Now that the 2010 college football is in the books, it's never too early to look ahead to what's in store for next season.
The SEC will look to keep its position as the nation's top conference, while the newly reworked Big Ten will be scrambling to return to prominence following the dismal showing its teams put on in the New Year's bowl games.
The 2011 season looks like a wild one for college football fans, as there aren't a large amount of teams that are primed to make the leap into contention for a berth in the BCS title game.
1. Oklahoma Sooners
The 2011 Oklahoma Sooners are as equipped to win the BCS title as any team in college football, returning 18 total starters.
They return a veteran defense and an offense that looks poised to set all kinds of school records.
Incumbent quarterback Landry Jones has progressed more and more each week and looks ready to enter the top-tier of college quarterbacks. The departure of senior running back DeMarco Murray will hurt, but when freshman Roy Finch got an opportunity to carry the rock for the Sooners, he proved to be a worthy replacement for Murray.
Look for Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners to hoist the BCS Championship trophy at the end of the 2011 season.
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2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Unsurprisingly, there are very few holes in next year’s Alabama roster. The defense stays stable while the offense will initially need some tinkering.
Naturally, fans will point out the departure of senior Greg McElroy, but A.J. McCarron has looked to be an efficient replacement when he has seen the field this year.
2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram also departs for the NFL, but he hands the role of starting running back to Trent Richardson, a bruising runner with deceptive quickness.
The only irreplaceable void on the roster will be at the starting receiver slot, which Julio Jones had occupied for the last three years.
3. LSU Tigers
Whether Les Miles will return to Baton Rouge this fall is unknown, but this roster is built to win an SEC title and possibly contend for a BCS title.
The only notable losses to this roster will be DT Drake Nevis and CB/RS Patrick Peterson; replacing their leadership will not be an easy task for the head coach to do.
However, to overtake Auburn and Alabama in the SEC West, LSU must develop some kind of passing game to keep opposing defenses from routinely stacking eight men in the box.
Jordan Jefferson is the returning starter at quarterback, but he’ll have to compete for his job with Jarrett Lee and incoming transfer Zach Mettenberger.
4. Oregon Ducks
Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks proved during the 2010 season that, in college football, speed does kill.
Kelly’s offense put up eye-popping numbers throughout the year, setting all kinds of records across the board.
While understandably taking a backseat to the Ducks’ offense, the defense was solid as well. This team will lose valuable leadership with the departures of seniors Jeff Maehl and Casey Matthews, but will return the two cogs that give this team their identity.
Look for Darron Thomas to become a more efficient passer next year and for LaMichael James to make another Heisman campaign.
5. Stanford Cardinal
On Jan. 6, 2011, Andrew Luck shocked the football world when he announced his intentions to return to Stanford instead of declaring for the 2011 NFL Draft.
Fans rejoiced in Palo Alto, and for good reason, having already lost head coach Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers; it would have been a crushing blow for the Cardinal to also lose their star quarterback.
By keeping Luck, there will still be some stability on the offensive side of the ball while the defense will undergo some minor changes.
Stanford will enter the 2011 season with some new faces as well, having one of the top recruiting classes in the country.
The key for the Cardinal to succeed will be keeping the program stable.