25 Teams Who Have the Most Work to Do in Fall Practice

Jonathan McDanal@@jdmcdanalContributor IIIJuly 9, 2013

25 Teams Who Have the Most Work to Do in Fall Practice

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    When fall practice hits, coaches all know what they have to work with. The practice sessions to determine who plays at what position are already over (though starting roles may still have to be ironed out). Every team has a lot of work to do simply to maintain success.

    However, there are dozens of teams who have the deck stacked against them this coming season.

    Here are the 25 teams with the most work to do this fall. From the American Athletic Conference to the Pac-12, every BCS-AQ conference is represented by at least one team.

    The teams are presented in alphabetical order.

    *Auburn is not listed, because Gus Malzahn should be able to rearrange the current talent to a satisfactory result with little work beyond what has already been done through the spring workout period.

    *Stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com and Rivals.com unless noted otherwise.

Arizona Wildcats

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    Ka'Deem Carey is going to be one of the most statistically impressive running backs in the nation next season. Outside of Carey, though, Arizona has a lot of work to do.

    Quarterback Matt Scott is gone, and the Arizona defense doesn't inspire a lot of faith based on the 2012 season's mixed results. The Wildcats held Washington to 17 points, yet they allowed both Oregon and UCLA to flat-out blow them away.

    There are improvements to be made at Arizona, and fall camp is the last chance the Wildcats have to get better before the rubber meets the road in August.

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Tyler Wilson and John L. Smith are gone. That's a mixed bag of news right there. Wisconsin's Bret Bielema has taken control of the squad, and he has a lot of the talent on the roster that contributed to the 11-2 Cotton Bowl run of 2011.

    The Arkansas Razorbacks were a great team in 2011 and a terrible team in 2012. The only difference between the two seasons was coaching. In 2013, there is a vast improvement at head coach, but the stellar quarterback is gone.

    While Arkansas will be decidedly better this August, fall camp provides the final opportunity for Bielema to get these guys working together as a team. There is a lot to overcome, but it can be done.

Baylor Bears

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    Baylor's strength is its offensive line, but there are some key players missing from the 2012 roster. Among the absent are the cornerstones of the 2012 offense. The two biggest returning starters are Lache Seastrunk (RB) and Cyril Richardson (OL).

    Baylor has plenty to build on, but there are some major questions which need answers during fall practice. Who will step up as quarterback, if anyone can? How much will the defense improve?

    Baylor has a lot of issues to address, but Art Briles has proved that the Bears are not to be trifled with on any weekend.

Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Cincinnati is under a new head coach, and the Bearcats are currently taking a backseat to the Louisville Cardinals. Cincinnati has to figure out whether Munchie Legaux can bring back his peak performance from 2012 and whether the defense can back him up.

    If Cincinnati can focus on its weaknesses through fall practice, then the Bearcats could be the surprise BCS team from the American Athletic Conference. It's all about whether Tommy Tuberville can get more consistency out of the Cincinnati defense than he did out of Texas Tech's.

    That, and of course, Munchie Legaux's consistency under center.

Florida Gators

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    Florida's abysmal passing attack (No. 118 on that list) from 2012 cannot rear its head again in 2013 if the Gators expect to contend for anything. Sure, the Gators' defense was incredible, and that nearly backed them into the national championship game.

    However, there is a lot of work to do in fall camp. The Gators lost a lot of talent to the NFL this past draft, and none of those players will be easy to replace. Fall practice is the last chance Florida has to get its act together before the score starts to matter.

Florida State Seminoles

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    Florida State led all college football teams with 11 players selected in the 2013 NFL draft. Unfortunately, this means that the Seminoles lost 11 NFL-caliber players this past offseason.

    Toss in the transfer of Clint Trickett to West Virginia, and you've got a real code-red situation under Jimbo Fisher this fall. New signal-caller Jameis Winston looks like a solid building block for the future, but that future started in 2012.

    Florida State fans aren't going to take kindly to a severe regression in 2013. A regression, sure, but not a big one. Florida State has one set of practices left to get a conference contender ready for battle.

Indiana Hoosiers

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    Indiana came within four points of beating four separate teams on its 2012 schedule, including the all-powerful, unbeatable Ohio State Buckeyes. That raises one major question: Was it a fluke?

    The answer to that question will begin being answered during this coming fall camp. Indiana doesn't have much work to do to cross the threshold between a football team and a bowl-bound program.

    We're talking about three field goals, one touchdown and a resulting overtime victory that would have made the difference between only four wins and only four losses for the year.

    Indiana is one of the biggest potential surprises in the Big Ten, and a good-to-great fall camp is the linchpin. With hard work, Indiana can be relevant before March Madness tips off.

LSU Tigers

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    LSU is at a critical juncture this fall. The Tigers were a mere 60 minutes away from a national championship in 2011, and they followed that up with a three-loss run through 2012.

    Of course, two of those three losses were by a combined 12 points, and the other was due to Les Miles' inexplicable non-use of time consumption against Clemson late in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Therefore, the 2012 season wasn't actually all that bad, it was just disappointing.

    Do the Tigers have what it takes to reclaim a top position in the SEC? With Les Miles and John Chavis on staff, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" Did LSU lose a lot to the draft and give itself a lot of work to do? As usual, yes.

    LSU always has work to do, because it's always pumping talent into the pros. LSU also seems to get the work done on a regular basis. However, with most of the attention on Alabama and Texas A&M, the Tigers have no time to wast before opening against TCU.

Louisville Cardinals

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    Not to take away from what Teddy Bridgewater and the Louisville Cardinals did to Florida in the Sugar Bowl, but the Gators were not impressive in the early parts of the game. Of course, Bridgewater and the Louisville defense stemmed the tide late in the game to bring home a more-than-impressive win.

    That put a giant spotlight on the Cardinals and head coach Charlie Strong. If Louisville had played that well through every game of the season, the Cardinals could have made it to the national championship against an undefeated Notre Dame.

    Sadly, now that everyone in the country knows about Louisville, the Cardinals have a ton of work to do during fall camp. Bridgewater is quite possibly the only player on the team who doesn't have a long list of improvements to make. (Hakeem Smith might also be just fine, for those who are wondering.)

    Louisville will be given the trial of its life in 2013, as no team in its right mind will bring less than 100 percent to the table. If Louisville does its fall camp right, the Cardinals could be in the final BCS National Championship Game come January.

Michigan State Spartans

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    Michigan State hasn't been the same since Kirk Cousins left. Cousins was so good that Michigan State could rip apart almost any team in the Big Ten. The great news for Michigan State is that he wasn't so good that they couldn't succeed without him.

    MSU lost all six games in 2012 by a combined 30 points, and the Notre Dame loss accounted for more than half (17) of them. If the football were spherical and predictable instead of an unpredictable egg, the Spartans might have had just one loss.

    As usual, the Spartans are up against some great teams in 2013, and the gauntlet will not be forgiving. Even with a stellar run through the regular season, a Big Ten Championship Game would still stand between them and a BCS bowl (or title game).

    Michigan State has a lot of work to do this fall, especially with the loss of Le'Veon Bell. However, the Spartans should not be discounted as a Big Ten contender. To discount them would all but guarantee an MSU conference title.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    The Minnesota Golden Gophers have more work to do than most of the teams on this list. While they certainly had a great 2012 season, there was much to be desired as well.

    Even with seven losses by anywhere from one to four possessions, the Golden Gophers pulled off a major moral victory in the postseason by holding Texas Tech (led by Seth Doege) to within three points.

    While the Gophers won't be expected to win a lot in 2013, with some major work in the fall, that Texas Tech game could be a perfect example of exactly what's coming. If the Gophers can play that game 12 times in a row, they could contend with anyone in the conference for a shot at the Capital One or Outback Bowl.

Missouri Tigers

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    Missouri faced a wealth of opposition last season. Attempting to find a place amongst the nation's best collection of teams is already difficult, but the Tigers faced a slew of injuries and even a monsoon against Alabama on the journey.

    Missouri isn't nearly as bad as its 2012 record reflected, but it also has a load of work to do this fall. The only sliver lining to that black cloud is that Missouri's opponents, in general, will overlook the Tigers.

    This fall, the Tigers should adopt the "If a little gos a long way, how far will a lot go?" motto. The Tigers can essentially ambush the SEC with the proper workout/drill regimen this fall.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Nebraska needs to work on two major areas of interest this fall: the offensive line and the defense (yes, the whole defense). Yes, there are people all over the field who are doing well, but the 2012 Big Ten title game proved that there was a way to decimate the Cornhuskers' defense.

    Georgia couldn't duplicate Wisconsin's success, but that doesn't mean that nobody can. Certainly, the Big Ten offenses who are intimately familiar with Nebraska's style could take advantage of that game tape.

    Nebraska has an excellent core of Ameer Abdullah, Taylor Martinez, Spencer Long and others. However, if the rest of the team doesn't step up and assist the core, Nebraska's in for a long season.

Northwestern Wildcats

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    Northwestern already took the Big Ten by surprise once, and that was the 5-0 start to the 2012 season that ended with 10 total wins. The Wildcats proved that they could hang with anyone in the conference by keeping all three losses fairly close.

    This fall, Northwestern needs to improve enough to:

    1. Overcome the lack of having the element of surprise.
    2. Improve enough to turn those three losses into wins.

    Whether or not both of these scenarios happen will determine Northwestern's ceiling for the 2013 season. Ohio State replaces Penn State on the 2013 slate, so things are already tougher than in 2012 even if all other things were equal.

    Northwestern has a tough season coming right around the corner, and the only opportunity to improve without facing the consequences of losing as they try new combinations of tactics to help get over the Ohio State-sized hump.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Notre Dame had an impeccable run through the 2012 regular season, but things have happened that will make the 2013 season much more difficult. First, Everett Golson is no longer with the team, so the quarterback who orchestrated the perfect run is gone.

    Fortunately, his backup, Tommy Rees, is still around for another year. Rees stepped in and bailed the Irish out on more than one occasion in 2012, so that bodes well for Notre Dame this year.

    The biggest points of order for Notre Dame lie at tight end, quarterback and everyone behind the defensive line. With Manti Te'o, Golson and Tyler Eifert gone, this Notre Dame team is a lot different from last year's squad.

    Something tells me that Brian Kelly will still get an eight- to 10-win year out of the Irish, but it will take a lot of work. The second game of the 2013 season is against a Michigan team that's also worlds different from last year, but in the good direction.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Ohio State also had an undefeated 2012 season, but the Buckeyes were left out of the postseason due to sanctions. On the bright side, Ohio State was the only undefeated team at the end of the season, and that's a bonus that even the national champion didn't have.

    Ohio State will receive every Big Ten team's best shot in 2013, but if Urban Meyer's track record says anything, it says their best won't be good enough. The Buckeyes can look forward to a great season in 2013, but not without the work he will require of them this fall.

    Missed tackles, bad angles, dropped passes and quarterback pressure ate the Buckeyes alive over the past year, even if it didn't cost them a win. Meyer will have addressed these issues throughout the offseason.

    There is still a lot of work to do before Ohio State can expect to compete for a national championship, but the correct coach is at the helm. He won more than one national title in the SEC, so he is more qualified to coach a national champion than anyone else in the Big Ten.

Oklahoma Sooners

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    Oklahoma has to rebuild after losing Landry Jones during the offseason. He may not have had the best performance of his career in 2012, but the Sooners were still the second-highest ranked Big 12 team in the pre-bowl rankings.

    That cannot be overlooked when talking about how much work the Sooners need to do this fall. Oklahoma still has a ton of talent on its roster, but if it's going to get by Texas (yes, Texas) and TCU for the Big 12 title, it still has a way to go from a foundational standpoint.

    The offensive line is going to have to get used to giving the quarterback more time than it gave Jones (which would have been true if Jones were returning, too), and the defense is going to have to learn to stop all the teams, not just everyone but a couple.

    Beating Notre Dame is a must, and running the conference table is also required in order for Oklahoma to move forward from last season. On top of all that, Blake Bell has to step up quickly as the quarterback and deliver the offense that Oklahoma needs.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    The Oklahoma State Cowboys have viable quarterbacks in both Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh. To avoid the "quarterback-battle" situation (in quotes, because the media might make a battle where none exists just for ratings), one must be determined before kickoff.

    Right now, Chelf is the listed starter. For the long-term, Walsh would be the better choice, but that also might force the Cowboys to sacrifice an otherwise hopeful season. The bottom line is that either one can lead Oklahoma State to an outright Big 12 title with a sound defense.

    The Cowboys have a lot of work to do, but they are better off than a lot of their conference counterparts. The key player on offense (the quarterback) is going to be a familiar face from last season, and that stands to be a huge advantage.

Tennessee Volunteers

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    Tennessee may have the most work to do of anyone on this list. The Vols are coming off back-to-back-to-back disappointing seasons, and they are missing their starting signal-caller from last year.

    Tyler Bray was a great college quarterback, but he may have left the collegiate field a year too soon. That's another article for another time, though. Bray won't be there to help Tennessee, but there is still hope for the Volunteers in 2013.

    The Vols have Butch Jones at the helm this time around, and a simple improvement in defensive fundamentals would take them a long way. In 2012, Tennessee's defense seemed devoted to making sure that the offense couldn't do enough to win its games.

    The Vols have a long way to go before contending for the SEC title again, but to get to the postseason, just a little rearrangement of current talent should be enough. Jones has the track record from Cincinnati to give hope to the Tennessee fanbase.

Texas Longhorns

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    Texas can win the Big 12 in 2013. The 2012 run included a lot of issues that can be addressed. David Ash has the potential to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but he didn't really find his rhythm until the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State.

    If that game is any indication of how he can do, then Texas will be fine this fall. On the other side of the ball, Texas' defense simply sustained too many injuries to be as effective as possible.

    Texas has the talent to win any game it plays this season, and all it takes is a fall camp of focus on the goals of the program. Entering the season with healthy starters and soundly trained backups will make all the difference this time around.

    Texas is capable of making it to the national title game in January, and anyone who thinks that it's impossible is in for a rude awakening if Texas stays healthy.

TCU Horned Frogs

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    The TCU Horned Frogs start the 2013 season off against the LSU Tigers, and star defensive end Devonte Fields will be missing from that game. Luckily, there is a whole fall camp for James McFarland (Fields' backup) to get ready for the performance of his life.

    On the other hand, Fields will be available for all conference games, to the Horned Frogs can still own the conference title and make it to the Fiesta Bowl (or national championship if that LSU game is a win).

    The Horned Frogs need to decide whether Trevone Boykin or Casey Pachall will be the starter, and the team's naturally respected leader should be chosen if all other comparison tests are unable to produce a favorite.

    On defense, the Frogs need to focus on consistency and giving 100 percent. At their best, the Horned Frogs can beat anyone.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    Texas Tech hired Kliff Kingsbury as head coach after Tommy Tuberville left to coach Cincinnati. Kingsbury was the offensive coordinator for the Texas A&M Aggies last season. Granted, he had Johnny Manziel to work with, but the overall offensive performance at A&M was excellent.

    If he can bring that type of offensive line play to Tech, then the Red Raiders might have an easier time getting over the loss of Seth Doege under center. The other reason that they may not mind Doege's departure is Michael Brewer.

    Brewer was the backup last season, and he went 34-of-48 for 375 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Granted, that's a small sample size, but he still looks very good for the near future of the program.

    If the Red Raiders can break Brewer in quickly and get the defense to perform to its capability, then the Red Raiders can contend for the Big 12. Will they win it? Possibly. That all depends on this fall. It's basically open season in the Big 12.

    The team that improves the most this fall will come out the winner in December.

Washington Huskies

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    The Washington Huskies showed flashes of greatness in 2012 with wins over teams like Stanford and Oregon State. Of course, the Huskies threw a healthy dose of doubt into the mix with the loss to heated rival Washington State at the end of the season.

    If the Huskies can build on what they started last season, then starting the 2013 season off with a win over Boise State shouldn't be much of a problem. Consistency on defense is a big issue, and the Huskies' vastly different results against Oregon and USC from last year prove that.

    On the other side, Keith Price needs to get control of himself at quarterback and lead the team to victory during the close matches.

    Sure, Washington can still lose to teams like Oregon, but those field-goal-sized losses to teams like Boise State and Washington State have to be addressed during the upcoming practices.

Washington State Cougars

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    The Washington State Cougars have the most work to do of any Pac-12 team that can reasonably make it to a bowl in 2013. Sure, there are other teams who have more problems, but their work needs to start on the recruiting (or hiring) trail.

    Washington State lost five 2012 games by 14 points or fewer, and three of those came by one possession. The Cougars are closer to a bowl than many people may be aware of, and 2013 could be a breakout year for them.

    If the gritty game against Washington at the end of 2012 is any indication, the Cougars turned a corner that day. If they can carry that momentum into fall practice and use it to get better as a total unit, then you may see Washington State on bowl-prediction lists late in the season.

West Virginia Mountaineers

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    The West Virginia Mountaineers lost Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to the 2013 NFL draft, and they formed the majority of West Virginia's offense last season. The Mountaineers have a ton of work to do this fall, because the defense was the biggest weakness last year.

    West Virginia not only has to break in a new trio of offensive cornerstones, but the defense needs even more work than that. West Virginia's defense couldn't stop a mouse with a shotgun last year.

    West Virginia is in the Big 12 for only its second season, but the Mountaineers don't need to worry about being grossly unprepared for 2013. Sure, there will be hurdles, but with effective work during the fall, WVU will still stay off the bottom of the conference.

    Even losing Geno Smith can't make them worse than Kansas. Also, since the Big 12 as a conference is rebuilding (except for a couple of teams), things will be a little less harsh for the Mountaineers.