College Football 2011 Predictions: 10 Teams Likely to Get Worse Next Season
College football teams can't stay on top forever. With players and coaches moving on and incoming recruits needing time to develop, the landscape of the game changes each season.
But who is most unprepared to handle their defections? In 2010, Florida and Texas fell off after legendary quarterbacks graduated. Georgia fell out of the SEC race early, and Oregon State dropped off from being one of the best teams in the Pac-10 in 2009.
Some of 2010's best teams will find ways to remain in the hunt for national and conference titles. Others won't be as fortunate.
Here are 10 teams that will suffer steps back in 2011.
10. Auburn Tigers
This isn't exactly an unearthing of secrets unknown by the general public. After winning a national championship, there is only one direction to go.
That is especially true for a Tiger team that lost its best player on offense and defense. One is Cam Newton, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, and the other is defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who is at the top of many draft boards.
9. Nevada Wolf Pack
Nevada strode to a 13-1 record in 2010 including an upset of Boise State. It was the type of season that hardly ever comes along for non-storied programs like the Wolf Pack.
It's only logical to think that Nevada will return from its stratospheric success. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick passed for more than 3,000 yards and rushed for more than 1,200 yards in 2010. He and 1,600-yard rusher Vai Taua have graduated.
That's too much production to replace and uphold 13-win expectations.
8. Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin went to its first Rose Bowl since 2000, losing to TCU 21-19 last season. The Badgers produced two 1,000-yard rushers and another that rushed for 996 yards.
But left tackle Gabe Carimi is expected to be a first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Left guard John Moffit is also gone. Leading rusher John Clay left early. Efficiency expert Scott Tolzien is gone at quarterback. Five starters are gone from the defense.
It's not going to be quite as rosy in 2011.
7. Connecticut Huskies
Connecticut won its first Big East title in 2010 and went to the Fiesta Bowl. It did so on the backs of quarterback Zach Frazer and running back Jordan Todman, who both are gone.
So is head coach Randy Edsall, who took the head-coaching job at Maryland.
New coach Paul Pasqualoni has his hands full if he wants the Huskies to defend their conference championship. Syracuse is on the rise, and West Virginia won't go down without a fight.
6. Virginia Tech Hokies
It's time for the post-Tyrod Taylor era to begin. Replacing Taylor is Logan Thomas' job to lose.
Running back Ryan Williams is gone as well. Darren Evans led the way last season with Williams injured for much of the year.
But the ACC is on the rise. Florida State and Clemson look like the class of the Atlantic Division. And Virginia Tech has company in the Coastal Division. Georgia Tech and North Carolina should both rebound from a disappointing 2010.
And don't count out Miami (Fla.) just yet.
5. Navy Midshipmen
Navy loses eight starters on defense and its leading passer and rusher, quarterback Ricky Dobbs, from 2010 in a season in which the Midshipmen went 9-4.
2011 brings visits to South Carolina, Notre Dame and Southern Methodist along with home dates with Southern Miss and East Carolina.
Navy won't have much trouble finding rushing production, but breaking in that much on defense will be difficult. Seven wins is a more reasonable expectation for 2011.
4. TCU Horned Frogs
When a team from a non-automatic BCS qualifier goes 13-0 and beats a BCS conference team in a BCS bowl, it's about as high such a team can get.
If that team then loses six starters from the nation's best scoring defense and six starters from its prolific offense, it will then take a step back.
That is the case for TCU. It's just a matter of probability, more than anything else. The Horned Frogs have begun recruiting at a high level, but those players aren't ready to produce another undefeated season.
3. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska went to a conference championship game in 2011 by winning its division. But it's not in the Big 12 North anymore. The Cornhuskers are now in the Big Ten Legends Division.
That means they have home dates with Iowa and Michigan State. Nebraska also has road games with Wisconsin and Michigan and a home game with Ohio State.
There are no Kansas, Kansas State or Iowa State guarantees on the schedule anymore. Taylor Martinez better be ready to go.
2. Stanford Cardinal
Stanford was arguably the best team left out of the BCS National Championship Game last season. Andrew Luck turned down 10s of millions of dollars for another run in college.
But coach Jim Harbaugh didn't turn down his pro aspirations, filling the San Francisco 49ers' head-coaching vacancy.
Luck will be without Ryan Whalen and Doug Baldwin, his two top receivers from last season. Having running back Stepfan Taylor back helps. But even a three-loss season would be a big step back for the Cardinal.
1. Michigan State Spartans
It was a pretty magical ride for Michigan State in 2010, wasn't it? There was the overtime fake field goal win over Notre Dame and the win over Wisconsin with coach Mark Dantonio in the hospital.
They get six starters back on offense and six back on defense. They get back quarterback Kirk Cousins. They get back running backs Edwin Baker and La'Veon Bell.
But the Spartans won't be able to reproduce their magic in 2011. They visit Ohio State, Iowa, Nebraska and Notre Dame. Michigan and Wisconsin both visit East Lansing.