got a jump-start when Hugh Freeze took over, and he improved the win total by five in his first season. He also took command of the SEC recruiting trail and posted the No. 5 class in the nation for 2013.
Freeze is building a monster on the Ole Miss depth chart, and the SEC has only a couple more years before that dragon is vying for the conference title. If teams start overlooking Ole Miss again, that time line will get a lot shorter.
What to fear: The backfield
Between Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas, there's no limit to what Oregon can accomplish in 2013. If you toss in tight end Colt Lyerla (not in the backfield), you've got a recipe for dizzying numbers from the Oregon Ducks...again.
Mariota and Thomas will carry this team to wherever it goes. Mariota will continue to be a lethal distributor of the football, and Thomas will be a bottle of lightning for the Ducks to unleash at will. Both of these guys are legitimate Heisman contenders, and there's a good possibility that Oregon will end up in the national championship game.
Oregon State Beavers
What to fear: Storm Woods
Storm Woods had a breakout season as a freshman. He racked up 940 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Oregon State Beavers last year.
Woods was one of the most powerful players on the team during his rookie run, and he'll be back with experience in 2013. If the quarterbacks fix the interception issues, Oregon State has no limits.
Penn State Nittany Lions
What to fear: Bill O'Brien
Bill O'Brien took the challenge of coaching Penn State through the storm of sanctions. So far, he's done more than anyone expected. His Nittany Lions finished behind only Ohio State in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten last year.
His ability to motivate a heartbroken team to an eight-win season after a terrible 0-2 start is nothing short of amazing. If he can keep its spirits high over the next few seasons, Penn State will come back from this stronger than ever.
In 2013, the major challenge is to maintain focus and continue to play at the high level the Nittany Lions have become accustomed to. If they are overlooked by anyone, Penn State will make that team pay dearly for the oversight.
What to fear: The near-total reorganization of the offense
If you look at Pitt's stat sheet from 2012 and compare it to the 2013 depth chart, you'll notice a lot of changes. The offense differs greatly, and the majority of the slots are filled by juniors and seniors.
This is similar to the change that Hugh Freeze made at Ole Miss before and during the 2012 season. When an offense is revamped as much as Pitt's has been, the first question that should come to mind is "Why?"
The answer is simple. Unless the coach is an idiot, it's to improve the chances of winning football games. Pitt's team looks almost nothing like it did last season. That should be welcome news to Panthers fans and terrible news for the opposition.
What to fear: The unknown
Purdue had some success in 2012, and the team is heading for great things in the future if that momentum stays consistent. However, the Boilermakers are replacing 19 seniors from 2012's starting lineup.
While it would be safe to assume that there will be drop-off from 2012 to 2013, nobody will know the truth until the season starts. Purdue may slide back into mediocrity before moving back up, or the new slew of starters may be even better than last year's group.
Do not underestimate the Boilermakers—that's exactly what they want you to do.
What to fear: Taylor McHargue's momentum
Rice Owls quarterback Taylor McHargue finished the 2012 season on a 6-1 streak that ended on a 19-point win over the Air Force Falcons.
This streak came after a horrible 1-5 start to that same year. As 2013 approaches, the question your team should be asking itself is "Which McHargue will we face?"
It would be best to assume that the second-half McHargue will be leading the Rice Owls this fall. If that's the case, then Rice is about to impress a lot of general college football fans.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
What to fear: Gary Nova's improvement
Without any interceptions from Gary Nova during the second half of the 2012 season, Rutgers would have been a 12-win team. Nova has improved through the spring, and he is more ready than ever to lead Rutgers to victory.
Nova is ready to lead a team that he wasn't ready to lead last season. Last year started off with seven straight wins. What will 2013 bring?
San Diego State Aztecs
San Jose State Spartans
What to fear: David Fales
David Fales was one of the top quarterbacks in the country last season, and he'll return to lead the San Jose State Spartans for one final jaunt in 2013.
Fales passed for over 4,000 yards, and he threw 33 touchdowns to just nine interceptions in 2012. He also came within a field goal of toppling the eventual Pac-12 champion Stanford Cardinal. In 2013, he'll make the trip to Stanford to attempt the grudge win, but there isn't an impossible game on his schedule, including that one.
What to fear: Rushing defense
The SMU Mustangs earned the top rank in Conference USA in rushing defense, allowing only 117.9 yards per game. (Second place was Tulsa at 119.5.)
The Mustangs may be a long way away from a conference title due to their relative lack of offense, but their defense carries more than just its own weight. SMU is simply one solid quarterback away from contending for the C-USA crown.
Don't sleep on its defense.
South Alabama Jaguars
What to fear: Passing defense
South Alabama will suit up for its first season as a full FBS member in 2013, even though the Jaguars played a full Sun Belt schedule last season.
The major point that the Jags have in their favor is a strong passing defense. Despite all the disappointing losses from last season, they finished at No. 3 in the conference in that category. South Alabama still has a way to go before contending for the Sun Belt title, but the defense seems to be coming along quite nicely down there.
South Carolina Gamecocks
What to fear: Jadeveon Clowney
Jadeveon Clowney is heading for the pole position in the 2014 NFL draft if he keeps playing like he has been since he came out of high school. Clowney is a game-changer, and he's a stellar producer on the South Carolina defensive line.
Clowney will be a college football legend, and hits like the one in the featured video are going to be around for years to come.
South Florida Bulls
What to fear: Willie Taggart
Willie Taggart was hired as the head coach of the South Florida Bulls after Skip Holtz simply didn't work out. Taggart previously assumed command of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, and he led them to the 2012 Little Ceaesar's Bowl.
That was Western Kentucky's first bowl since joining the FBS in 2008. Whether or not you are afraid of the South Florida Bulls, Taggart will build a frightening squad in no time.
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
What to fear: Jalen Richard
Southern Miss has a running back who made a bit of a name for himself in 2012. It's Jalen Richard. He finished at No. 21 in C-USA in all-purpose yardage. He also logged 426 yards and four touchdowns off 87 carries last season.
Richard is the primary player in the Golden Eagles offense this coming season, and he's good enough to net them a couple of wins on his own. After all, he was only a freshman last season.
What to fear: David Shaw
David Shaw has built a powerhouse at Stanford, and the Cardinal won the Pac-12 Championship Game last season during the rebuilding year that Andrew Luck left in his wake.
Shaw has put together a formidable defense, and his offense is simply waiting for a star quarterback to emerge. Stanford needs that quarterback in order to contend for a national title, but Shaw's incredibly successful system is apparently always capable of bringing home at least one trophy.
What to fear: Dyshawn Davis
Many Syracuse fans may have been wondering what they were going to look forward to after the losses to the NFL. Enter Dyshawn Davis, who finished last year as the No. 5 player in the Big East in tackles for loss.
Davis will anchor the Syracuse defense as it attempts to be powerful enough to allow Ryan Nassib's replacement to get comfortable running the offense. The good news for Orange fans is that they couldn't ask for a much better linebacker to do the job.
Yes, he should be ready to play this fall.
What to fear: Connor Reilly
Temple had a bit of a coup occur during the spring practice cycle. Former fourth-string quarterback Connor Reilly got himself promoted to the starting position. In the meantime, previous starter Chris Coyer has been practicing at various positions, including tight end/halfback.
Reilly's arm strength has netted him the job, and he'll have an excellent athlete as a target if Coyer works out at a skill position. Regardless of how this finally works itself out, Temple may be ready to gouge other teams if they don't respect the Owls offense.
What to fear: Butch Jones
With the departure of Derek Dooley, gone are the days where one can assume that Tennessee will end the season at the bottom of the SEC. Butch Jones was snarfed away from Cincinnati to rebuild the Tennessee Volunteers beginning in 2013.
With a better recruiting base to work with, people will finally get to see what Jones is capable of. He built a solid, yet inconsistent defense at Cincinnati, and his offense won more games than it lost.
If he can get more consistency out of the Tennessee defense, then the SEC is going to have a new contender. If the power programs overlook Tennessee in 2013, then the Vols may make it to the Chick-fil-A Bowl or better as early as this winter.
What to fear: A healthy roster
Texas' defense wasn't anything to write home about last season, and it was largely due to injuries decimating the star players. The Longhorns will enter the fall at full capacity if everything continues normally through the summer.
This is bad news for Texas' enemies, but it's great news for head coach Mack Brown. After three mediocre seasons, the Longhorns are getting desperate for something like a conference title. (Yes, in Texas, a nine-win season is mediocre.)
Fear the healthy roster. When Texas is at 100 percent, nobody is unbeatable to it.
Texas A&M Aggies
What to fear: Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and he was a lowly redshirt freshman last season. A&M's opponents all have a year of game tape on him, but Manziel also has a full year of development under his belt.
It's probable that nobody will underestimate the Aggies, but if they did (even for just 15 minutes), Texas A&M will walk away with a win. If you don't believe that, just check with Alabama, the Tide will verify that claim.
TCU Horned Frogs
What to fear: The entire defense
TCU has a couple of headliners on defense, namely Devonte Fields and Jason Verrett. Fields will be missing from the first two games of the season, but he will return in time for all of the Big 12 games if he keeps his nose clean.
TCU was No. 2 in scoring defense in the Big 12 conference last season, and that was the Horned Frogs' first season out of the MWC. This time around, a lot of the opponents will be breaking in new quarterbacks.
If your team isn't ready for a blood, sweat and tears match with the Frogs, don't bother to show up.
Texas State Bobcats
What to fear: Tim Gay
Tim Gay was the second-best freshman running back in the Western Athletic Conference last season. Texas State's top returning rusher amassed 279 yards and one touchdown off just 27 carries in 2012.
Bobcats fans have to be salivating at the prospect of seeing a 10-yard-per-carry back take over the starting role for their team. Defenses, on the other hand, would rather he didn't.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
What to fear: Michael Brewer
Michael Brewer was the freshman quarterback who made Tommy Tuberville's first-string quarterback decision much harder than some would have guessed.
Brewer is now set to take over for the Texas Tech Red Raiders as Tuberville has left for the Cincinnati Bearcats. If Brewer is close to as good as Seth Doege was, then Texas Tech is in for a wonderful surprise in 2013.
Of course, that wouldn't do anything for the defense's chances for success, but it would definitely make things easier. Brewer could be the player that ushers in a new era of success for the Red Raiders.
What to fear: Terrance Owens
Owens will be back in 2013 to finish out his collegiate career with as much success as possible. If he follows his stat line from 2012 next year (216-of-351, 2,714 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions), then Toledo's foes are in for another rude awakening this fall.
What to fear: Corey Robinson
He went 257-of-389 for 3,121 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. If he polishes his game during the offseason, Troy could be contending for the Sun Belt title in 2013. The Trojans don't have as many great players as a team like Oregon, but they have plenty to work with as far as the Sun Belt is concerned.
Tulane Green Wave
What to fear: Cairo Santos
Yes, it's another kicker, but as discussed before, a great kicker is not to be taken for granted. It's one thing to attempt to get three points, it's another thing entirely to know that you're basically guaranteed three points when your guy warms up.
Cairo Santos was 21-of-21 on field goals last season, and he hit 12 of them from 40 yards or longer. If you want to practice something before taking on Tulane, kick-blocking immediately comes to mind. If not, Santos could stab you to death slowly with his foot.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
What to fear: Trey Watts
Trey Watts carried the ball 186 times in 2012 for 1,108 yards and three touchdowns. He added 34 receptions for 343 yards as well. Watts is the best returning offensive player, and the competition isn't even that close.
Watts will take the field and gouge defenses once again, and Tulsa should end up in the C-USA Championship Game yet again.
What to fear: Darrin Reaves
Darrin Reaves was the fourth-best tailback in C-USA last season, and he will be called upon in 2013 to take some pressure off the quarterback. Austin Brown threw 15 touchdowns to 12 interceptions in 2012, and a little misdirection would help him calm down and make better decisions.
Expect Reaves to carry the ball well over 200 times again in 2013 and gain a lot more than 1,000 yards. He is a definite first-down threat any time he touches the ball, even if the Blazers are content to let other people do the scoring.
What to fear: Blake Bortles
Quarterback Blake Bortles will be a junior in 2013, which is Central Florida's first season in the AAC (former Big East). Bortles went 251-of-399 for 3,059 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions in C-USA last season, and that skill will carry over to his new conference quite well.
While teams like Louisville are preparing for Houston, Cincinnati and the rest of the headliners in the conference, UCF stands to gain from the divided attention.
What to fear: Brett Hundley
Brett Hundley led UCLA to the Pac-12 Championship Game in his freshman season last year, and the Pac-12 should be scared of him in 2013.
Coming off a 319-of-479 performance that yielded 3,745 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, Hundley will be looking to assert his dominance over the rest of the Pac-12 South this fall.
He suffered some key losses that called his skill into question, but he made one thing clear last season: He is a force to be reckoned with. Hundley could take the Pac-12 by storm if his defense steps up just enough to convert points into wins.
What to fear: Nick Sherry not throwing interceptions
Nick Sherry had good stats, except for one category. Sherry completed 226-of-426 passes for 2,544 yards, 16 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. The UNLV Rebels lost six games by two or fewer possessions, and just a little work on game tape could put Sherry in the driver's seat for a postseason appearance.
If teams look at his stat line and relax, then he could end up surprising a lot of them by simply not making those bad decisions again.
What to fear: Marqise Lee
Marqise Lee is regarded by many to be the best wide receiver in the NCAA today. Anyone who has played against the USC Trojans would likely agree with that assessment, with the possible exception of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Lee caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, even without Matt Barkley for a few games (due to injury). Lee will be the biggest threat to opposing defenses all season. With an entire offseason to get timing issues ironed out with his new quarterback, Lee may be in for his best season of all right before he declares for the draft.
If your team loses sight of his talent, he will make the new passer look a lot better than he really is.
What to fear: Rushing defense
Utah ranked second in the Pac-12 against the run last year. Considering the lineup of teams such as Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, etc., that is quite an accomplishment. While some of the individual players are gone from the squad, the overall spirit of the team is still going to bring excellent results in 2013.
Utah State Aggies
What to fear: Chuckie Keeton
Chuckie Keeton has been named to the preseason Heisman watch list for the 2013 season. That list contains only 19 quarterbacks.
Keeton completed 275 of his 407 attempts for 3,373 yards, 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year, as Utah State made its way to an 11-win season. Utah State lost only two games in 2012, and it lost by a combined five points.
If teams don't fear Keeton, he will reel off a perfect season before anyone even realizes the Aggies are in contention for a BCS bowl.
What to fear: Nathan Jeffery
Jeffery is the type of rusher that can take a lot of the cranial stress off the quarterback during the game. If Jeffery is allowed to run rampant at 100-percent capacity, then the rest of C-USA is in for a world of hurt. Conference championship? Unlikely, but still possible. However, the Miners could easily pull themselves up from the bottom of the conference.
What to fear: Eric Soza
Eric Soza might be the most under-the-radar quarterback in the country at the moment. Soza went 166-of-282 for 2,085 yards, 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions. (That's almost the exact same touchdown-to-interception ratio that Geno Smith had in 2012.)
Soza will need the rest of the team to join him at his elite-looking level in order to walk away with a great season in 2013, but he's solidly ensconced in the "most fearsome" slot on the UTSA Roadrunners' roster.
What to fear: Jordan Matthews
Jordan Matthews is good enough to make Jordan Rodgers' replacement look a good bit better than he is. Of course, leading a quarterback off with a stellar receiver is a good way to get him to grow up quickly.
Matthews caught 94 passes for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Since Zac Stacy is gone, Matthews will be Vanderbilt's go-to target on offense. Expect to see him all over the field running all kinds of routes.
Got him covered deep? Expect him to skip in on a shallow crossing route. Matthews will make a lot of defenses look silly this fall.
What to fear: Passing attack
Regardless of who finally wins the starting quarterback position, Virginia's passing attack is exceptionally balanced. Last season alone, there were eight different players with more than 125 receiving yards.
Six of those players had more than 350 receiving yards. The frightening thing about the Cavaliers isn't the specific quarterback, it's the mentality that permeates the program. You don't see passers singling out one receiver very often. They simply throw to who is open.
It's actually frustrating to look at Virginia's final scores, because the Cavaliers have so much right on the mental side of the field.
Virginia Tech Hokies
What to fear: The Hokies defense
In 2012, Virginia Tech finished second in the ACC in both total and scoring defense. The Hokies are not to be taken lightly, even when quarterback Logan Thomas isn't playing at his best.
Virginia Tech is on the verge of winning the ACC, and possibly getting to the national title game via an undefeated season. Last season, the offense was the reason the Hokies failed to win the conference. If Thomas can step his game up a bit, the Hokies defense will put them right back into the Orange Bowl.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
What to fear: Michael Campanaro
Michael Campanaro amassed 763 yards and six touchdowns off a scant 79 receptions in 2012. Even though Wake Forest finished near the bottom of the conference (only three teams finished with worse overall records), Campanaro still did his best to bring home wins for the Demon Deacons.
Campanaro should be the centerpiece of the Demon Deacons offense in 2013, because he has earned it. If you want to shut them down, then shut him down.
What to fear: Keith Price
Keith Price is a winner. In 2012, he took down the then-No. 8 Stanford Cardinal (something even the Oregon Ducks couldn't manage to do), and Price also took down then-No. 7 Oregon State in late October.
Price has another year of experience under his belt, and a lot of those close losses from 2012 will not happen again. Look for Washington to take home around 10 wins in 2013.
Washington State Cougars
What to fear: Dominique Williams
In 2013, Dominique Williams will be a sophomore. As a freshman, Williams caught 34 passes for 546 yards and three touchdowns. He had the highest yards-per-reception average on the squad, and he's going to be one of the favorite targets this fall.
He will have a breakout season this year, and defenses had better figure out that he's one that they need to keep tabs on quickly. If not, he may just use them to make a real name for himself.
West Virginia Mountaineers
What to fear: Karl Joseph
While West Virginia isn't known for its stellar defense, safety Karl Joseph could be one of the first players to help shatter the stereotype. As a freshman in 2012, he destroyed opposing offenses. He collected 102 tackles (76 solo), seven tackles for loss, one sack, six pass breakups, three forced fumbles and two interceptions.
He was a lone ranger on defense who protected the end zone all by himself. West Virginia defenders would do themselves a lot of good by following his example. Heaven help the Big 12 when he's a junior.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
What to fear: Bobby Petrino
Bobby Petrino built a national title contender at Arkansas in the SEC West amidst teams like Alabama, LSU and Auburn. Petrino had a midlife crisis that cost him almost everything he had going for him, but fans witnessed the complete meltdown that struck the Razorbacks upon his departure.
Now that everyone knows how good he is, they know what to expect out of Western Kentucky over the next few seasons (beginning in 2013). The Hilltoppers are already successful in the Sun Belt, and Petrino could take them from conference contenders to regulars in the postseason.
It will all start this fall, and the Sun Belt should be very nervous about what's happening at WKU.
Western Michigan Broncos
What to fear: Dareyon Chance
Western Michigan's headliner is running back Dareyon Chance. Chance rushed 176 times for a total of 947 yards and four touchdowns. Chance is the point man for the Broncos offense, and to ignore him (or think lowly of him) is essentially to throw the game.
What to fear: Gary Andersen
Gary Andersen is taking over at Wisconsin after a four-year stint with the Utah State Aggies. His 2012 Aggies finished seventh in the country in terms of scoring defense, having allowed only 15.4 points per game.
Wisconsin was already good enough to tie for second in the Big Ten in scoring defense at 19.1 points per game allowed. If you thought it was hard to beat Wisconsin as is, imagine a Badgers squad that allows 60 fewer points per season.
What to fear: The rushing attack
While these four didn't finish at the top of the MWC last season, they finished at Nos. 21, 22, 23 and 24 in the conference: D.J. May (freshman), Shaun Wick (freshman), Brandon Miller (junior) and Brett Smith (sophomore).
Each one of them gained well over 200 yards, and the quartet combined for 12 of Wyoming's 13 rushing touchdowns. They are not ready to be called the Four Horsemen (that nickname's already taken anyway), but they can definitely qualify as four horsemen (lower case).
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