College Football Predictions 2011: 10 Teams that are Still a Year Away
Though it certainly will be interesting to see if BCS front runners such as Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and Boise State actually win enough games to still be a part of the championship conversation in December, it will also be intriguing to watch the teams who still might need some aging before they reach full maturity.
Indeed, which teams are still a season away from the glory of a conference crown and a potential BCS title run?
Yes, who is this year’s 2010 Crimson Tide, Cornhuskers, Sooners and Seminoles, squads that are only a mere season away from the preseason Top 10?
The following slideshow attempts to pinpoint 10 teams that will be primed to make a BCS run, but in 2012 rather than 2011.
Incoming Wolverine coach Brady Hoke and friends definitely won’t be working with an empty cupboard during their first season at Michigan (16 starters return from the 2010 7-6 squad), but it may take more than one season to make the changes necessary to make a serious run at a Big Ten title.
While there is much to be hopeful about offensively, how quickly can the new staff effectively improve a defense that ranked No. 108 in scoring last season?
Michigan needs to move forward in 2011, and it’s reasonable to think that they will, but expecting more than a run for a Big Ten Legends title seems a bit premature.
We could drone on about the Trojans offensive line worries, their defensive challenges and whether or not some of the infamous USC swagger will return in Lane Kiffin’s second season at Troy, but really, the point is mute.
Yes, USC can and probably will improve, but no matter how well they play, no matter how many games they win or lose, no matter what, they won’t win the Pac-12 and they won’t go to the BCS.
And that may be the only prediction that anyone gets right; and they’ll be correct only because the postseason banned Trojans have already been removed from the race…that is, until 2012, when the safety net is gone and Coach Kiffin will finally feel the full weight of the expectations of the Trojan nation.
Though Red Raider fans will no doubt expect further improvements (as promised) in Tommy Tuberville’s second season in Lubbock, they may have to wait at least another season before Tech has a realistic chance of anything beyond bowl eligibility.
The Red Raiders are woefully young and will have yet another defense to learn under new DC Chad Glasgow, but with the influx of talent via record setting recruiting and increased stability on the sidelines, look for Texas Tech to start to rise from the ashes in 2012 or 2013.
What certainly won’t hurt the Red Raiders is the cyclical nature of college football, which should force teams like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M to rebuild while Tech is just coming around.
Minnesota ranked No. 89 in scoring offense and No. 98 in scoring defense in 2010, which are scary numbers for a team that plays a full bore Big Ten schedule.
However, moving forward things are very different at Minnesota, and if you look at incoming coach Jerry Kill’s impressive resume, you begin to believe that the Golden Gophers will (in relative short order) begin to have the pieces in place to make more than just the Big Ten Legends opponents begin to turn their heads.
Can Minnesota seriously play well enough to vie for a divisional or conference title in the next couple of years?
It sounds nuts, but I say, yes they can.
The hiring of Al Golden at Miami certainly seems like a move in the right direction for a program that hasn’t done more than win nine games a couple of times since joining the ACC in 2004.
But, how long will it realistically take Golden to have the Hurricanes swirling in the right direction?
The talent certainly seems to be in place, but this is an offense that ranked No. 67 nationally in scoring and a team that ranked No. 104 in turnover margin.
Other than that you have to think that 2011’s schedule is the perfect sort of slate to fire the championship metal; at Maryland, Ohio State, Kansas State, at Virginia Tech, at North Carolina, at Florida State, at USF…it’s the kind of stuff that matures a young team into one that makes a run, next year.
If you look back at the preseason predictions coming into 2010, the Longhorns were a Top 10 team that had a lot to look forward to defensively and had questions that were expected to be answered somewhat quickly on the offensive side of the ball.
Speeding forward to present, we know now that the No. 3 scoring offense in 2009 became the No. 88 scoring offense in 2010 and, really more shockingly, the No. 12 scoring defense in 2009 became the No. 49 ranked scoring defense in 2010.
What happens next, especially when you throw in the influx of new assistant coaches and schemes and a very strong Big 12 field, nobody can predict.
You have got to figure that Texas, some way, somehow, will be back.
But, is “back” defined by winning the Big 12 and going to the BCS, or is “back” returning to respectability or bowl eligibility?
The former might be at least a year away, while the latter is no doubt just ahead of us in 2011.
Charlie Strong took a team that went 4-8 in 2009 to a 7-6 finish in 2010, which included a 31-28 victory over Southern Miss in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.
This achievement is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the Cardinals played 23 freshmen last season.
The No. 111 ranked scoring defense in 2009 improved to No. 63 in 2010, while the No. 64 scoring offense in 2009 was transformed to the No. 18 ranked scoring unit in the land last season.
For 2011, Strong and his Cardinals return nine starters and face a more difficult schedule, which makes you believe that improvements are still immenent but that they may be a year away from being substantial.
Lost somewhere in the question of “who can win the Big East” is Louisville, who may rise up and thwart foes in a conference that still has no clear frontrunner, but who still has a clear path to BCS glory.
One of the more intriguing on-field storylines in the new Big Ten is Penn State, who looks to continue its rebuilding project that netted the Nittany Lions a respectable 7-6 record in 2010.
With questions looming in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and the obvious QB controversy, it seems prudent to say that the Nittany Lions will continue to improve, but they may be another year away from competing for a conference title and BCS bid.
The schedule is another major reason for concern with an early visit from Alabama and then a brutal Turkey Day run that includes a November 12 visit from Nebraska followed by road trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Ohio State’s woes sweeten the pot, but from an overall perspective, the Nittany Lions are possibly just one short season away from a return to glory.
The Horned Frogs have been ultra successful at rebuilding under coach Gary Patterson, which is exactly what they will need to do coming into 2011, as they return only six starters from their perfect Rose Bowl championship team.
Though they are talent rich and have the benefit of their final MWC schedule, TCU may be at least a year away from being a serious BCS contender (for 2011, they’d still be considered a buster), a storyline that becomes markedly more intriguing when they become Big East members in 2012.
Affiliation with the conference nobody wants to win means a clear path to what the Horned Frogs used to only be able to bust into.
The Gators have the excitement laced with sheer danger that only a young, highly coveted coach can bring to a success rich program.
They have talent, speed and depth but come off a season that made them look vulnerable and play in a conference where exposing any weakness can be deadly.
Is Muschamp really that good? Can Charlie Weis make the Gators go down the field? Who are the leaders on this team and can they really be overtly dominant again?
You have to figure that, even if Florida can once again reach the amazing heights they did under Urban Meyer, they need at least a year to get the ball rolling under the golden boy with the jet black mop of hair.
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