College Football can’t get here soon enough. With fall practices right around the corner, it’s time to begin making predictions and prognostications.
While a handful of BCS giants should be in contention for conference titles, other prestigious programs face obstacles heading into the season.
Although it is certainly difficult to predict conference winners, a multitude of programs are filled with questions that suggest supremacy will be elusive.
From talent disparity to brutal schedules, there are plenty of reasons to believe that these programs won’t be on top when the conference champions are crowned.
Here’s a look at 38 BCS Schools facing an uphill battle in 2010.
Boston College went through a lot last season but still won eight games. In order for the Eagles to improve upon that number, they must withstand a brutal start to the conference schedule.
There is plenty of reason for optimism, with quarterback Dave Shinskie having a valuable year of experience under his belt.
The Eagles offense is in need of receivers but promises to have a solid running game led by Montel Harris.
Sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly is on everybody's All-American list after coming out of nowhere last season. The anticipated return of cancer survivor Mark Herzlich gives Boston College one of the best linebacker corps in all of college football.
The schedule is absolutely daunting, with Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, NC State, and Florida State in a four-week stretch early on.
Another eight-win season is certainly possible, but anything beyond that appears unlikely.
When it works, Paul Johnson’s offense is an absolute delight to watch. When it doesn’t, it can be nauseating.
Josh Nesbitt was named first-team All-ACC last season and looks to continue to build on his impressive career numbers.
Although he has improved as a passer, Nesbitt is clearly below-average and no longer has the services of Demaryius Thomas at receiver. Georgia Tech can't afford to fall behind until Nesbitt proves he can throw the ball with accuracy.
The schedule includes trips to North Carolina, Clemson, and Virginia Tech, making a conference crown unlikely in 2010.
NC State should be better, but another disappointing season in 2009 makes it difficult to predict conference success this season.
Russell Wilson showed dramatic improvement as a passer last year, throwing for a whopping 31 touchdowns.
The problem was the defense, which got torched by a number of teams. It should be better in 2010, leading to slight improvement in the Wolfpack’s record.
The schedule isn’t overwhelming, but does include road games against Georgia Tech, Clemson, and North Carolina, and home meetings with Virginia Tech and Florida State.
NC State could pull an upset or two, but don’t expect more than seven wins overall.
There is nowhere to go but up, and that’s exactly where head coach David Cutcliffe has Duke heading.
Obviously, a conference title isn’t going to happen anytime soon. One thing at a time in Durham, and that means a bowl game.
Thaddeus Lewis is gone, but Cutcliffe has recruited three talented prospects to fill his shoes at quarterback.
Duke returns its six top receivers from last year and should put up points in 2010.
The defense was the biggest culprit in the November swoon a year ago, allowing 43 points on average in the final three conference games.
That unit is likely to struggle again this year, but five or six wins is certainly possible.
The Cavaliers look to start fresh in 2010 after a disappointing finish to the Al Groh era.
Early indications suggest that Virginia will be at or near the doormat of the ACC.
The offense doesn’t return any proven playmakers and the quarterback position is shrouded in uncertainty.
If there is a glimmer of hope, it could be on the defensive side of the ball.
Before moving on to Richmond, new head coach Mike London was the defensive coordinator under Groh and directed strong defensive teams in 2006 and 2007 at Virginia.
The Cavaliers are in for a rough season.
Year in and year out, few teams look better on paper and on the television screen than Clemson.
As usual, it’s hard to know what to expect in terms of results.
Fresh off a trip to the College World Series, Clemson right fielder/quarterback Kyle Parker is poised for a big season.
The loss of speedsters C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford will hurt, but Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper will provide a big lift to the offense.
The defense is loaded with prospects, led by safety DeAndre McDaniel and defensive end Da’Quan Bowers.
Until Clemson displays some consistency under Dabo Swinney, a conference title is unlikely.
Just when you thought Wake Forest would never have a good passing game, Riley Skinner exploded for 26 touchdown passes.
But with Skinner out of eligibility, Wake’s offense could struggle again in 2010.
The good news is that young receivers Chris Givens and Devon Brown are back for another season.
Jim Grobe’s team has a chance to have a winning season, but the Deacons will have to fight and scratch for every victory.
The Terps are a poor man’s Clemson, seemingly always unable to translate talent into results.
The same could be true this season, when a number of players could have big seasons on what will likely be a fairly mediocre team.
Receiver Torrey Smith is an NFL prospect and will be catching passes from Jamarr Robinson or Danny O’Brien this fall.
After a 10-loss 2009, expecting a great deal of improvement in 2010 is unrealistic.
Ralph Friedgen’s large frame is sitting squarely on the hot seat.
Former Florida Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong takes over the Cardinals’ program from Steve Kragthorpe.
Although there is no reason to believe that Louisville should remain at the bottom of the Big East for much longer, 2010 figures to be a rebuilding year.
The return of playmaker Victor Anderson will provide a jolt to the Louisville offense, but Strong has his work cut out for him on the defensive side of the ball.
After a tough non-conference schedule featuring the annual meeting with Kentucky and a trip to Corvalis to meet Oregon State, Louisville plays a somewhat favorable conference schedule.
In any other year, the Cardinals would benefit from getting Cincinnati, UConn, South Florida, and West Virginia at home.
There are simply too many question marks to expect much from Louisville this season.
Syracuse certainly made some strides in 2009 and should continue to improve in 2010.
Ryan Nassib is expected to be the starting quarterback for the Orange and have a weapon in running back Delone Carter.
Both Nassib and the Syracuse receiving corps are unproven and inexperienced. That could spell trouble for the offensively-challenged Orange.
The defensive side of the ball boasts linebacker Doug Houge but could struggle in the secondary again this season.
A 4-4 home record in 2009 gives reason for optimism, but a brutal road schedule in 2010 will make the going tough for Doug Marrone’s squad.
There are a lot of reasons for optimism in Morgantown heading into the 2010 season, with a favorable conference schedule and eight returning starters on offense, including the spectacular Noel Devine.
But there is one colossal question mark: the quarterback position.
Geno Smith takes over for Jarrett Brown, who played with a great deal of inconsistency is his senior season a year ago.
Coming off a broken foot and lacking a great deal of experience, Smith needs to have a big season in West Virginia’s quarterback oriented attack.
The pressure is on Bill Stewart to win and win now. The Mountaineers face a tough non-conference schedule (@LSU, @ Marshall, vs. Maryland) and could carry over to early season struggles into league play.
Skip Holtz takes over a strong program assembled by Jim Levitt, who was dismissed amidst allegations of player abuse.
Quarterback B.J. Daniels took over for the injured Matt Grothe last season and showed flashes of greatness. Grothe was feisty and fun to watch, but lacked the talent of Daniels. Running back Mike Ford isn't going to return, meaning that Daniels will once again have to should a huge load on the offense, which returns all five starters on the line.
The defense should be solid despite the loss of Jason Pierre-Paul.
So why won’t South Florida win the Big East?
A brutal conference schedule, featuring trips to Cincinnati and West Virginia in back-to-back weeks, could produce two critical losses early in the season.
Holtz could take the Bulls’ program to new heights, but it probably won’t happen next year.
Randy Edsall’s squad triumphed over adversity both on and off the field by winning the final for games last season, including an impressive 20-7 victory over South Carolina in the PapaJohns.com Bowl.
A conference schedule featuring home games against West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati has UConn poised for a good season.
But the Huskies have questions at key positions, mainly at wide receiver and defensive back.
UConn must replace Marcus Easley at receiver, talented pass rusher Lindsey Witten, and appears poised to start four underclassmen in the secondary.
Road games against Rutgers and South Florida present problems for UConn.
The Scarlet Knights have had the Huskies’ number in recent season and are one of the clear favorites to win the Big East in 2010.
Rich Rodriguez is really running out of time in Ann Arbor. Known as a terrific recruiter, he lost the jewel of the 2010 class when Demar Dorsey was denied admission to Michigan in a puzzling development.
Without Dorsey, Michigan’s defensive backfield could struggle in 2010. There are a few pieces in place, but Brandon Graham, Donovan Warren, and Stevie Brown leave big shoes to fill.
Tate Forcier burst onto the scene with a dazzling performance against Notre Dame last year but faded down the stretch. He struggled to take care of the ball and looked uncomfortable in the pocket.
Denard Robinson had nowhere to go but up as a passer. After a good spring, it appears he has done just that and could push Forcier for the starting job.
Rich Rod needs to show considerable improvement this season. There are plenty of obstacles standing in his way.
The 2009 season came to a tumultuous end after 20 players were suspended following an on-campus brawl involving a fraternity.
Things should be a little more civil this year for Mark Dantonio, who will benefit greatly from the return of star linebacker Greg Jones and quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Although Cousins loses Blair White, his top target in 2009, B.J. Cunningham, Mark Dell, and Keyshawn Martin return and provide the Spartans with big-play threats.
Michigan State has made a nasty habit out of losing close games in recent seasons. If they can shake that trend, an eight-win season is certainly possible for the Spartans.
Ron Zook’s magic as a recruiter finally faded in 2010 after a horrendous season that featured a three-quarterback rotation and little production from anywhere in the offense.
With Juice Williams gone, Zook needs a quarterback. Jacob Charest, one of the candidates for the starting job, has left the team and returned to North Carolina.
It doesn’t look good for the Zookster.
Barring a miracle, Illinois is destined to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten standings.
Bill Lynch has put together a dynamic offense in Bloomington, featuring two NFL-caliber wide receivers and a budding star in running back Darius Willis.
Ben Chappell has put up huge numbers and is posed for even greater success in 2010. Chappell is one of eight returning starters on offense.
Defense is where the problems lie.
Although the front seven is a capable group, the defense lacks great team speed and has little depth. Indiana looked to address those weaknesses in recruiting and could use a number of young, inexperienced players on the unit this season.
The Hoosiers have a chance to pull a few upsets in Big Ten play and should contend for a bowl berth.
Pat Fitzgerald has something going on in Evanston. Just ask the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The Wildcats have a number of holes to fill heading into 2010, especially on the defensive side of the ball and in the passing game.
An easy schedule makes a 6-0 start a realistic possibility. Could that surge continue as the season progresses?
It’s certainly possible, especially with Ohio State not on the schedule.
Northwestern has a legitimate shot to win eight or nine games, but a Big Ten title is too much to ask.
Tim Brewster has done an excellent job of making arguably the Big Ten’s slowest team into a competitive, athletic squad.
Brewster has used juco transfers, encouraged players to change positions, and given raw talent time to develop.
Now, it’s time to take the next step.
The Gophers have four-year starter Adam Weber back under center, but need help on offense, especially at wide receiver.
With three of the Big Ten’s top teams coming to TCF Bank Stadium, Brewster’s squad could certainly pull an upset.
Danny Hope is quietly putting together some talent in West Lafayette.
Miami transfer Robert Marve will hold down the quarterback spot for now until talented freshman Sean Robinson is ready to step in.
Both players have an abundance of talent and should flourish given the opportunity.
An impressive collection of receivers led by Keith Smith could spark the Boilermakers to a bowl game in 2010, especially considering a favorable schedule that does not include Penn State or Iowa.
Purdue is clearly headed back to the top half of the Big Ten.
Make no mistake, Paul Rhoads has the Cyclone program headed in the right direction.
Ames native Austen Arnuad has improved throughout his career and appears posed for a solid senior campaign. Alexander Robinson is one of the most underrated running backs in the country and is a lock for 1,000 yards.
Rhoads engineered a 7-6 record in his first season with the Cyclones, leading to greater expectations in 2010.
A brutal early season schedule could knock Iowa State out of the picture by October.
Road games at Oklahoma and Texas in back-to-back weeks are almost certain to produce two losses.
The November 6 meeting with Nebraska becomes a must-win, as do home games against lesser Big 12 opponents including Colorado and Kansas.
The Cyclones could finish second behind Nebraska in the Big 12 North, but that might be a bit optimistic.
The Fighting Mangino’s are no more.
Turner Gill brings his reputation as one of college football’s young coaching superstars to Lawrence, where he inherits a program that must replace a number of talented players from last year’s squad.
The former Nebraska Cornhusker has his work cut out for him.
Running back Daniel Thomas figures to be the best player on an offensive unit looking to replace Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe, and Kerry Meier.
The schedule is favorable, but there are simply too many questions on both sides of the ball.
A winning season is likely, but a conference title is a few years away from becoming a reality.
It's all about Daniel Thomas.
The physical running back figures to get the ball early and often for a team likely to struggle in the passing game for the second consecutive season.
Oregon transfer Chris Harper is in contention for the starting quarterback job along with Carson Coffman and juco transfer Sammuel Lamur. With big-play receiver Brandon Banks out of eligibility, there is clearly a shortage of weapons at wide out.
Bill Snyder’s squad lacks depth and also has major questions on the defensive side of the ball, especially up front.
Thomas could challenge the 2,000-yard mark, but it K-State should hover around the .500 mark in conference play. Even in the Big 12 North, that won’t be good enough to play for a championship.
Aside from USC, Colorado is arguably the easiest pick to not win a conference title in 2010.
Dan Hawkins’ philosophical approach to coaching hasn’t caught on in beautiful Boulder, and the Buffs’ program is on life support as it prepares to bolt to the Pac-10.
There simply isn’t enough talent, aside from possession receiver Scotty McKnight and running back Rodney Stewart.
Colorado’s defense returns largely intact after an admirable performance in 2009 but will once again be under pressure thanks to a poor offense.
Barring a miracle, Hawkins isn’t likely to be around for much longer.
Despite the loss of the receiver Danario Alexander and linebacker Sean Witherspoon, there is reason for optimism in Missouri entering 2010.
Quarterback Blane Gabbert returns and the Tigers have a budding star in running back Derrick Washington. A fairly easy conference schedule makes a run to the Big 12 Championship game a possibility.
However, the Tigers defense could be awful.
Last year, the unit allowed over 498 yards passing to Kansas and a whopping 428 to Baylor. The Big 12 might be a little less pass-happy in 2010, but expecting the Tigers to stop opponents on a consistent basis simply isn’t realistic.
Missouri will likely be left to battle for second in the Big 12 with Iowa State and Kansas.
Tommy Tuberville inherits a loaded Red Raider unit that endured a nightmarish 2009 season thanks to the Mike Leach-Adam James-Craig James fiasco.
On the field, the results weren’t too bad. Steven Sheffield emerged as a reliable quarterback when starter Taylor Potts was sidelined with injuries. Both players will compete for snaps entering 2010.
A staple of wide receivers led by Alexander Torres and running back Baron Batch provide spark to an offense that should look very similar to Big 12 fans.
The defense has questions, mainly on the line, where three starters must be replaced.
The Red Raiders could win nine games, but the strength of Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma make a conference title very unlikely.
The Pokes endured a strange season in 2009 despite an impressive collection of talent and experience.
Now that most of the proven talent is gone, change is in the air in Stillwater.
It starts with Kendall Hunter, who had a poor season thanks to injuries and the emergence of Keith Tolston.
Hunter will once again be the featured back for Oklahoma State and could have a big year.
The same cannot be said for a new-look defense that is expected to have nine new starters.
A soft non-conference schedule could produce a deceptively strong start, but don’t expect the Cowboys to challenge for conference supremacy this season.
The Bears’ hopes rest on Robert Griffin, who returns at quarterback after a knee injury that cut his 2009 season short.
Prior to Griffin’s injury, Baylor was 3-1 and seemingly headed to a bowl game.
Can the Bears regain some momentum and continue to improve?
Griffin has a decent staple of weapons, led by Kendall Wright, who is a receiver by trade but can also have an impact in the running game if needed.
Can the Bears win the Big 12?
Of course not.
The program appears to be headed in the right direction after years of futility, but life in the Big 12 South is never easy.
It’s all about Andrew Luck now that Toby Gerhart has moved on to the NFL. With no shortage of weapons at his disposal, the promising sophomore signal caller is poised for a huge season.
Jim Harbaugh has turned the Stanford program around in the last three years. A horrible defense is the only thing that has prevented the Cardinal from taking the next step towards conference supremacy.
It could be more of the same this season on the Farm.
Stanford is preparing to debut a 3-4 look this season under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. The situation is far from settled and could lead to a number of position chances, suggesting the Cardinal might get off to a rough start in 2010.
The schedule won’t make things any easier.
Early season trips to UCLA and Oregon could spell trouble. The tough sledding continues as Stanford plays at Arizona State and Cal before closing out the season against Oregon State in Palo Alto.
Keeping opponents off the scoreboard is easier said than done, making an eight-win campaign likely for the Cardinal.
Washington State returns a ton of experienced players from last season. In this case, that might not be such a good thing.
The Cougars are mired in a deep rut of futility, having lost 22 of its last 25 games.
Aside from promising young quarterback Jeff Tuel and wide receiver Jared Kartstetter, there isn’t much to get excited about in 2010.
Conference play won’t be easy on Wazzu, with trips to UCLA, Stanford, and Oregon State on the schedule.
Pual Wulff’s days in Pullman appear to be numbered.
After finally receiving punishment from the NCAA, USC is ineligible for a conference title and BCS berth in 2010.
The Trojans’ plight certainly takes a great deal of the intrigue out of Lane Kiffin’s debut season, but not all of it.
Uncertainty looms for USC, with juniors and seniors having the option to transfer to other schools. There haven’t been any major defections as of yet, but the plenty of questions already need to be answered.
The biggest question concerns the coaching abilities of Lane Kiffin, who has gotten more by doing less than any head coach in recent memory.
Kiffin’s staff looks to spark an offense that sputtered down the stretch in 2009. Matt Barkley had an up-and-down freshman campaign and no longer has the services of Damian Williams, his top target last season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Trojans need to replace all four defensive backs.
Kiffin has his work cut out for him.
Rick Neuheisel couldn’t be happier with the recent happenings across town at USC. A successful season could propel UCLA into the limelight while the Trojans ride out NCAA penalties.
The cupboard certainly isn’t bare, but UCLA has a bevy of questions heading into 2010.
Last year’s team featured a number of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. Of that group, only safety Rahim Moore returns. Datone Jones and Damien Holmes figure to have a big impact this season and should help engineer another strong defensive unit for the Bruins.
The problem is on the offensive side of the ball, where UCLA continues to search for a dependable Quaterback-Wide Receiver Combination.
Nelson Rosario provides a big, athletic target at 6-5. He appears poised for a breakout season, regardless of who is throwing him the ball.
The schedule is absolutely brutal, especially in the non-conference. UCLA would be very fortunate to split road games against Cal, Oregon, Arizona State, and Washington.
The Bruins will likely have to grind out wins in 2010.
Mike Stoops is off the hot seat after a decent 2009 campaign that had the Wildcats in contention for a Rose Bowl berth late in the season.
It didn’t happen last year and isn’t likely to happen this year.
Arizona returns a number of talented players, including running back Nic Grigsby and quarterback Nick Foles. Grigsby rarely stays healthy but Arizona has some insurance with Keola Antolin prepared to carry the ball.
Despite a non-conference tilt with Iowa early in the season, Arizona has one of the easiest schedules of all Pac-10 teams. Conference play includes tough but winnable games against UCLA, Stanford, and Oregon.
The defense is the only thing preventing Arizona from being a sleeper pick to win the Pac-10.
The Wildcats lost defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to Florida State and must replace seven starters on the defensive side of the ball.
Arizona is a lock for another post season appearance, but a conference title appears unlikely.
After a strong debut, Dennis Erickson has watched his team struggle in Tempe in the last two seasons.
Erickson turned to the juco ranks to help rebuild a roster with little talent and depth.
The Sun Devils once again have questions on the offensive line and at quarterback and must replace all-purpose star Kyle Williams.
Michigan transfer Steven Threet looks to spark one of the nation’s worst passing offenses.
ASU must also replace six starters on the defensive side of the ball.
The Sun Devils’ dreams could die early, with road games against Oregon State, Washington, and Cal in consecutive weeks.
Amidst a tumultuous period in Oregon athletics, head coach Chip Kelly is looking at a long season in Eugene.
Jeremiah Masoli has been dismissed from the program and speedy running back LaMichael James is suspended for the season opener.
As usual, Oregon has plenty of talented quarterbacks and should be able to find a reliable starter in the fall.
The Ducks have speed on both sides of the ball, but must replace both corner backs and show they have the size up front to bother opponents.
A conference title isn’t out of the question, especially if Oregon can build momentum in what is a soft early-season schedule.
However, a difficult stretch late in the season, featuring road games against USC and Cal sandwiched around an intriguing matchup with Washington, is likely to knock the Ducks out of contention.
With fans eager to forget Lane Kiffin, the affable Derek Dooley will get more time than usual to return the Vols to glory in Knoxville.
He might need a little time.
The biggest problem is on offense, where all the playmakers are gone, including Jonathan Crompton and Montario Hardesty. The defense returns seven starters but loses the dynamic Eric Berry.
Tennessee has holes and lacks depth, but if the Vols play hard they should be able to scratch out five or six wins.
Ryan Mallett should be fully recovered from a broken foot suffered this spring and will have a huge 2010 season.
That much is certain. Beyond Mallett however, there are plenty of questions and obstacles to overcome.
The offense should be very stout, with talent at receiver and running back. The defense ranked last in the SEC in 2009 and probably won’t be much better this season.
The main problem is a brutal early season schedule, including a five-week stretch featuring road games against Georgia and Auburn, home games against Alabama and Ole Miss, and a trip to Dallas to meet non-conference foe Texas A&M.
The SEC West is certainly winnable, but the Razorbacks have a lot to do before being considered a favorite to play in the conference title game.
The Bulldogs figure to be an interesting team to watch this season.
Defensive will certainly be the strength, with an abundance of talent and arguably the best back seven in the SEC West.
The offense could be a huge problem.
Mississippi State struggled to throw the ball last season and leaned heavily on a running game. After losing its top three rushers, including Anthony Dixon, the Bulldogs are looking for a spark.
The schedule is very manageable, making a winning season in conference play a possibility.
Dan Mullen has the program heading in the right direction in Starkville.
One of the most disappointing teams in 2009, less will be expected of the 2010 edition of the Rebels.
Youth will be served this season in Oxford as the program enters transition mode.
Ole Miss looks to replace Jevan Snead and find a playmaker to replace Dexter McCluster and Shay Hodge. The search could continue well into the heart of conference play.
Houston Nutt would be happy with a six-win season.
Head coach Mark Richt needs his team to come through in 2010 after underachieving in recent years. He really needs a quarterback, and hopes he has found one in the form of Aaron Murray.
The Bulldogs have no shortage of talent, with A.J. Green standing out on a roster loaded with potential.
The emergence of a running back would also help. Washaun Ealey is the favorite to rise above the rest of the pack.
Consistency will be a challenge in 2010, which could make things really interesting for Richt after the season.
Georgia’s schedule makes eight or nine wins a possibility, but Florida is likely to remain on top in the SEC East.
Joker Phillips should thank his predecessor for living the cupboard full of talented prospects.
Rich Brooks slowly steered Kentucky toward respectability but endured a difficult 2009 season thanks to injuries and quarterback struggles.
Phillips has a star in Randall Cobb and a potential star in quarterback Morgan Newton.
What Phillips doesn’t have is a great defense or a favorable schedule.
Kentucky is close, but isn’t in the same class as Florida or Georgia.
Poor Steve Spurrier. His teams at South Carolina just haven't been able to put it all together.
After two years of questionable decisions on and off the field, quarterback Stephen Garcia finally appeared to have his mind right last season.
The emergence of Alshon Jeffery gives Garcia a terrific target on the outside.
The days of South Carolina being one-dimensional could be over with the arrival of heralded running back Marcus Lattimore, who will team with Brian Maddox to provide Spurrier’s offense with a huge jolt.
The defense could struggle a bit, despite the presence of several talented players.
The Gamecocks need to prove they can contend before being picked as a possible favorite to win the SEC.
Help wanted on offense.
There is some potential, with underrated running back Warren Norman (SEC Freshman of the Year in 2009) and receiver John Cole.
At the same time, expecting too much from a unit that averaged just 16 points per game last season would be foolish.
The Commodores’ defense has little margin for error, leading to another rough season in 2010.