College Football 2013: Biggest Concern for Every BCS Conference Team
The college football season is coming in just under three weeks, and it's time to focus. While everyone is fairly well-acquainted with each BCS team's strengths, there is one other factor that's even more important to a squad's national championship hopes.
That's the unforeseen speed bump. Sometimes, it comes in the form of a distracting amount of hype. Other times, it's simply an opponent that plays far better than expected. Still other times, it's injury that decimates a previously deep roster.
Since every team should always be concerned about injury, rest assured that particular issue will not appear on this list. Other than that universal hazard, here is every BCS team's biggest concern heading into the 2013 season.
*All individual stats and team statistical rankings are from CFBStats.com, unless noted otherwise.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama had some concerns in the secondary last season, and those weaknesses were completely exposed by the Texas A&M Aggies in the first quarter last November.
This season, the bigger concern is the offensive line. The Tide take the field in 2013 with two fewer All-Americans in those positions than in '12. (Cyrus Kouandjio appears on the Sports Illustrated Preseason All-America Second Team as 'Bama's only recognized beast.)
Alabama's offensive line gave AJ McCarron all the time in the world last season, and the quarterback will have some issues early in the season due to the fresh faces in front of him.
With Texas A&M coming in Week 3, this could be the issue that costs the Tide a win.
Quarterback Matt Scott graduated this past offseason, and the Arizona Wildcats are in a predicament. While tailback Ka'Deem Carey will be able to carry the rushing load for the squad, the Pac-12 will not be won without a passer or a lockdown defense.
Suffice it to say, Arizona's defense is not airtight. In fact, the Wildcats were the worst team in the Pac-12 in total defense last season. They have to find a quarterback, and there's no time to waste.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State is in the opposite situation as in-state rival Arizona. The Sun Devils have a quarterback, and they have a great defense.
What they are lacking is a receiving corps. While tight end Chris Coyle will be one of the best players at his position in 2013, he's still not a pure receiver. The Sun Devils need to find true deep threats to stretch the field.
If they can't, then 2013 will truly be bleak for Arizona State.
Arkansas has a lot of concerns heading into 2013, but the biggest is at quarterback. Tyler Wilson led the Razorbacks to a high ranking of No. 3 back in 2011, but the Hogs failed to do anywhere near as well in 2012 due to "the incident" which culminated in the hiring of ne'er-coach-well John L. Smith.
Now that Arkansas is heading into 2013 with a great coach (Bret Bielema), the biggest question mark is now under center. Who will rise up and take the Hogs back to the upper tier of the SEC West?
Auburn's biggest concern is also at quarterback. The Tigers have a serviceable defense, assuming the new coaching staff can get them back up to speed quickly.
Auburn's running back situation is the envy of most teams across the country. Tre Mason, the Tigers' star tailback, is a potential Heisman winner, though it is a long shot. (He finished 53rd in the country last season as a sophomore, despite Auburn's complete lack of success.)
If Gus Malzahn can raise a quarterback out of the mire that Gene Chizik left in his wake, then Auburn could have one of the biggest turnarounds of the BCS era in 2013.
Yes, Baylor lost another quarterback this offseason, but that isn't the Bears' biggest concern. If anything stands between Baylor and the Big 12 title in 2013, it's defense.
Specifically, Baylor's passing defense was almost the worst in the nation in 2012. (Louisiana Tech's was the worst, in case you were curious.) Baylor needs to lock down its passing lanes and force the enemy to earn every first down.
If Baylor can do that, then a Big 12 title is definitely not out of the question.
Boston College Eagles
Boston College finished 119th (out of 124) in rushing yardage per game last season. The Eagles are under new management, but that isn't a concern; it's reason to hope.
The Eagles are going to have to find a ground attack before becoming successful. That is far easier to analyze than it is to accomplish, though.
If the Eagles can't find a go-to running back, then they'll have to find a passing attack that can compensate. That would take a complete recruiting overhaul, which isn't going to happen until February at the soonest.
BYU's biggest concern is its pass rush. While Kyle Van Noy will clearly be one of the best linebackers in the country...again, the Cougars are missing a major timing-disruptor in Ezekiel Ansah.
Ansah totaled 62 tackles (35 solo), 13 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, nine pass breakups, six quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one interception last season before heading out into the NFL via the first round of the draft.
Van Noy may be able to lock down his side of the field again in 2013, but Ansah's presence is going to be sorely missed...unless BYU has another one like him parading around campus unaware of his talent.
California Golden Bears
California's biggest concern is a complete offensive overhaul. While Sonny Dykes and company look amazing on paper, there are issues when it comes to bringing theory to reality. (If it were easy, it wouldn't pay as much to be a head coach, right?)
The Golden Bears have a bright future ahead of them with the new coaches, but switching gears in the middle of a collegiate career is not going to be seamless. Not only is all this happening in 2013, but the Bears are also going to have to figure out how to be successful without star wideout Keenan Allen.
These are not minor issues.
Cincinnati needs defense. "That's obvious," you say? Well, it gets worse. The Bearcats' top defensive players all left after the 2012 season.
Five of the top six players on this list of ranked tacklers at Cincinnati are gone. That's more than 350 total stops out of 962 that won't be on the field anymore.
Tommy Tuberville has the gargantuan task of rebuilding the defense, but don't expect an American Athletic title out of the 'Cats this year.
Clemson has a few things to be concerned about, but the major one is Roderick McDowell. He's the player who is stepping into Andre Ellington's shoes in 2013, according to TigerNet.com.
Here are their stats, just to show the difference in 2012:
- Ellington: 212 attempts for 1,081 yards and eight touchdowns
- McDowell: 83 carries for 450 yards and five touchdowns
McDowell averaged slightly fewer yards per carry than Ellington, but the big issue is the number of carries. Does he have what it takes to be an every-down back?
Colorado's biggest concern in 2013 is simply going to be morale. Mike MacIntyre did great things with the San Jose State Spartans, especially with quarterback David Fales.
However, Colorado is not San Jose State.
The Buffaloes are in full rebuilding mode, not just remodeling. This is a complete teardown of the roster. Colorado needs to simply trust MacIntyre and know that things are going to get better.
One of the worst things a team can do is lose faith in itself, and that's a real danger to the 2013 Colorado Buffaloes.
Connecticut had one of the best defenses in the Big East last season, yet the Huskies couldn't manage a postseason berth. The simple fact is, one Lyle McCombs is not enough to overcome all the other deficiencies on offense.
He tried, though. In 2012, he carried the ball 243 times for 860 yards and six touchdowns. It still wasn't enough, and nobody can rightfully expect him to do better than that by himself.
Connecticut needs to have some receivers and a quarterback emerge sometime during 2013. The sooner it happens, the better off the Huskies will be.
Duke Blue Devils
Jamison Crowder returns this season to anchor the receiving corps. The big hole on offense that needs to be addressed is Sean Renfree's spot under center.
He led Duke to its first bowl game in decades, and he's gone. The Blue Devils badly need a quarterback who can give Crowder the types of passes he needs to be successful in 2013.
The previous three seasons' leading receiver, Conner Vernon, is gone, so that will make things even more difficult for the new passer, but Crowder should easily handle the go-to wideout position.
The question is whether he'll get a quarterback who can deliver.
Florida's biggest question is the same as it was last season, though many didn't know what that was until the Gators took the field. Florida needs a passing attack.
After finishing 118th in the FBS in passing yards per game, the Gators cannot (and will not) be taken seriously as a national contender until they can perform better.
They may have won a ton of games before 1906, but someone needs to let these kids know that the forward pass is legal.
Defense and rushing carried them all the way to the Sugar Bowl last season, but the national championship is out of the question if they can't learn to pass the ball. Add in the losses to the NFL, and Florida is potentially in one of the most desperate situations in the country.
Of course, if the Gators iron out their issues, a national championship is possible. That's not true for some of the other teams on this list.
Florida State Seminoles
Florida State lost a nation-leading 11 players to the 2013 NFL draft, but the biggest concern is the defensive line. While some may say that quarterback is a question, Jameis Winston is more than capable of leading the Seminoles to greatness, even if it isn't this fall.
The defensive line was decimated by the draft, and Florida State has a lot to overcome in 2013. At least the Seminoles play in the top-heavy ACC. Even during the rebuilding season, they have a shot at the ACC title or more.
Georgia lost some major talent to the NFL, most notably Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones. Both were stellar linebackers who have left major holes on the depth chart.
Sure, Georgia has plenty of talent to replace them with, but it will still take some time to get the backups up to speed. Unfortunately, time is something that Georgia doesn't have a lot of anymore.
Georgia opens the season against Clemson and faces South Carolina a week later, per FBSchedules.com. As if that weren't enough, the Bulldogs take on LSU before September comes to a close. They will be one of the best teams in the nation at the end of the season, but that defense has to learn quickly, or nobody will notice.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech ended 2012 with a huge win over the USC Trojans in the Sun Bowl. The Yellow Jackets have momentum heading into '13, but they do have a major issue to address.
The Yellow Jackets have a run-first offense, but it's been close to run-only recently. In 2012 alone, they ran 102 pass plays to 808 rushing plays. There is no reason to abandon the run, but they do need to find a player to stretch the field.
Georgia Tech is holding itself back by not going to the air much. Back in '09, Tech won the ACC. Since then, things have gone relatively downhill, but not far. One deep threat at wideout could bring Georgia Tech back to the top of the ACC.
Houston enters 2013 with the same concern it had in 2012: Can someone replace Case Keenum? Of course, it's unlikely that David Piland (or anyone) can replace him completely.
Houston is still one quarterback shy of being a BCS contender, but if the starting quarterback keeps his head on straight, the final year of BCS bowls could see the Cougars representing the American Athletic Conference.
Yes, Louisville will definitely have something to say about that, but there isn't much the Cardinals could do about a Houston squad with a stellar passer.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois' major concern is under center. Nathan Scheelhaase tossed four touchdowns to eight interceptions. Reilly O'Toole threw six touchdowns to four interceptions. Finally, Miles Osei tossed two picks (no touchdowns).
The Fighting Illini may or may not have the personnel necessary to contend for the Big Ten, but they won't even find out until a quarterback shows up and takes care of the ball. Expect things to get better this fall, but it takes time to restructure a program.
Indiana's biggest concern is defense, but not by that much. Simply stopping opponents from roughly one field goal per game last season would have made the Hoosiers bowl-eligible. (Stopping a touchdown per contest would have put them at eight wins.)
The Hoosiers return their defense largely intact, so this should not be an insurmountable obstacle, but it's still the biggest.
C.J. Beathard, Cody Sokol and Jake Rudock are competing for the starting quarterback slot at Iowa, and the only thing the Hawkeyes are looking for from that position is consistency. Last season, James Vandenberg went 223-of-389 for 2,249 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.
That was not good enough to accomplish, well, anything. Iowa went 2-6 in conference play and got nowhere near a bowl game. The Hawkeyes are still searching for success, but a solid quarterback is the biggest upgrade they could make in one shot.
Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State has a good shot at winning the Big 12, but so do a lot of the other teams in that conference. For the Cyclones to take the cake, the linebacking corps is going to have to grow up fast.
Jake Knott and A.J. Klein aren't coming back to play for Iowa State, and their absence will be noticeable, to say the least. Iowa State, again, can win a lot of games without them, but not if the new corps doesn't lock down the middle of the field.
Where does one start with Kansas? The Jayhawks went 1-11 in 2012, and there wasn't really a standout component of the team that could revitalize the team by itself. On the other hand, there is only one position that doesn't need help in 2013: running back.
James Sims has the rushing attack taken care of, but he needs help. Specifically, he needs either a quarterback, a receiving corps or both.
Ultimately, a quarterback is easier to come by than an entire set of receivers, so the passer will be the biggest concern in 2013. Dayne Crist is gone, and the Jayhawks need to find a signal-caller who can make the receiving corps look better.
Kansas State Wildcats
Kansas State's biggest issue is a lack of Collin Klein. A Heisman finalist is not easily followed, no matter who your new quarterback is.
Klein went 197-of-304 for 2,641 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2012. He added 920 rushing yards for 23 more scores. The next quarterback could be a better passer than Klein was, but finding a better dual-threat signal-caller is going to be more than a little difficult.
Kentucky has the same concern as Colorado: morale. The Wildcats hired Mark Stoops on the heels of a terrible season in 2012, and he has ushered in a huge improvement in fanbase morale already.
The Wildcats have the hope of a bright future under their new head coach, but that delicate bubble of hope could burst easily during the first few seasons. Stoops needs to ensure that every player on the team knows it's going to take time to build a championship team.
If he can successfully relay that message, then the 2013 Wildcats can endure any amount of perceived setbacks on the road to football relevance.
LSU lost a lot of defensive talent this past offseason, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger has yet to consistently prove that he's good enough to make up for that loss of skill. As LSU heads into its season-opening game against the TCU Horned Frogs, the major question is on defense.
Can John Chavis (LSU's defensive coordinator) field a top-notch defense? Of course. He has done that repeatedly over the last few years with the Tigers.
Will the defense jell quickly enough to overcome the obstacles at the beginning of the season? Well, that is the question. If the defense rises to prominence quickly, this could be the dark-horse SEC team that ends up in the national championship.
Louisville's biggest concern may be at quarterback, but not for the reasons that some might assume. It's not about injury, and it's not about whether the Cardinals have a good signal-caller.
They have a great player under center; there is no doubt about that. However, what if Teddy Bridgewater peaked in 2012? Is there even a contingency plan in place just in case he isn't as good or better than last season?
It's fairly common advice to expect the unexpected. With Louisville, the unexpected is a team that isn't centered on Bridgewater. He may be the single-biggest contributor to any team in the nation.
Without its quarterback, any team would be much worse off than at full strength. If that were to happen to Louisville, the Cardinals would go from national contention to obscurity in a matter of one or two games.
That's got to be a huge concern for the entire program.
Surprisingly, Maryland's weakness is offense. Though it's tough to believe with Stefon Diggs lined up at wide receiver, the truth is, Maryland finished 10th in the ACC in scoring offense and sixth in scoring defense.
The Terrapins will have Diggs as a top target again, but that doesn't mean they'll have a rushing attack or a quarterback to back him up. Maryland's biggest concern is almost the entire offense, with the exception of Diggs.
Memphis joins the AAC this season, and that's the Tigers' biggest concern. Will they see enough success in the first year to create a successful atmosphere on the recruiting trail?
It's not a question of whether Memphis will win the conference title in its first season. Nobody in his right mind would expect that of a first-year team (though anyone could surprise the nation like Texas A&M did last year).
The simple goal here is for the Tigers to take the step into a power conference and make it work for them. The concern is, it may not go as planned.
Miami returns an incredible duo on offense: Stephen Morris (QB) and Duke Johnson (RB). There is no real concern on offense.
There's a big one on defense, though.
It's the entire defense. Miami finished dead last in the ACC in total defense last season. The Hurricanes had trouble stopping the run. When they didn't have trouble with that, opponents were making their passing defense look worse than Swiss cheese.
Miami has a talented team that can contend with anyone in its conference, but the defense needs to back the offense up. Even a marginal improvement could lead to an ACC title in 2013.
Michigan's biggest concern is the absence of star linebacker Jake Ryan. He is expected to return no sooner than October, according to an Associated Press report, which will be in time for most of the big-time games against the likes of Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State.
However, the big question is whether the Wolverines can overcome his absence in the early meetings and preserve a potential Big Ten title (or better). If Devin Gardner turns out to be as good as he looked in the spring game, then Michigan has nothing to worry about.
Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State's biggest concern is Le'Veon Bell's position. Bell finished 2012 with 382 attempts, 1,793 yards and 12 touchdowns. Production like that is nearly impossible to replace.
Bell left Michigan after his junior year, and the Spartans are going to have to deal with that early loss. It doesn't matter who picks up the slack. It could be the quarterback, the receivers or Bell's replacement.
No matter what, Sparty has to figure out a game plan that includes success, but doesn't include Bell.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota's passing offense was ninth in the Big Ten last year, and that has to be addressed right now. It's the biggest concern heading into the fall.
Whether it comes in the form of wide receivers or sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson, somebody on the aerial side of the game needs to break out. Minnesota is talented enough to make it back to the postseason again in 2013.
The question is whether the passing attack can land the Gophers a 13th game.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State's biggest concern isn't Tyler Russell, even though his penchant for interceptions cost the Bulldogs a bowl win. The biggest issue is the secondary.
Johnthan Banks, Corey Broomfield and Darius Slay are all gone. That's almost a complete overhaul of the Bulldogs' last line of defense. The secondary is going to have to mature quickly, but there is always hope that the defensive line can help balance things out.
After all, if the linemen (and linebackers) can put opposing quarterbacks on the ground, the secondary won't matter as much. Don't get too excited, though. It is absolutely necessary that the secondary shows up.
If not, then passes will fly long before a linebacker can get to the passer.
Missouri's biggest concern is simply fear. Fear of being injured like it seemed half the roster was last season.
Fear that size can crush a team's timing, morale and overall chance for success. There's no way that Missouri is as bad as its 2012 win-loss record indicated, but lack of aggression anywhere on the field will turn into a pile of losses quicker than John L. Smith turned into an ex-coach.
Nebraska needs to address the fundamentals of offense. Don't throw interceptions, don't drop passes, and above all else, don't drop the football...ever.
Yes, fumbles will happen, as will interceptions. It's not right to expect zero turnovers for a season, but Nebraska had enough turnovers in 2012 to last the 'Huskers a lifetime.
Nebraska finished last year ranked 108th in turnover margin (13 gained to 35 lost). Even so, the Cornhuskers almost made it to a BCS Bowl. With more solid, fundamental football, they can make it to the Rose Bowl.
(If Taylor Martinez has a career season, then the BCS title game is not out of the question.)
UNC Tar Heels
North Carolina's biggest concern is clearly figuring out how to replace Giovani Bernard. The man had the production of two running backs all by himself last season. He carried the ball 184 times for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Bernard was a special talent in college, and he'll be sorely missed by the Tar Heels this fall. If Bernard can't be replaced, then quarterback Bryn Renner is going to have a truckload of slack to pick up.
NC State Wolfpack
Mike Glennon did a good job quarterbacking the NC State Wolfpack last season. They may not have been consistent, but they were good enough to beat Florida State when their defense showed up strong.
Now, the big issue facing NC State is under center. Without a solid quarterback, it's doubtful that the defense can do enough to push the Wolfpack forward much, if at all. Only a good quarterback can move NC State in the right direction.
Northwestern's issue is simply balance. The Wildcats' rushing offense was fourth in the Big Ten, but its passing offense was 10th. That is not going to be good enough to get them anywhere in 2013.
Now that the rest of the Big Ten is aware of how good the Wildcats are, a strong passing attack needs to emerge. If not, then Northwestern is going to have a terrible time trying to figure out how to get Venric Mark across the first-down marker.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame is entering 2013 without the quarterback who got it most of the way to the national championship game last season. Granted, Tommy Rees returns to assist the Irish toward whatever bowl they make, but that's still not a recipe for a championship.
Notre Dame's defense may have taken a hit this offseason, but Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt are still anchoring the defensive line. The Irish will be fine (not excellent) on that side of the ball.
Again, it is imperative that Notre Dame finds its groove on offense.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State faces a large amount of hype heading into 2013. At the end of 2012, the Buckeyes were the only squad with zero losses. That was due, in part, to the fact that they could not play in a bowl game, but a perfect season is incredibly difficult regardless.
Urban Meyer has proved that he can win in the Big Ten, but that has placed a lot of expectations on the second-year head coach. Can Ohio State's players ignore the hype and stay focused? We'll find out starting in less than three weeks.
Oklahoma has to replace Landry Jones under center, and that's the top priority for the Sooners. Last season, he completed 367 of his 555 pass attempts for 4,272 yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Those aren't bad stats at all, and it will take at least a little adjustment before the new starter is able to suit up with a pocket presence even close to Jones'. Oklahoma needs to ensure that the offensive line and receiving corps are both firing on all cylinders to give the Sooners the best shot at producing a great quarterback.
With the Big 12 as wide-open as it is, an above-average quarterback could bring Oklahoma another Big 12 title.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State didn't lose a large number of kids to graduation or the draft, but the Cowboys did lose Alex Elkins. He was the team's leading tackler last season, even though he missed a game.
Elkins racked up 75 tackles (56 solo), five tackles for loss, two sacks, two quarterback hurries and one forced fumble in 2012. With seniors gone from the defensive line, there will be a little extra pressure on the linebacking corps, even if just for the first few games.
With the added pressure, there is a question as to whether the new faces will be able to hold down the fort immediately. If they can, then the Cowboys have one of the better quarterback situations in the Big 12.
Oklahoma State could finish the 2013 season in the Fiesta Bowl.
Ole Miss Rebels
The biggest concern facing the Ole Miss Rebels is at quarterback. It's not about who will be taking snaps; that's Bo Wallace. Wallace went 235-of-368 for 2,994 yards, 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last season.
He added 390 rushing yards for another eight scores, too. Wallace is a great quarterback, but his stats are a little off. He's got to concentrate on his decision-making process. If he can rein in the huge number of picks, Ole Miss can take the next step toward success.
The Rebels aren't going to win the SEC in 2013, but make no mistake, the Rebels can beat anyone in the SEC if they play at 100 percent that day. They just currently lack the depth to do it every week for an entire season.
Oregon's biggest concern is whether Chip Kelly was the key to success. While Colt Lyerla, Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas are still going to bring the noise on offense, there is still a different head coach.
Luckily for the Ducks, the defensive coordinator is still the same, and the head coach is now Mark Helfrich. With an offensive mind at the helm, nothing should change much. However, fans are about to find out whether Kelly is the type of coach to keep his strategies close to the vest or the type to teach those under him how to succeed.
Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State has two good quarterbacks battling for the starting slot, and the Beavers have a stellar running back in Storm Woods. The biggest question is consistency under center.
Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz are both serviceable quarterbacks, and either one could turn out to be great. However, the Beavers need consistency under center.
This means that the signal-caller needs to make good decisions with the football. More importantly, it means the coaches need to leave the situation alone if there's nothing wrong with it.
Last season, as Mannion came back from injury, the coaches put him in against Washington. They waited until he threw a fourth interception to pull him out. There was little (or zero) reason to put him in over Vaz in the first place.
The Beavers have a shot at the Pac-12. It may be a long shot, but another game of "musical quarterbacks" isn't going to help the situation.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State's biggest concern isn't that pressing compared to last year's free-for-all transfer debacle. The Nittany Lions have one concern: quarterback.
Naturally, Penn State is worried about the defense, which lost Michael Mauti this offseason, but that's nothing compared to the quarterback situation. Between Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson (JUCO transfer), somebody will take over for Matt McGloin in 2013.
Unfortunately, with the restructure on defense, a lot of pressure will be on the gunner to make up for the lack of experience. While there is great hope for either signal-caller, it is still the biggest question mark on the depth chart.
Pittsburgh finally had a great quarterback in Tino Sunseri in 2012. Sunseri went 256-of-393 for 3,288 yards, 21 touchdowns and three interceptions last year.
He had finally come into his own, though it was during his senior season. Now that he's gone, Pitt has to break in a new field general.
The quarterback situation at Pitt is more than a little concerning, especially for a fanbase that would rather not wait another three years for success.
Purdue lost Kawann Short to the Carolina Panthers this past draft, and he was a force on the defensive line. Yes, the Boilermakers lost two senior quarterbacks to graduation, but neither one was irreplaceable.
Short finished 2012 with 43 tackles (35 solo), 15.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four pass breakups and one forced fumble. He was almost a one-man show at the line of scrimmage, and replacing him will be nearly impossible.
Without the solid line, the pressure will fall on the linebackers. Anything they miss will fall to the secondary. Replacing Short has to be priority No. 1 for the Boilermakers.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers had a great tailback last season: Jawan Jamison. He carried the ball 255 times for 1,075 yards and four touchdowns last year.
The Scarlet Knights will be searching for a go-to rusher in Jamison's absence, and it is imperative that they find one. Savon Huggins may be a viable option, but his 3.45 yards-per-carry average from 2012 leaves a little to be desired.
Granted, if you can bank 3.5 yards every attempt, first downs are practically guaranteed, but this fall will show whether he's able to carry the type of load that Jamison did.
SMU needs an offense. Passing or rushing, you ask? Both. The Mustangs finished ninth in C-USA last season in total offense, and the AAC is definitely not going to be any easier.
On the bright side, the 367.3 yards-per-game average would have ranked sixth in the Big East (now the AAC) in 2012. Unfortunately, that's still well in the bottom half of the conference.
SMU has to find an offense, and it has to happen quickly. The fact that the Mustangs are replacing starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert just makes it more difficult.
South Carolina Gamecocks
The South Carolina Gamecocks are familiar with how to operate without Marcus Lattimore, because he was knocked out of both the 2011 and '12 seasons with knee injuries. That doesn't mean that replacing him is any less of a concern.
Over the past two seasons, Lattimore rushed 306 times for 1,480 yards and 21 touchdowns. The next-in-line tailback will not have the same success he had, but it's necessary for South Carolina to find an every-down back who can take some pressure off the quarterback.
If not, 2013 is going to be a long year for quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson.
South Florida Bulls
South Florida finished seventh (out of eight teams) in the Big East last season by allowing over 400 yards per game to opponents all year. The Bulls have their work cut out for them, as the former Big East is expanding in '13.
South Florida finished seventh in passing and rushing offenses as well, so there's no particular aspect of that side of the ball that's game-ready at this point. The Bulls need a go-to running back, wide receiver and quarterback as soon as possible.
If not, 2013 is not going to be fun for anyone involved. (Well, except the fans who are thrilled that Skip Holtz is no longer in charge regardless of Willie Taggart's first-year results.)
Stanford lost some talent to the draft, no doubt, but the most talented player to leave the program was frontman Stepfan Taylor. Taylor rushed for 1,530 yards and 13 touchdowns off 322 carries last season.
Regardless of the improvement at quarterback and/or wide receiver, a team cannot be successful without a rushing attack. Whoever replaces Taylor doesn't need to rack up 1,500 yards (though it would be nice). He simply needs to cross 1,000 and force defenses to respect the Cardinal ground game.
It's difficult to say whether Justin Pugh or Ryan Nassib was a bigger loss for the Syracuse Orange. On one hand, a good quarterback is difficult to come by. On the other, a great offensive lineman can make a decent quarterback look good.
Syracuse's biggest concern is quarterback play. A mobile quarterback will be able to compensate for a new lineman's shortcomings, whereas the world's greatest offensive lineman still can't make a signal-caller's throws any more accurate.
What 'Cuse needs is a quarterback with good pocket awareness and blindside instincts. If that man emerges before the end of September, the Orange have a good shot at the postseason.
Temple finished at the bottom of the Big East last season in total defense (allowed 436.7 yards per game). While the offense didn't do much better, this defense is cause for major concern.
The Owls need to get their act together quickly, and the coaching staff needs to hit the recruiting trail early and often. Lack of production to this extent signals a lack of quality all over the roster.
The Owls need to use this as a selling point on the trail and in the locker room before it becomes a culture they can't shake off.
Tennessee's slide would have been about the defense if it weren't for Tyler Bray's early departure for the NFL. Bray clearly could have used an extra year in college, as he was picked up from free agency as opposed to during the draft weekend.
Tennessee's predicament is having to replace him just when he was starting to put everything together. Whether Justin Worley wins the job or someone else does, the heat is on. It's going to take a little while to build up the defense's fundamentals, and the signal-caller will have to make up the difference.
Texas' biggest issue last season was injury, but as discussed in the intro, injury is technically everyone's biggest concern, so it is not worthy of being singled out. (Not even by teams like Texas and Missouri, which were crippled by injury in 2012.)
The Longhorns have a defense, provided the stars remain healthy. The biggest concern is whether that pesky quarterback battle will rear its ugly head again. It was a terrible situation last season, as the coaches had to straddle the fence between quarterback development and on-field success.
Eventually, playing the better passer each week is what happened, but that robbed both signal-callers of the ability to learn from their own mistakes. David Ash was finally allowed to orchestrate a come-from-behind victory over Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl, and that sets him apart from anyone else in the starting battle.
If Ash can perform as well as or better than he did against the Beavers, Texas can win the Big 12 this fall.
Texas A&M Aggies
Damontre Moore is no longer anchoring the Aggies' defense. He finished 2012 with 85 tackles (57 solo), 21 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, two pass breakups, nine quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and two blocked kicks.
The incredible disruptor of opposing offenses is going to be nearly impossible to replace, and Texas A&M's linebacking corps is going to suffer. Even if he's replaced by a great player, there is still a big difference between a great player and what Moore was to the Aggies.
While Texas A&M will be gunning for the SEC title, the Aggies will not succeed without linebackers.
TCU Horned Frogs
TCU faces one of the worst potential issues in the country: a possible quarterback battle that rages all season long. The Horned Frogs return Trevone Boykin, and Casey Pachall is coming back to school to vie for the starting gig.
When Pachall left the team, Boykin took over and developed well throughout the season. He kept almost every game close, which was astounding for a first-year starter who wasn't supposed to be on the field that much yet.
While Boykin got valuable experience during Pachall's absence, the old starter is back to regain control of the offense. What could end up happening is a lot like the Oregon State situation between Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion.
That didn't work out well for the Beavers, and it wouldn't work out for TCU either. Whichever quarterback gets the nod after fall camp needs to stay at No. 1. Anything else is inviting disaster.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech is yet another Big 12 team that's replacing a star quarterback. The Red Raiders lost Seth Doege this offseason, but Michael Brewer looked good in his limited time last year.
Brewer went 34-of-48 for 375 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. That's not to say that he's better than Doege, but he's definitely got talent. Brewer's performance will be the deciding factor regarding the type of success Tech will see this fall.
If he does well, the Red Raiders can write their own ticket in the Big 12.
UCF's biggest threat to football security is having hopes that may be set too high. Statistically, the 2012 Knights would have placed fourth in total offense and fifth in total defense in the Big East. However, that was against C-USA defenses.
The question is, how much better is the AAC? If the Knights enter the conference expecting to finish in the middle of the pack but don't, then the team could begin to question itself. If that happens, then the entire production could spiral out of control quickly.
If UCF enters the season well aware of the fact that it is in an AQ conference for the first time, then any number of losses can be overcome with a simple attitude adjustment. Nobody likes to lose, but if you're prepared for it, you can at least take it in stride.
Of course, if the coaching staff has successfully prepared the Knights, there's no reason they can't finish toward the top of the conference.
UCLA has a great offense coming back in 2013, and Anthony Barr will be back to lead the defense. The biggest hole on the depth chart is at running back. Johnathan Franklin plays for the Green Bay Packers now, and UCLA is left without a star.
Franklin finished 2012 with 282 carries, 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns. UCLA has most of an offense coming back, so it's not the end of the world. Without a running back, though, the Bruins will have a tough time replicating last year's success, much less improving upon it.
The clearest issue for USC is at quarterback. Yes, the Trojans have a suspect defense, but Matt Barkley overcame that quite well in 2011. This means that the onus to win falls squarely on the shoulders of the signal-caller.
Whether it's Max Wittek or someone else, this quarterback is going to have immense responsibility. That means that simply putting the best statistical player on the field isn't going to work.
The Trojans need a level-headed, ice-blooded winner. Even if he's a little behind the others in development, the future champion needs to suit up and get out there as soon as possible. If not, then don't expect Lane Kiffin to last much longer.
Utah's biggest concern is its offense. The Utes finished last in the Pac-12 in passing offense and ninth in rushing. Clearly, the biggest concern is the aerial attack.
Granted, losing players like Star Lotulelei to the draft isn't going to help the defense, but the passing game will be much worse than the defense in 2013 unless the coaches do something about it now.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson looks vastly improved heading into 2013, and he led five touchdown drives (out of five total drives) in the spring game.
Vanderbilt's biggest concern is offense: Both Jordan Rodgers (QB) and Zac Stacy (RB) are not coming back in 2013. The only other marquee player on the Commodores offense last year was wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
Without the foundation of the offense (the rushing attack and signal-caller), Vanderbilt is in for a long rebuilding season this fall. If other players can rise to the challenge, then the Commodores will be just fine.
That's a lot to ask, though, and it doesn't make the offense any less of a concern at the moment.
Virginia's (total) defense finished fourth in the ACC last season, while the Cavaliers finished eighth in total offense. Virginia is not poised for success in 2013 either.
A 2012 team captain, linebacker Steve Greer, graduated this past spring, and Virginia's defense will suffer as a result. While the defense should still be better than Virginia's offense, the major concern here is that it may go unnoticed until cleats pierce grass in a couple of weeks.
Nothing is worse than finding out you had a major problem that you didn't know was that bad (or didn't know about at all).
Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech's biggest concern is uncertainty. Will Logan Thomas play like he did in 2011 or 2012? Will the Virginia Tech defense return as the No. 2 total defense in the ACC or not?
OK, Virginia Tech's defense is going to be OK at worst and stellar at best. However, the Hokies defense had better be airtight if the team plans on beating Alabama in Week 1.
Even so, Thomas can't return with his 2012 stat line and expect to compete with the Tide. Here are his past two seasons compared:
- 2011: 234 of 391 for 3,013 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions with 469 yards for 11 scores
- 2012: 220 of 429 for 2,976 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions with 527 rushing yards for nine scores
Ideally, Thomas would return even better than in 2011. That's the issue: Nobody knows which offense is going to show up.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake Forest's offense was marginally worse than its defense during the 2012-13 season, but both combined for a 5-7 record last season. The offense finished next to last in the ACC in total yards per game.
What's even worse than that is the Demon Deacons' scoring offense. They finished last in the ACC and not so far from last in the country (116th). For the record, that tied the team with South Alabama, a fledgling program in the FBS.
Wake has to improve on both sides of the ball, but finding the end zone is the first order of business. After all, that's the entire point of the game, right?
Washington was ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in total yards per game at the end of last season. That's terrible, especially considering the Huskies' total defense ranked fourth.
The Huskies need to figure out how to do one of two things:
- Control the line of scrimmage completely.
- Direct the flow of traffic across the line of scrimmage in a particular direction.
It would be perfect for the Huskies to keep the enemy completely away from the signal-caller, but it would be acceptable to simply ensure they always come through on either side.
If you have a weakness, turn it into a strength. Simply put, if they don't stop letting Keith Price land on his back, the Huskies aren't going anywhere of note.
Washington State Cougars
Washington State scored one major victory in 2012. That was over the Washington Huskies in the Apple Cup. After a 3-9 overall record last year, you may wonder what the weakness is here, because it seems like there are a lot of them.
Well, the Cougars finished No. 1 in the Pac-12 in passing offense with 330.4 yards per game. It went wrong on the ground, where Washington State finished last in the conference with an average of fewer than 30 yards per game.
While it may not be necessary to achieve a perfect balance to win games, a 30-to-330 ratio of ground yards to passing is simply horrible. The Cougars have to find a running back or accept their fate at the bottom of the barrel.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are all gone, and that puts West Virginia's offense in the center of the sights for concern. While the Mountaineers clearly have a defense that needs help, the offense was enough to carry them to a bowl game last season.
At least Andrew Buie returns to anchor the offense. That leaves just the passing game to focus on. Florida State transfer Clint Trickett could provide the necessary support under center, but the Mountaineers still need to find standout wide receivers.
Until the defense is strengthened on the recruiting trail, West Virginia needs to continue to find success on offense.
"One quarterback, one team, one Rose Bowl." That's just a suggested motto for the Wisconsin Badgers, a team that has been to all three of the past three Rose Bowls. They have come away as the loser all three times as well, hence the motto.
Of course, if Wisconsin has been the Big Ten representative in the Rose Bowl for three straight seasons, how bad could it be? The 2012 Badgers were ranked last in the Big Ten in passing offense.
James White will be a satisfactory replacement for Montee Ball, but that just puts the focus on the passing game. The 115th passing attack in the nation is unlikely to get the Badgers to victory lane in the 2014 Rose Bowl.