A Year Away: Eight Programs Using 2010 as a Stepping Stone To 2011 Title
Not every year can be your team's year.
Even in college football where some teams simply reload as opposed to rebuild, every program suffers an off year every now and then.
The good coaches, however, find ways to bounce back and use the previous season as motivation and experience for the next one.
Ultimately there will only be one team standing victorious at the end of the 2010-11 season. However, many programs can use next season as a starting point for 2011.
Whether it's a chance to build on the positive momentum created in the upcoming season, or a team taking their lumps in order to make a comeback in 2011, these are eight teams that will be looking at big expectations in two years.
Here are a few teams that will be trying to add some hardware to their trophy case by the end of 2011.
For some that may mean a conference title and new found national respect after an absence from the top of their respective BCS leagues.
For others it will mean exactly what everyone aspires for in sport: a national championship.
So here's a look at the teams to look out for in 14 months time. Let the debate begin.
So maybe Bobby Petrino had a pretty awful fall from grace in the NFL. The guy still knows how to coach and his college record speaks for itself.
After taking over the Arkansas Razorbacks, Petrino has created one of the best offenses in the country thanks to the arm of Ryan Mallett. After a dismal 5-7 record his first season, his team rebounded to 8-5 last season with hopes of more success this fall.
Unfortunately for Arkansas, so does everyone else.
Alabama still has the best running corps in the country, LSU has loads of talent even if they can be unpredictable at times and Auburn seems poised to cause some chaos in the SEC West.
Two tough road games at Georgia and at South Carolina mean the stars will not align in 2010 for the Razorbacks.
2011 looks more like the year that they can make a run and book a trip to the SEC Championship.
Alabama, while still loaded with talent, will lose quarterback Greg McIlroy and likely Mark Ingram and Julio Jones as well to early exits. Particularly if the Crimson Tide does as well as we all think they will this season.
While vulnerable may not be the best term to describe the team in 2011, at least they will no longer be invincible with three top talents gone.
LSU could be in disarray depending on how their season goes and Auburn seems to be a bit of a wild card.
In truth, both Auburn and Arkansas could be battling each other as the new team on the block to break up Alabama's dominance. The edge will go to the Razorbacks because of the schedule.
Auburn must go to Georgia, South Carolina, LSU and Arkansas to go along with home matches against Alabama and Florida.
Arkansas gets Vanderbilt and Tennessee on their schedule instead of Florida and Georgia. That home game with the Auburn Tigers could prove to be the difference.
Yes, Arkansas has some defensive issues, but despite the poor numbers, they played well in some big games.
They were giving the Florida Gators all they could handle until a suspicious penalty gave Florida the field goal opportunity and the win in the Swamp.
The Razorbacks can continue to find talent and experience to fill those defensive holes and when they do, they can gain a spot atop the SEC.
While the departure of Jim Leavitt was far from ideal, the Bulls scored big with Skip Holtz as their new leader.
What Holtz did at East Carolina was truly impressive, going 19-5 in Conference USA his final three seasons there and taking the team to four straight bowl games.
In truth, Holtz is used to playing BCS competition. He's already beaten four ACC teams in Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and North Carolina State as the leader of the Pirates.
Oh don't worry, he also has a Big East pelt, knocking off the eigth-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers.
Holtz appears ready to take his coaching ability to the next level and South Florida is a team already on the cusp in the Big East.
The Bulls have four straight winning seasons, but have yet to get over the hump of 4-3 in the Big East.
2010 will be a transition year for Holtz and the Bulls. They have a great deal of young talent that will take its lumps but should still hold its own for a decent record.
In 2011, however, the Bulls will have a great deal of returning talent and a coach that has had a year to implement his system—not to mention a rich recruiting base from which he can try and bring an influx of talent.
While the Big East is not the joke people make them out to be a few years ago, the conference is still attainable for a handful of teams.
South Florida will have the experience and the talent to be a force in 2011 and perhaps get that breakthrough they so desperately crave: a Big East title and a BCS bid.
With new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple and a flashy quarterback in Jacory Harris, Miami is on the rise in the ACC.
The Hurricanes have plenty of talent and confidence that they can be a force in the ACC race this season, but their real chance at greatness is still a year away.
Jacory Harris is a rising junior, and although he has developed well, he still has a few things to learn.
The quarterback has simply failed to lead the team at times in some of the biggest games. His abysmal performance in the rain at Lane Stadium left many scratching their heads.
Sure, Virginia Tech has a good defense, but should he really go 9-for-25 for 150 yards and an interception?
Should he really throw four interceptions against North Carolina?
Miami is good in 2010 but the team is simply too inconsistent to believe they won't drop one or two games they should not lose.
Given the running game of Virginia Tech, the defensive front line of North Carolina and overall offensive talent of Clemson and Florida State, Miami is going to stumble.
Fast forward to 2011: Miami will still have most of its players returning and a much more open ACC.
North Carolina will lose some of those great linemen, and Virginia Tech is bound to lose one or two running backs along with unquestioned leader Tyrod Taylor. Arch-rival Florida State will be losing their quarterback as will Georgia Tech.
The road suddenly becomes far easier and Harris will have another year under his belt.
Miami, which looks like the favorite to take the Coastal Division in 2011, might even aim its goals a bit higher.
Okay, now I know that I am going to plenty of angry Texas fans that want to know why they can't win the title THIS year as opposed to 2011.
I know that Texas has plenty of talent and that the loss of Colt McCoy is not necessarily insurmountable.
However, the Longhorns also have to replace three starters on the offensive line as well as Sergio Kindle.
Their recent domination of the Big 12 also puts a rather large target on their backs. Teams know what they have to do if they want the conference championship: They have to take it away from Austin.
By themselves, these things are not so bad. When you add them up, they can cause problems for Texas' chances of repeating its past glories.
Quarterback Garrett Gilbert is a talented kid who had to grow up quickly on the biggest of stages and bounced back from a rough start when he was suddenly thrust into the BCS Championship game.
Will he be good next season? Yup.
Would be better in 2011? Of course.
Texas may continue to be successful in 2010, but if Longhorns fans want a return to the BCS title game, they'll need to wait an extra year.
Rick Neuheisel received a fair amount of flack for his "The Football Monopoly in L.A. is over," but he will soon silence the critics.
Through two seasons, UCLA has been far from impressive with an 11-14 mark and a 6-12 record in the Pac-10.
On the other hand, the Bruins have played some of the toughest schedules out there. Neuheisel has given his team a trial by fire and even if it did not result in wins, it provided learning experiences.
Clearly the Bruins have not wallowed in self-pity or self-loathing for that matter.
UCLA picked up two big wins—at Tennessee and against Kansas State—in these two years. While his team has yet to sustain success, Neuheisel has been able to bring in top-notch recruiting classes and build a foundation for winning.
Let's face it, with the Trojans sans Pete Carroll, the Pac-10 becomes an open race. I expect the Bruins to make a move in the right direction next season with their young players.
In 2011 though, expectations will be far higher. The cream of the crop, Oregon will take a step back and the Bruins have a chance to really make some noise.
Kevin Prince threw for more than 2,000 yards as a freshman in 2009. With better talent around him, he will develop his numbers into something special come 2011. He can also avoid the 17 sacks he was a part of in his growing pains.
Defense may still be an issue, but Neuheisel knows the pressure is on to make a move. He has the experience and the talent to pull it off.
After consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins and North division titles, Missouri fell back to the pack a bit in 2009 with an 8-5 record.
The Tigers may have gone 4-4 in the Big 12 last season, but they only had one of those losses within the division. That loss, against the eventual 2009 North champion Nebraska, proves to be the greatest threat to Missouri for years to come.
After giving up 27 points to the offensively challenged Cornhuskers, the Tigers upgraded their defense with a strong recruiting class that will probably not pay dividends until 2011.
Blaine Gabbert will be a senior in two years, building on a sophomore season in which he threw for nearly 3,600 yards. De'Vion Moore and Jerrell Jackson will become breakout stars by then and the Nebraska showdown will be at Missouri.
The division may be a tough one to win next season considering the buzz around Nebraska in 2010, but revenge will be sweet in 2011.
The Tigers are roaring under head coach Dabo Swinney.
Last season, Clemson made their first appearance in the ACC Championship game and look for a return trip this fall.
The Tigers have plenty to like in 2010 with sophomore quarterback Kyle Parker, speedster Andre Ellington and a strong defensive line that caused havoc against the top passing teams of the ACC.
However, if Clemson wants to make a run not just at the conference but perhaps run the table, 2011 appears to be the year to pounce.
For one thing, the ACC will be weaker overall next season. Florida State will have to replace quarterback Christan Ponder, Maryland may have a new coach, North Carolina State loses Mr. Everything Russell Wilson and Wake Forest still does not pose much of a threat for the conference crown.
The schedule will also be easier to navigate.
In 2010, Clemson must go to Auburn in a tough non-conference tilt and travel to Boston College, North Carolina and Florida State.
They also have a tough home game with Coastal foe Miami.
In 2011, Clemson doesn't play Miami and gets all of those conference games at home. Their toughest road game will be at Virginia Tech, but that team is losing some offensive fire power that could give the Tigers a chance.
Overall, Clemson keeps most of its young nucleus until 2011 when Ellington will develop into a premiere back and replacements will be found in the Clemson secondary to match the strong line.
Clemson may be successful this season, but the future is even brighter for 2011.
Glory will return to the Georgia Bulldogs in 2011.
Now 8-5 is certainly not a bad mark, although it was the worst record in the Mark Richt era. The 2009 season for Georgia was much more about the future than it was about the present.
After a rough October in which the Bulldogs went 1-3 with a bad loss at Tennessee and were smashed by rival Florida, Georgia was never really in the race for the SEC title.
Well hope springs eternal, Georgia has a great running tandem with Washaun Ealey and Caleb King.
They also have a new quarterback in Aaron Murray who will undoubtedly experience growing pains in the brutal SEC.
That's why, despite Georgia having a better season in 2010, they will really make a run for the SEC Championship in 2011.
Georgia has a favorable schedule, but they still open the SEC season at South Carolina and will face a dynamic offense in Arkansas the following week. It will really test the skills of this young nucleus on offense.
They also have a tricky game near the end of the year at Auburn.
Will Georgia win the SEC East? It's likely.
Will they go undefeated? Not likely.
Georgia will have more experience and although King will be gone by 2011, Ealey may stick around and he could develop into an SEC Player of the Year contender. The Bulldogs can dream even bigger.
According to the latest depth charts, Georgia only has three starting seniors on defense. Although they will have some offensive linemen to replace by 2011, they will have a good running game and a smart quarterback to ease that load.
The Bulldogs know something about success, they have six seasons of at least 10 wins during Richt's nine years at Georgia. While the Bulldogs seem to be in good position to match that feat in 2010, they have even bigger dreams in 2011.