College Football Predictions: The 10 Teams Hit Hardest by Player Losses
The 2010 college football season grows closer with each passing week (and couldn't come soon enough). As it stands, we have a good idea as to who the national contenders will be. What individual players will be most relied upon for their team's success and what teams look to steer their conferences this upcoming season.
There are, however, a number of teams who face tough questions and unpredictable situations this season given players lost to injuries, players lost to suspensions or programs as a whole under the NCAA microscope-including conference and national contenders.
How these teams cope with the loss of certain players could ultimately define their success in 2010. Here is an early look at which teams face the task of filling the void.
The USC Trojans arguably face more questions than anybody heading into the new season. Not only are the Trojans in the post-Pete Carroll era, but they are now under the guiding eye of Lane Kiffin who enters his first year with his team in the penalty box for a double-major.
The Trojans have already lost top recruit Seantrel Henderson and a number of other members from this year's recruiting class, not to mention the need to replace numerous starters on both sides. With no postseason possible this season and the din of scandal hanging over the program, Kiffin and the Trojans have their work seriously cut out for them.
No man stepping in for another will be as closely watched as Florida's new quarterback John Brantley. Brantley steps into the Paul Bunyan-esque footprints of Tim Tebow as he is expected to keep the Gators gravy train to the SEC title game going.
Brantley is widely regarded as a better true passer than Tebow and may actually be a better fit than Tebow in the Florida system. But the pressure will be great for a player who has taken only garbage time snaps so far in his career. An early season slip up could really ratchet up the pressure in The Swamp.
Florida is an elite program that reloads rather than rebuilds, but replacing a program legend like Tim Tebow is a once in a generation proposition
The Ducks have endured a rocky offseason with numerous off-the-field issues. None was bigger than the removal of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli from the team. Masoli steered the Ducks' high octane offense, but now the responsibility falls to junior Nate Costa.
Costa is not completely green, but his playing time is still rather limited. The Ducks were a postseason favorite to repeat as Pac-10 champs. Yet Masoli's departure leaves a heavy burden on the team to meets its previous expectations. The Ducks are not completely out of the Pac-10 running, but are now more of a wild card than the odds-on favorite.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Brian Kelly steps into his biggest job yet with the responsibility of breaking in a new quarterback. Dayne Crist takes over for Jimmy Clausen and will be required to make a seamless transition to Kelly's wide open offense if the Irish are to break out of their recent run of mediocre seasons.
Crist has received just limited playing time in recent years in a totally different system. If Kelly is to make believers out of Notre Dame fans and the all-powerful Board of Trustees, he and Crist need early success over Big Ten opponents (Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State) to open the season.
Welcome to the spotlight, Garrett Gilbert, you are now the biggest star in the Lone Star state. Gilbert was thrown through the wringer unlike anything we've seen before when he was forced into the BCS Championship Game. Now, the freshman takes over for Colt McCoy without allowing the Longhorns to take a big step backwards.
Replacing a four-year, award-winning quarterback is never easy but Gilbert must make do without main weapon Jordan Shipley. The Longhorns should once again compete for the Big XII title, but the changing of the guard in Austin could come with some bumps along the way.
The Nebraska "Black Shirts" unit my now replace one of the best defensive players of the last 10 years in Ndamukong Suh. Jared Crick is viewed as Suh's heir apparent, but Suh's loss means less double teams at the line of scrimmage and thus less free reign for other parts of the Cornhuskers defense.
Head coach Bo Pelini is a defensive guru to keep the effects of the turnover to a minimum, but Suh's was so great that a dropoff can't help but be felt.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State must replace its own quarterback in Darryl Clark. The competition between freshmen Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin will be determined before the season starts, but nevertheless the team must survive a significant youth overall. This is a young Penn State team that will take the field following the veteran club of the last few years.
Penn State has been a recent contender for the Big Ten over the last few years, but a backslide in the conference is anticipated given the roster's turnover.
Florida State Seminoles
Landry Jones steps in full-time under center at Oklahoma, replacing Heisman winner Sam Bradford. However, Jones, unlike Gilbert in Texas, took the majority of snaps in 2009 which should ease the Sooners transition to a new identity.
Jones no longer has Bradford or Bradford's injury hanging over him as he now takes full command of the Sooners offense. Jones provided an admirable effort in 2009, but there are greater expectations for him and the team in 2010.
Brigham Young Cougars
BYU went 32-7 including a 2-1 bowl record with Max Hall under center. The most successful BYU quarterback of the decade has now moved on and now Bronco Mendenhall's team must find a way to fill the void and continue to compete in the top-heavy Mountain West Conference.
Riley Nelson is expected to over under center, but will he and the rest of the BYU team have enough remain in step with TCU and Utah at the top of the conference.