College Football 2011: Predicting the Best Offense in Each BCS Conference
A few days ago, I presented a slideshow predicting the best defenses of each BCS conference.
While the "defenses win championships" cliche rings true more often than not, no defense gets there on their own; a team must have a good offense to balance with that defense.
Only then do you have a championship-caliber team.
The 2011 college football season will be no different. As good as a team's defense might be, the offense must be consistently effective if a championship season is to be achieved.
Don't believe me? Just ask the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
As we creep toward the beginning of the 2011 season, here are the offenses from each BCS conference that give their teams the best chance at a championship season.
Note: Independents not included.
Sources: ESPN.com, NationalChamps.net
Big East: West Virginia Mountaineers
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The Big East doesn't look to be particularly strong across the board in 2011, but one team that could win the conference is West Virginia.
The Mountaineers lost nearly their whole defense following the 2010 season, which was ranked third in the country in points allowed.
This season, it's the offense that looks to be this team's driving force.
Cincinnati, South Florida and Pittsburgh could all challenge West Virginia for the best offense in the Big East. Pitt is led by running back Ray Graham, and South Florida is led by quarterback B.J. Daniels. The Bearcats return quarterback Zach Collaros, running back Isaiah Pead and wide receiver D.J. Woods.
But the Mountaineers should end up with the conference's best offense because they return quarterback Geno Smith and wide receiver Tavon Austin, in addition to four of last year's five starting offensive linemen.
Smith and Austin should form a good rapport, while the offensive line should be strong enough to facilitate a good complementary running game. Look for West Virginia to have the Big East's best offense in 2011.
ACC: Florida State Seminoles
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Florida State is widely considered the ACC's best team going into 2011, and for good reason—the Seminoles may have both the best defense and the best offense in the conference.
Although quarterback Danny O'Brien of Maryland, receiver Jarrett Boykin of Virginia Tech and running back Montel Harris of Boston College will lead their respective teams in bids for the top ACC offense, Florida State will come out on top.
With quarterback E.J. Manuel, running backs Jermaine Thomas and Chris Thompson, receivers Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling, and three returning starters along the offensive line, the Seminoles' offense will dominate the ACC.
Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners
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In what could be the nation's most offensively-superior conference, the Oklahoma Sooners edge the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas A&M Aggies in a tight race, with Baylor not too far behind.
The Cowboys return one of the nation's best quarterback/receiver combinations in Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, who hooked up for 111 catches, 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2010. Running back Joseph Randle steps into a starting role after a promising season playing behind Kendall Hunter.
The Aggies return Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, Jeff Fuller at receiver and one of the nation's best running back tandems in Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael.
The Bears return all-everything quarterback Robert Griffin, who developed an impressive rapport with speedy receiver Kendall Wright in 2010.
But the Sooners are more stacked than any of them.
With quarterback Landry Jones, receivers Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills, Trey Franks, Dejuan Miller and Trey Metoyer, tight end James Hanna, running backs Roy Finch, Brandon Williams and Brennan Clay, fullback Trey Millard and four returning starters along the offensive line, Oklahoma could have the nation's most explosive offense.
Expect the Sooners' offense to at least lead the Big 12.
Pac-12: Oregon Ducks
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As obvious as this pick seems, the Oregon Ducks might get a lot of offensive competition from fellow Pac-12 teams in 2011.
The USC Trojans return rising stars in quarterback Matt Barkley, receiver Robert Woods, offensive tackle Matt Kalil and running back Dillon Baxter.
Stanford gets back arguably the best quarterback in the nation in Andrew Luck, who will pair with receiver Chris Owusu to form a dangerous duo. Offensive tackle Jonathan Martin will anchor the line.
The Arizona Wildcats have one of the best quarterback/receiver tandems in the country with Nick Foles and Juron Criner.
But with quarterback Darron Thomas, running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, receiver Josh Huff, tight end David Paulson and three returning offensive line starters, the Ducks look to have as much offensive power as anybody in the nation.
Oregon will have the best offense in the Pac-12.
Big Ten: Michigan State Spartans
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In yet another tough call, Michigan State edges Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State for best in the B1G, with Nebraska a dark-horse candidate.
The Wolverines return electrifying Heisman candidate Denard Robinson at quarterback, with Roy Roundtree and Daryl Stonum at receiver. A new staff and offensive system may hinder what would otherwise be the conference's best offense.
The Badgers return running backs Montee Ball and James White to form one of the nation's best running back corps, and if possible transfer quarterback Russell Wilson ends up choosing Wisconsin, they could easily end up having the best offense in the B1G.
Ohio State loses quarterback Terrelle Pryor, but once running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey and offensive tackle Mike Adams join center Mike Brewster, the Buckeyes will be challengers.
Nebraska returns mercurial-but-explosive quarterback Taylor Martinez, workhorse running back Rex Burkhead, leading receiver Brandon Kinnie and breakout tight end Kyler Reed, while also adding a healthy dose of speed by way of their 2011 recruiting class and a few former redshirts. The Cornhuskers could end up with one of the B1G's best offenses if everything comes together for new offensive coordinator Tim Beck.
Despite all that, Michigan State returns underrated quarterback Kirk Cousins, receivers B.J. Cunningham, Keith Nichol and Keshawn Martin, and one of the nation's best running back corps in Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper, all of whom will form 2011's best B1G offense.
SEC: South Carolina Gamecocks
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In the nation's most competitive conference, great offenses are not hard to find.
They are hard to rank, though.
South Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas could all make cases for the best offense in the SEC.
Alabama returns highly-touted running backs Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, receivers Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks, and a strong offensive line led by tackle D.J. Fluker, as well as a strong 2011 recruiting class.
Arkansas returns one of the nation's best receiving corps in Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright, as well as 1,300-yard rusher Knile Davis.
But South Carolina gets the nod.
Quarterback Stephen Garcia is set to have a break-out year, and if he doesn't, Connor Shaw will be an adequate replacement. Elite receiver Alshon Jeffery will make either of them look very good, and running back Marcus Lattimore—a breakout 1,000-yard freshman in 2010—will only get better.
The Gamecocks will have the SEC's best offense in 2011.