20 Teams In College Football To Get Excited for Eight Months In Advance

Joe Favia@joe_faviaCorrespondent IIJanuary 19, 2011

20 Teams In College Football To Get Excited for Eight Months In Advance

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    It was a crazy season in college football. Full of suspense, stars, and scandals.

    No one could have predicted the rise of the Auburn Tigers from the heels of an Outback Bowl win to raising the crystal ball behind Heisman winner Cam Newton.

    Also, no one could have seen teams fall apart and have a down year like Texas, who did not make a bowl after reaching the title game the year before.

    So for next season, anything can happen.

    Obviously, some of these teams' stock will drop by the end of the summer for various reasons, and other offseason happenings are sure to occur, but these are teams to keep an eye on and to be sure to be ready for.  

Georgia Bulldogs

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    AJ Greene has already declared for the NFL Draft, so the maturity of quarterback Aaron Murray will be the key in 2011. They will not lack playmakers on offense with tight end Orson Charles and running backs Washuan Ealey and Caleb King on top of nearly the entire offensive line.

    This secondary coming back will be among the tops in the country. Boykin and Rambo are two NFL stars in the making as they have the speed to come down and track you in the open field.

    Take note of the Dawgs special teams unit as punter Drew Butler and kicker Blair Walsh are arguably the best players in the nation at their positions. Just when you think you have good field position, UGA will be able to flip the field on you.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    One of the key decisions in the nation when it came to pros vs college was star receiver Justin Blackmon. He decided to return to Stillwater, and this certainly was more than great news for a team poised to make a run at a BCS bowl next season.

    Quarterback Brandon Weeden is the Chris Weinke of the NCAA as he will soon be 28 years old, and with his return, it looks like Mike Gundy will have one of the most dynamic offensives in the nation. Weeden showed his toughness by playing through injury last season and should be great when healthy.  

    Brodrick Brown had arguably the play of the year on defense as he jumped out of bounds, but tipped the bowl up in the air for his teammate to pickoff Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. Safety Markelle Martin is one of the premeire studs in Big 12 country, but this Pokes defense was very good this past season because of the constant pressure that the front four put on the opposition. If they want to have success on defense, it must start up front, because the pass defense was absolutely atrocious in 2010.

Virginia Tech Hokies

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    The loss of Tyrod Taylor will hurt, but their schedule has to help make it not seem like a big deal. They could have had a three-headed hydra in the backfield, but Ryan Williams and Darren Evans had pro dreams in their head. David Wilson will have to pick up the lack for the defending ACC champs, and if he can show he has consistency in his explosive nature, then the Hokies should still a threat.

    Bud Foster’s defense is loaded at linebacker and in the secondary, and the funny thing is that the defensive line is still solid. Lyndell Gibson and Bruce Taylor are freaks who cannot just roam sideline to sideline, but hit you in the mouth.

    Jayron Hosley led the nation in picks as a corner, and he will be just a junior. Eddie Whitley at safety will make an impact as well. Whether or not Chris Drager off the edge and Antoine Hopkins inside can create pressure up front will decide if they can knock off the likes of Florida State, Clemson, and Miami in the ACC.

Florida Gators

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    Whether John Brantley wants to be the starting quarterback is up to him; however, Jordan Reed and Trey Burton are good enough athletes to be productive under Muschamp.

    Having Jeff Demps, Deonte Thompson, Chris Rainey, Frankie Hammond, and Omarius Hines all return will give them plenty of speed on the field.

    The question still remains on the lines of scrimmage. They were pretty bad on the offensive line last season, and they had little to none pass rush all season long. The Omar Hunter watch has been a waste of time, as he is now a junior, and if he cannot step up now, he may never.

    Jaye Howard is another big body that needs to live up the billing he has received. The linebacking core, Jon Bostic or Jelani Jenkins must step up to become leaders if they want to improve on their win total and, more importantly, become relevant in the landscape of college football.

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Ryan Mallett may be gone, but Tyler Wilson showed in the Auburn game that he can thread the needle with a bevy of superstar playmakers at helm. Knile Davis in the backfield performed like a man possessed in the final two months of the season.

    Greg Childs, Cobi Hamilton, Jairius Wright, and Joe Adams are all expected to come back, and they together should form the best offense in America.

    The defense should be improved with a star remaining at each level on the defense. Jake Bequette is one of the premier defensive ends in the game; meanwhile, Jerry Franklin is a top level linebacker, and with help from Jerico Nelson, the front seven should be solid.

    Tramain Thomas will have to carry the secondary as it is still a bit young. All in all, this team will challenge for a SEC West and SEC Title once again even without Mallett.

TCU Horned Frogs

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    The best quarterback in program history since Sammy Baugh, Andy Dalton, has finally graduated. The playmakers have not gone anywhere, though, as the likes of Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker, Waymon James, Josh Boyce, Logan Brock, and Antoine Hicks are all returning in 2011.

    The defense will be tested since they are losing defensive end Wayne Daniels and All-American safety Tejay Johnson. Luckily, they return linebackers Tank Carder and Tanner Brock, who should bottle up the running game of the opposition.

    Gary Patterson is a defensive guru along his defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas, so no matter who they have out there, they are ferocious with a ton of speed. It was an interesting move to play in the Big East come the 2012 season; however, they will play Boise State at home in what will likely decide the Mountain West conference crown as well as a BCS at-large bid.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    The Irish had their share of injuries on offense a season ago, and hopefully, "the luck of the Irish" leans in their favor as their schedule seems to be easier than ever before. Thought they do have nine bowl opponents, they should be favored in seven of the games.

    The return of Michael Floyd was a key factor in choosing the Irish to be a team to look out for at the moment. The loss of Ruldoph hurts for sure, but the team could not deal with both offensive stars leaving early.

    Can Cierre Wood carry the load with the often injured Armando Allen gone? Most fans of the Irish are more than convinced that he can. The offensive line returns four, and thank God, because they did not protect their passers in 2010.

    The defense has an All-American in the making in Mante Te’o and a few hogs on the defensive line led by Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore. The secondary, like always, will be tested early and often, but they should be able to hold up if the front seven is half as productive as I project. This “should” be the best team the Irish have since the Brady Quinn days regardless of who takes the snaps under center.

Florida State Seminoles

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    Christian Ponder leaves, enter EJ Manuel, who is now a redshirt junior with a lot of experience at quarterback. He is not quite as big as Cam Newton, but he certainly has the talent to lead this Noles team to a conference championship like Cam did in SEC play. He has all of his wide receivers coming back: Bert Reed, Taiwan Easterling, Rodney Smith, and Willie Haulstead. Plus, he has his three of his running backs and offensive linemen coming back.

    The secondary got torched in the ACC Title Game, and though there were a few blown assignments, the safety play must produce more. Terrance Parks and heavy hitter Nick Moody should both improve, especially with the top four corners returning for the Noles: Greg Reid, Xavier Rhodes, Michael Harris and Lamarcus Joyner. They are quite the speedy bunch, as the linebacking core should once again be very good.

    Nigel Bradham is expected to return for his senior season alongside sophomores Jeff Luc and Christian Jones will help ease the pressure on Bradham. The special teams and defensive line should be exceptional, as they led America in sacks a season ago.

Texas A&M Aggies

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    Ryan Tannehill took the job from Jerrod Johnson, and while I questioned the call from Mike Sherman, he had nothing to lose other than his job possibly.

    How did the move turn out?

    The Aggies won six straight to close out the regular season, which included wins over Oklahoma and Nebraska. The receiving core is sensational led by Jeff Fuller, Ryan Swope, and Uzoma Nwachuka. They will return 10 starters on offense, but the most important one may very well be running back Cyrus Gray, who just went bonkers in the final month of the season.

    Von Miller and Michael Hodges are now gone, and the defense will be hurting early on. However, Garrick Williams, Sean Porter, Coryell Judie, Steven Campbell, and Steve Hunter are just a few of the eight starters that are returning for the Aggies. This is a 10 win team on paper, and if they can step it up a notch on defense, then they will be BCS Bowl bound in 2011.

Miami Hurricanes

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    Enter the Al Golden era!

    Jacory Harris will finally have to live up to expectations and bring about the resurgence that is expected from the "U" nation.

    Brandon Harris is a first round talent, and his loss will be hard to replace, as is Sean Spence arguably. The talent is not thin; they are just not as deep as in year's past. The Gators took over, and now the Noles seem to be gaining their own momentum in recruiting.

    The biggest weak link the past few years has been the inconsistent pass rush on defense and the complete nonexistent protection from the offensive line. If they slowly start to shore those problems up by knocking off the star less Buckeyes in September, then this team should be in some type of New Year’s Bowl.

Wisconsin Badgers

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    Despite losing the entire left side on the line (Carimi and Moffitt), the entire right side returns in Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler, and Ricky Wagner/Josh Oglesby.

    The three headed monster in the backfield was simply unstoppable a season ago, because quite frankly, running behind the best O-Line in America is one thing, but losing the chain mover in John Clay will shake things up for the Badgers.

    The change of pace back in James White and an extra bruiser in Montee Ball is the perfect recipe that Badger fans have always dreamed of. Having a different quarterback will be the question that Bret Bielema will have to answer all off-season. On defense, it will be interesting to see how and who will step in for J.J Watt.

Stanford Cardinal

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    With Andrew Luck returning, this Cardinal offense will remain very explosive and consistent. The trio of Stepfan Taylor, Anthony Wilkerson, and Tyler Gaffney will carry the load in the backfield. Chris Owusu, Griff Whalen, and Coby Fleener will be making plays downfield.

    The true standouts next season on this team will be All-American linemen David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin, who should both be future NFL starters. On the defensive line, the Cardinal still have Matt Masfilo coming off the edge wreaking havoc.

    Chase Thomas, Thomas Keiser, and Shayne Skox are three premier linebackers that will rank among the best in not only the Pac-10, but the nation as well. Delano Howell is coming off an All-Pac 10 season as well and deserves a ton of credit, as he has made that secondary above average.

    This is another 10-plus win team with Luck returning.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    The suspensions may very well cost this team a BCS National Championship, a BCS Bowl, and most importantly, a Big Ten Title. Luckily, they will still be a darn decent football team without those stars.

    All great teams have solid offensive lines, and there is no exception in Columbus, as Mike Brewster and Mike Adams will open some holes for running back Daniel “Boom” Herron when he's back.

    The defense only has four starters coming back, but Tressel always has his Buckeyes flying all over the field. Incoming freshmen Michael Bennett may very well make an impact in the front four, but they still have Nathan Williams and John Simon, who are expected to become All-Big Ten performers.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    T-Magic may be a dumb nickname to some, but the only thing dumb was the way Taylor Martinez made defenses in the Big 12 look as he just glided past them on his way to a fabulous freshmen campaign. If he is back in Lincoln, then it should be a magical year.

    Rex Burkhead, Kyler Reed, and Brandon Kinnie are enough reasons to believe that this Huskers offense can put enough points on the board. However, entering its inaugural season into the Big Ten, we are going to find out if the Blackshirts defense will be giving out the black blue eyes or getting them.

    Jared Crick, Lavonte David, Alfonzo Dennard, and Eric Martin (missed majority of season due to injury) can lead the way in what should be the best defense in the nasty Big Ten.

Boise State Broncos

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    Kellen Moore returns, and despite losing Austin Pettis and Titus Young, he still has his tight ends back in Kyle Efaw and Gabe Linehan. Geraldo Hirat seems to be poised for a breakout campaign, and Tyler Shoemaker and Chris Potter are solid possession wideouts.

    The offensive will return the best tackle in the nation with Nate Potter anchoring the line with center Thomas Byrd. The front four should be amongst the best in the nation as Billy Winn, Tyrone Crawford, Chase Baker, and Shea McClellin all have the talent to take this Boise team back to a BCS Bowl.
    The LB should be fine with Byron Hout, JC Percy, and Aaron Tevis. However, the secondary is questionable at best with only Jamar Taylor and George Illoka returning.

South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Quarterback Stephen Garcia is coming off his best season under center, but having Alshon Jeffrey and Marcus Lattimore may solidify what may be the best two players in America at their respected positions. Both are first round locks and are on many All-American lists.

    The defense loses quite a bit, but still has a few pieces to build around. The secondary has Stephon Gilmore and Akeem Augustine, both world beaters that are begging to be thrown at.

    Throw in a soft schedule in what was a weak SEC East in 2010, and you may have yourself an, dare I say, 11-win team?

LSU Tigers

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    Nearly the entire offense returns, as quarterback Jordan Jefferson has still not shown the consistency that the Bayou Bengal fans desire. Still, they are loaded with skill players, and on top of that, they return four of their five offensive linemen and a few of their defensive linemen as well.

    It was obviously a little give and take in the past few weeks with Les coming back, but having Steve Ridley declare stung a bit.

    The defense, despite losing Nevis and Peterson, will be filthy. Lavar Edward, Sam Montogmery, Ryan Baker, and Morris Clairborne all are future Sunday players. Oh yeah, and they have Les Miles pulling all the stops out.

Oklahoma Sooners

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    Landry Jones will be Sam Bradford-esque with Ryan Broyles returning; that is the thinking of many going into next season. They have other playmakers as well with Kenny Stills, Trey Franks, James Hanna, Trent Ratterree, Dejuan Miller, and starting running back Roy Finch can move the chains with ease.

    The Boomer Sooners D have nine returning with middle linebacker Travis Lewis staying for his senior season. He was a premier player in 2010, but the impact player on defense may very well be sophomore nickel back Tony Jefferson, who is a knock out hitter.

Oregon Ducks

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    Darron Thomas has made this team click from the get-go of him coming under center. LaMichael James will certainly be the Heisman front runner as well as Kenjon Barner and Josh Huff being speed demons that will make people smile in Eugene as well.

    The secondary will be amongst the best in the nation with the likes of Boyett, Pleasant, Gildon, and Cliff Harris (also the nation’s best returner).

    This Ducks team will go as far as Darron Thomas can take them, as he will take on a much greater role than he did one season ago. If Thomas is in the Heisman running, this Ducks team will be smelling roses at the very least.

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Even with the loses of Dareus, Jones and Ingram, the Tide should still be rolling next season

    Barron staying would make their secondary the best in America led by Robert Lester, Dre Kirkpatrick, Will Lowery, Phelon Jones, DeQuan Menzie, and Dee Millner. Throw in a tremendous offensive line with Trent Richardson running behind them, and you may start scratching your head looking for a weakness.

    They are loaded at linebacker as they have five or six studs who could start for any BCS team. CJ Mosley, Chris Jordan, Ed Stinson, Courtney Upshaw, Jerrell Harris, and Nico Johnson are the best linebacking unit in America, and that is assuming Hightower leaves early.

    A.J. McCarron looks to stay out of Nick Saban’s doghouse by making smart decisions and just merely managing the ball game with the studs he is surrounded with. The Tide should be great once again with their loaded squad after loaded recruited classes paying off once again.