10 College Football Teams Facing Biggest Challenges in 2013
For major college football programs that compete for a BCS bowl game, adversity comes in many different sizes and shapes.
From strength of schedule to hype that results in overconfidence, there are any number of things that threatens to derail a program's shot at true greatness.
While every team in the country is going to face some type of adversity, here are the 10 college football teams, presented in alphabetical order, that face the biggest challenges this coming season
Alabama Crimson Tide
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Alabama may not have the toughest schedule in the country, but the Tide definitely face one of the biggest challenges in 2013.
As long they remain unbeaten, they will have to maintain a composure and focus in the face of the media and fans calling them invincible.
If Alabama beats Texas A&M in Week 3, every college football media outlet is going to predict an undefeated national championship season for the Tide. While this may not seem like that big of a deal, it was complacency that prevented Alabama from repeating as national champs in 2010.
There were definitely other factors, of course, but the team's belief in its own invincibility was its greatest enemy that year. Alabama will have to find a way to play at a championship level every single week as it hears words like "unbeatable," "dynasty" and "guaranteed" attached to its name.
Nothing is guaranteed, and the tide will fail before opening kickoff if it thinks anything less will await them this season than a gauntlet of opponents for whom the matchup against Alabama will be their own national championship game.
Florida State Seminoles
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Florida State is facing a number of challenges in 2013—one of which is the loss of 11 players to the most recent NFL draft.
FSU lost the most NFL-quality players of any team in the nation. While the usual attrition wasn't a biggest factor in making this list, losing the equivalent of one side of the ball to the NFL is definitely a noteworthy occurrence.
Florida State already has the deck stacked against it.
Enter the media, who will be calling Florida State the best in the ACC from Week 1. Yes, the Seminoles are one of the best teams in the country, but North Carolina State was able to beat them last year because the 'Noles were looking past that game (not to take anything away from an incredible performance by the Wolfpack.)
Florida State will be breaking in a new quarterback and hearing the hype machine blaring so loudly that underdogs like Miami may very well sneak up on it. The Seminoles will have to fight against the same intangible enemies of overconfidence and complacency as Alabama, but FSU won't have the luxury of bouncing back after a loss.
That's because an ACC power, due to playing in a weaker conference, simply can't absorb a loss to another top-ranked team and maintain an elite ranking—unless the top teams of the other power conferences all have a similar setback.
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Louisville is going to face more intense hype than any other team in the country.
Yes, that includes Alabama.
While the Tide are going to be heavily scrutinized, their success is long heralded. Louisville, on the other hand, is a relatively new addition to the hype machine.
Teddy Bridgewater's performance against Florida in the Sugar Bowl has put him squarely on the Heisman watch and his team on the title map. With a little luck and a lot of sweat, the Cardinals could bypass the American Athletic Conference's BCS bid and go straight into the national title game.
While the Cardinals may not have a loaded bandwagon yet, Tim Brando certainly gave the "All Aboard!" signal about a month ago. Louisville is definitely one of the top five teams to watch for in the national title chase, but the heightened expectations will also pose a completely new brand of pressure.
If the Cardinals don't deal with the pressure well, then their train may derail before it clears the station.
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Miami is going to face the opposite type of adversity than the first few teams on this list.
An unfortunate scenario will likely unfold for the Hurricanes as the 2013 season progresses. Even with an excellent win-loss record, the Hurricanes probably will not have many mainstream football analysts taking them seriously.
Expect to hear things like, "We'll figure out what the Hurricanes are really made of when they play Florida State." That's all well and good if you want to be a skeptic, but the Florida State game isn't until Nov. 2. Sure, the Hurricanes play the Florida Gators in Week 2, but the Gators lost some credibility with their Sugar Bowl defeat to Louisville.
The skeptics will call a Seminole Week 2 win over Florida a good one, but, given the national perception of the Gators, that FSU victory will ultimately be dismissed. Personally, that's my least favorite form of adversity. Especially when you have to listen to the same "gurus" praise teams like Boise State for running the table in a weaker conference.
Ohio State Buckeyes
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Ohio State raised its own expectations into the stratosphere last year after recording a perfect 12-0 record in Urban Meyer's first season at the helm.
Now that Ohio State has proved that it can eke out a win against anyone in the conference, the Buckeyes are going to have to improve a lot to make it happen again. Essentially, they have kicked the same hornet's nest that Texas A&M did in the SEC.
Every team that Ohio State beat in 2012 will be out for revenge in 2013, which is a total of seven teams (six conference opponents). On top of that increased intensity, Ohio State will have to endure the constant chattering from the media.
Ohio State will be heralded as the team that can knock the mighty SEC off its pedestal. While that may or may not be true, that won't stop Ohio State from essentially being 2013's version of the 2012 USC Trojans.
If that doesn't strike fear into the heart of Buckeye fans, then nothing will. Losses come easily if you lose focus.
Hype at this volume will definitely mess with the players' heads.
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Oregon has been a national contender every season since Chip Kelly took over the program back in 2009. Oregon has earned every bit of adversity that's coming in 2013.
Since Oregon is clearly not going away on its own, every team in the Pac-12 will be gunning for the Ducks like all SEC teams gun for Alabama. Even the worst team in the conference knows that it can make some serious headlines simply by beating the Ducks.
From hype to incredibly determined opponents, the entire gauntlet of potential adversity is self made.
Still, that doesn't make it any less stressful for the Ducks. There are plenty of teams who could upset them along the way. Stanford is the obvious choice, but there are plenty of other teams on the 2013 schedule that could give Oregon fits.
Oregon will be handed every team's best effort, and it only takes two losses to guarantee a missed BCS title game. Pressure, hype and complacency are the three biggest enemies for the Ducks. Too much complacency can even cause them to lose to a team like the Tennessee Volunteers, however unlikely that is on paper.
South Carolina Gamecocks
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South Carolina is heading into the 2013 season full of expectations.
The Gamecocks finally have a scheduling advantage over the Georgia Bulldogs that hasn't existed in a couple of years. The winner of the Georgia-South Carolina game should be the favorite to win the SEC East this time around.
While South Carolina may welcome this turn of events, it can hurt the Gamecocks if they convince themselves that the Bulldogs are definitely going to lose a game other than the South Carolina matchup.
That kind of attitude could mean trouble for the Gamecocks.
Aside from all that, the quarterback situation is volatile. Both Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson are capable of winning games. Coach Steve Spurrier needs to make sure that any switching that happens in 2013 doesn't affect their mentality.
Whether Shaw or Thompson is starting in any given game, the focus needs to be on South Carolina. If the team can maintain focus on the logo as opposed to the faces, South Carolina has enough talent to make it to a BCS bowl or better.
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Texas has been successful throughout the BCS era, and that will work for and against it in 2013.
The Longhorns have a healthy roster boasting a number of potential All-Americans. This will give them the ability to win any game on the schedule.
The tradition of success will help them by allowing them to jump up within the Top 25 quickly if they reel off some wins.
But this positive development could also hurt them. By moving up the rankings and gaining attention so quickly, the Longhorns will immediately jump into the championship hype just as quickly. This will put a lot of pressure on inexperienced program relying on young players unfamiliar with championship hype.
Nobody knows how Longhorn players will react individually, much less as a group.
While teams like Alabama are as desensitized as possible to championship attention, Texas would experience it for the first time since 2009. Fifth-year seniors in 2013 are the only players at the program who have those championship chops.
This is a combination of challenges that few other teams are in a position to experience.
Texas A&M Aggies
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As mentioned in the Ohio State slide, Texas A&M kicked a giant hornet's nest in 2012 by beating almost everyone on its schedule.
The SEC is notoriously difficult, but that isn't A&M's biggest challenge.
Individually, Texas A&M has the most challenging game in 2013: the dreaded rematch against Alabama. Nick Saban is notoriously good at winning rematches. The article is old, as it was written immediately before Saban lost the regular-season rematch to LSU in 2011, but the info is still applicable.
Texas A&M faces Alabama in Week 3. It will be the Aggies' third game of the season, and it will be Alabama's second. The Tide have a bye week before the A&M game. It needs to be mentioned that Alabama will be traveling to Kyle Field at College Station for the battle.
That will at least give A&M a major advantage in that game. So, if that game is a toss-up, what put A&M on this list? First, the 2012 Heisman winner is on the field. Second, that game against Alabama is just one of many rematches.
A&M's slate is full of SEC teams that it beat last year.
Lastly, the Aggies are going to be one of the biggest receivers of championship hype in the country. The media might keep the attention low-key until after the 'Bama game, but it will crank up the volume should A&M win that game.
After Johnny Manziel's mini-rant over a parking ticket in College Station, one must wonder how short his fuse is as he heads into the fall. If he can't withstand the onslaught of attention, the potential ups and downs of the college football season could wreak havoc on the Aggies' win-loss record.
TCU Horned Frogs
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TCU may be the most tightly wound team in the country. From a second-chance quarterback (Casey Pachall) to a slighted competent starter (Trevone Boykin) to a suspended All-American defensive end, the Horned Frogs are in a pressure cooker of massive proportions.
If the Battletoads lose a close game to LSU in the season opener due to a slight inability to stop the run, they could turn on Devonte Fields. If it's due to turnovers from Pachall, then they could turn on him. If the onus lies with Boykin, then...well, you see what could happen.
Major kudos would be extended to the Frogs' coaching staff and players if they can all work together in preserving team stability. The first suggestion is simply to treat the LSU game as a trial. Win or lose, the Frogs can still take the Big 12 title outright.
Let's be honest here: A one-loss TCU team is still eligible for the national title game, especially if that loss is to a close one to an SEC power like LSU. Plus, if LSU goes on to beat either Texas A&M, Alabama or both, the close loss could be a point in TCU's favor. (It happened to Alabama in 2011, right?)
TCU will be facing some serious challenges in 2013, but the fanbase should rejoice. Those challenges, if TCU reacts well to them, could quickly strengthen this team into a national power, and the Frogs seem to have the maturity necessary to weather the storm.
Look for TCU at the top of the Big 12, either ahead of or tied with the Texas Longhorns.