College Football Predictions: Who Will the BCS Love Most Come October?
The first BCS Poll will be released on October 16, 2011. Subsequently, the poll will be published each and every week for the following eight weeks.
There is no point in trying to explain in this brief space just how the gurus arrive at their rankings. Suffice it to say that the BCS weekly poll is based on a combination of the ranking of other polls, plus some complicated computer calculations.
Click here for a detailed description of the BCS process.
The BCS is the definitive poll whose ranking will ultimately determine which NCAA college football team is the best in the nation at the end of the season. That is all fans and pundits really want to know.
In 2010, Auburn found its way to the top, ending the season as the No. 1 ranked team.
During the week of October 17, when the first 2010 BCS Poll was published, Auburn was ranked No. 4 while Oklahoma was ranked No. 1, Oregon No. 2 and Boise State No. 3.
There were 10 undefeated teams in the BCS top 25 during the first poll of 2010.
By season’s end, former No. 1 Oklahoma had slipped to No. 7, Oregon retained its No. 2 spot and Boise State had fallen to No. 10.
On the other hand, TCU had risen to No. 3 while Stanford leapfrogged to No. 4.
Nothing spells success more quickly in the BCS than not losing.
The coaches preseason poll released last week listed Oklahoma as the No. 1 team followed by (2) Alabama, (3) Oregon, (4) LSU and (5) Florida State.
When the BCS releases their first poll on October 16, 2011, their intitial top five will be undefeated. The SEC dominance at the top of the poll will be significant.
Here is how the BCS poll will look upon its launch.
25. Michigan State (Big Ten)
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It is hard to forget the 49-7 thumping the Michigan State Spartans took at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide on New Year’s Day during the Capital One Bowl.
Despite ending the season 11-2, with only one loss in the Big Ten, Michigan State got little respect with the pollsters.
This year, the Spartans return their quarterback Kirk Cousins for his senior season as well as Edwin Baker at running back.
B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin return as tested wide receivers.
With all this talent coming back, the offense could be even better than a year ago.
The defense will also be stingy with Jerel Worthy returning at tackle and Tyler Hoover at defensive end as well as several potent potential linebackers ready to replace departed All-American Greg Jones.
But this year, Michigan State has more troublesome hurdles to negotiate than they did in 2010. The Spartans play Notre Dame on the road as well as newcomer Nebraska plus Ohio State who was not on their schedule last year.
The question will be whether coach Mark Dantonio can instill that same winning attitude that prevailed for the Spartans for most of 2010.
Michigan State will have two losses by October 16, 2011.
24. Mississippi State (SEC)
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Coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Dan Mullen, has fans of the program dreaming of postseason magic. Fulfilling such lofty expectations, however, is not Mullen’s first concern.
Coming out the SEC a winner, especially, the SEC West, is not an easy task to accomplish.
2011 will prove to be no exception to that football fact of life.
But there are reasons to expect continued improvement because the Bulldogs return starting quarterback Chris Relf who hopes to improve the Mississippi State passing game.
The running game propelled the Bulldogs to a 9-4 record in 2010, but it will be a more balanced offensive attack in 2011 that hopes to take the football program one step further.
Receivers Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark and Chris Smith should help Relf through the air while running back Vick Ballard will continue to do yeoman work running the ball.
The defense will have to replace a number of starters as well as their defensive coordinator from last year but have some stalwart backup personnel returning.
The important thing as far as Mullen is concerned is continued improvement and dedication to producing winning efforts week after week.
The SEC West is still a nightmare division, but Mississippi State expects to fight hard for the No. 3 spot.
Mississippi State will have two losses by October 16, 2011.
23. Auburn (SEC)
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Last year’s BCS Champions, the Auburn Tigers, must replace not only Cam Newton, the best offensive player in the country, but also one of the best defensive players of 2010, Nick Fairley, who disrupted many opposing offensive schemes.
The Tigers have a lot of talent left, but it is unproven and untested at this point.
The first order of business for head coach Gene Chizik is finding a replacement for Newton. That will not be easy. No clear winner of the quarterback spot came out of spring practice.
Will it be Barrett Trotter who served as a backup for Newton but saw little playing time? Clint Moseley surfaced as a prospect this spring. Then, too, incoming freshman Kiehl Frazier could win the spot.
All Chizik will say is that the “best player” will be leading the offense.
The Tigers return running back Michael Dyer who as a freshman ran for over 1,000 yards. But last year’s offensive line is largely gone, and the new members will be hard pressed to do as well as the veterans they are replacing.
The defense, too, will be starting from ground zero. Much rebuilding is in order.
Auburn will have two losses by October 16, 2011.
22. Northwestern (Big Ten)
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With Dan Persa returning to the Northwestern lineup and new emphasis placed on taking the program one step further, the Wildcats may surprise a few folks including college football pollsters.
The Wildcats are a different team with Persa in the lineup and the “fade” the Cats suffered at the end of the 2010 season was totally unacceptable to their dynamic coach Pat Fitzgerald who has challenged this year’s seniors to produce.
The Wildcats have 16 returning starters including wide receivers Jeremy Ebert as well as tight end Drake Dunsmore with running back Mike Trumpy expected to have an impact on this year’s offense.
Northwestern definitely needs to bolster its defensive efforts enough so that the Wildcats can hold the line at the end of games. Even though the line returns three starters from a year ago, the defense needs to add to its depth.
Because Northwestern does not have Ohio State or Wisconsin on its schedule, if the Wildcats can start strong, they have a real shot to have an impact in the “Legends” Division in 2011.
Northwestern will have one loss by October 16, 2011.
21. Miami (ACC)
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The Hurricanes new head coach Al Golden may have all the patience needed for building Miami back into the powerhouse it once was. Hopefully, the Miami fans will give him time and space enough to do just that.
First and foremost on his “to do” list is solving the quarterback riddle. A year ago, Jacory Harris entered the season with whispers of Heisman attached to his name.
But a season of miscues, interceptions and injuries make Harris not even a sure bet to start for the Canes in his senior season. Battling Harris for the starting spot is junior Stephen Morris.
Once Golden resolves the quarterback dilemma, he can look forward to unleashing top-notch running backs Lamar Miller, Storm Johnson and Mike James in the backfield. Their abilities would complement the receiving capabilities of LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin along with a new corps of tight end receivers.
The defense also has some problems especially on the interior of the defensive line. Injuries and miscues have caused some monumental errors on this side of the ball.
Mainly, Golden must shore up the discipline and make sure players are doing what they are supposed to be doing at just the right moment.
The talent is there. But someone needs to lead it in the right direction.
Miami will have one loss by October 16, 2011.
20. West Virginia (Big East)
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The Big East continues to sprout mediocre football. That will not change in 2011. In the meantime, the West Virginia Mountaineers continue to be the best the Big East has to offer.
In his past three seasons, coach Bill Stewart has won 27 games, giving the Mountaineers three nine-win seasons. This is Stewart’s final year as head coach.
Offensive coordinator and new head coach in waiting, Dana Holgerson, left Oklahoma State after building a powerhouse offense.
Holgerson will become the new head coach of the Mountaineers after this season.
The offense offers up seasoned quarterback Geno Smith as well as running back Shawne Alston. The receiving corps will be bolstered by the returning Tavon Austin and sophomore receiver Ivan McCartney.
LSU comes calling in Morgantown in late September. That will be the Mountaineers toughest contest.
In the Big East, West Virginia faces Connecticut, Louisville and Pitt at home.
West Virginia will have one loss by October 16, 2011.
19. Florida (SEC)
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There are few teams with tougher schedules than the Florida Gators. Led by new head coach Will Muschamp whose offensive coordinator is Charlie Weis, the Gators have a duo in charge who are accustomed to hard knocks and proving critics wrong.
The Gators return quarterback John Brantley for his senior season.
Brantley led the Florida to a disappointing 8-5 season, managing finally to defeat Penn State in the Outback Bowl.
The whole offensive line is being retooled for the new season.
Running back Chris Rainey is expected to have a breakout year as well as receivers Quinton Dunbar and Frankie Hammond.
The defense must replace seven starters, but the backups from a year ago saw plenty of action so the line is expected to conduct itself well and produce some game turning moments.
The Gators must play Alabama, LSU and Auburn in one three-week stretch.
Ouch. Still, Florida is expected by many to finish second in the SEC East.
It will not be pretty, but this team will survive and grow better under new leadership.
The Florida Gators will have two losses by October 16, 2011.
18. Iowa (Big Ten)
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2010 was a disappointing year for the Hawkeyes who expected to finally win the Big Ten title or at least a share of the title. Instead, the Hawkeyes saw their season unravel as they lost three of their final four regular season games.
The Hawkeyes did redeem themselves for their departing seniors by winning the Insight Bowl against the highly ranked Missouri Tigers 27-24.
This year, the Hawkeyes are without Ricky Stanzi at quarterback. Instead, James Vandenberg will assume the duties with a minimum amount of experience.
But Vandenberg will be aided by sophomore running back James Coker in the backfield along with standout wide receiver Marvin McNutt who caught 53 passes for 861 yards in 2010.
Gone are defensive stalwarts Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard and Karl Klug, but Mike Daniels is back along with Broderick Binns to shore up the defense.
What is more linebacker Tyler Nielsen has fully recovered and will be back in action joined by James Morris at the linebacker spot who learned quickly as a true freshman in 2010.
Then too in the defensive backfield Iowa returns last year's starters Shaun Prater at corner while Micah Hyde shifts to safety.
Iowa will not be burdened this year by high expectations. Coach Kirk Ferentz and staff will be ready to take full advantage of their lowly status entering 2011.
If Iowa can get by Penn State on the road and finally take care of Northwestern at home, expect the Hawkeyes to find themselves in the spotlight once again.
Iowa will have one loss by October 16, 2011.
17. Arkansas (SEC)
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Even though the talented quarterback Ryan Mallett has left for the NFL, the Razorbacks return 12 starters from last year’s team, including their top running backs and receivers.
Unfortunately, during spring practice, Broderick Green suffered a season-ending ACL injury and will not be available during the 2011 season.
Tyler Wilson looks to be Mallet’s replacement at quarterback. First on the priority list for the Razorbacks will be establishing a solid running game. This will allow Wilson as the new quarterback a chance to solidify his passing attack for the latter stages of the season.
With Arkansas’ rock solid defense there should be ample time to settle the new quarterback into the Razorback offense before Arkansas must travel to Tuscaloosa to meet Alabama.
The defense remains strong enough to turn the tide against many opponents during the 2011 season.
The SEC West is tough, very tough and Arkansas will be looking to finish third behind Alabama and LSU.
Last year, the Razorbacks finished 10-3, 5-3 in the SEC. This year, the Razorbacks are hoping to continue to climb.
Arkansas will have two losses by October 16, 2011.
16. Missouri (Big 12)
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The Big 12 North no longer exists.
Talented quarterback Blaine Gabbert has left for the NFL.
Still there is every reason for the Mizzou Tigers to be optimistic for the 2011 season.
True, Missouri must replace their vaunted play-caller, Gabbert. But it looks as though the nod will soon go the way of James Franklin who will throw to seasoned receivers T.J. Moe, Walter Camp and All-American tight end Michael Egnew.
The defense also returns seven starters and promises to be equally adept at stopping opposing offenses from reaching the end zone.
Coach Gary Pinkel has signed a coaching contract extension which takes him through the 2017 season. Stability in the coaching ranks has much to do with the success the Tigers have had in the past few seasons.
While they must fight harder to win a division title in the Big 12 now that the league is no longer divided, Missouri comes in while Texas is down, and Nebraska is gone.
Missouri will have one loss by October 16, 2011.
15. Virginia Tech (ACC)
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Whew––even losing quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the ACC Player of the Year as well as running backs Ryan Williams (2,132 yards in two seasons) and Darren Evans (2,119 yards in two seasons), Virginia Tech is expected to win the ACC again in 2011.
Replacing Taylor at quarterback will be Logan Thomas who stands 6’6" in the pocket and should have a great view downfield where wide receivers senior Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale wait.
Passing has not been the strong suit of Virginia Tech. It is the running game that has been the backbone of the offense. David Wilson will be expected to help the backfield rack up yardage on the offensive side of the ball.
The Hokies have always built their game around a strong defense. That ingredient was a bit lacking in 2011 and must be retooled for the 2011 season with so many offensive stalwarts gone to the NFL.
Virginia Tech finished the 2010 season 11-3, 8-0 in the ACC. They were embarrassed by Stanford 12-40 in the Sugar Bowl but are willing to come back for more in 2011.
Their non-conference schedule should find them undefeated going into ACC Conference play. The Hokies will have home-field advantage when Miami comes calling and Virginia Tech does not play Florida State or NC State during the regular season.
Virginia Tech have one loss by October 16, 2011.
14. South Carolina (SEC)
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Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about their chances to repeat as champions of the SEC East Division.
The Gamecocks welcome back Marcus Lattimore who rushed for 1,197 yards last season as a freshman as well as wide receiver Alshon Jeffery who managed to gather in the ball for eight 100-yard games last season.
The Gamecock defense promises to return to the heights it celebrated in 2010 with the return of defensive end Devin Taylor and tackle Travian Robertson, plus the new top-ranked recruit Jadeveon Clowney.
Then, too, recently Spurrier allowed suspended quarterback Stephen Garcia back into the fold after his fifth suspension from the team.
Along with Garcia, quarterback coach G.A. Mangus have been reinstated as members of the 2011 Gamecock team.
Even though the Gamecocks were embarrassed in the SEC Championship game by Auburn and burned in the Chick-a-fil-A Bowl by Florida State, South Carolina finds themselves in a division where the Gamecocks should get by Florida and Georgia and secure that top ranked SEC East title again.
South Carolina will have one loss by October 16, 2011.
13. Ohio State (Big Ten)
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It is hard to predict how far this talent-laden team will fall given all the “bad press” coming into the 2011 season.
Jim Tressel is gone along with starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The tattooed suspensions will hurt the Buckeye attack more than the defense.
It will be hard to assess this team because of all the adversity coming into the 2011 football season.
New head coach Lukas Fickell will have his hands full trying to keep morale up while he prepares a new quarterback for the starting role. Just who that new QB will be is the most pressing question.
Standout receiver Devier Posey will miss the first five games of the season, coming back just in time to travel to Lincoln where Ohio State will play the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the first time as co-members of the Big Ten.
Teams with Ohio State on their schedule will sense the uncertainty at vital positions and do their utmost to strike hard while the Buckeye football fortunes are down.
One critical area for Fickell and his coaches will be to make sure the players concentrate on the game at hand from start to finish. There can be no room for outside distractions or looking ahead at games down the road.
Ohio State has a trip on September 17 to Miami, and that should be the measuring stick as to how well the Buckeyes are doing on both sides of the ball.
Ohio State will have one loss by October 16, 2011.
12. Notre Dame
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Last year, Brian Kelly, Notre Dame’s new head coach, was just supposed to get his feet wet. Instead, he almost drowned in a swirling sea of catastrophe on and off the playing field.
But, as they say, what doesn’t kill you should make you stronger. The Notre Dame faithful believe that and have clung to that faith for the past decade.
Kelly, in his second year, will hopefully benefit from a year’s worth of input by the Irish coaching staff.
The Irish return 16 starters from last year’s team with a depth of experience to bring to bear on the opposition.
The defense will be even better than a year ago.
The offense needs to settle on a quarterback––either Dayne Crist or Tommy Rees––and fine tune the running game with Cierre Wood returning.
Wide receivers Michael Floyd, Theo Riddick and TJ Jones along with tight end Tyler Eifert will aid in the passing game.
The Irish should definitely be stronger in 2011 once the quarterback issue is resolved by Kelly and the offensive coordinator.
The Irish will have one loss by October 16, 2011.
11. Florida State (ACC)
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Following Bobby Bowden's tenure in the ACC could not have been easy, but Jimbo Fisher did it with aplomb, easing the Seminoles into the national spotlight once again.
Florida State finished the season 9-4, overcoming South Caroline 26-17 in the Chick-Fil-A-Bowl on December 31.
The Seminoles lost their quarterback Christian Ponder to the NFL. Ponder was a three-year starter and a quality quarterback.
But much excitement is being generated by EJ Manuel who filled in for Ponder during some critical moments. Manuel will find himself surround by much offensive talent because FSU will return five top running backs as well as all of their top receivers.
The Seminole defense as well as their special teams promise to assist FSU in their quest for a top 10 finish in the polls.
What might prove to be a problem is the schedule. Florida State must face a very talented Oklahoma team on September 17. Last year, they lost to the Sooners 17-47 in Norman. This will be a very dangerous game for the Seminoles.
Also, the following week, FSU must go to Clemson where the Tigers strive to make life miserable for Florida State. In fact, FSU has not won at Clemson since 2001.
This could be a very tough stretch for the Seminoles, but after these two games, life could be great again.
Florida State will have 1 loss by October 16, 2011.
10. Oklahoma State (Big 12)
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Even as the Big 12 grows smaller, their winning programs stay steady.
One of the new powers in the Big 12 are the Cowboys of Oklahoma State. What makes them a good bet for success in 2011 is the fact that Brandon Weeden decided to return as quarterback.
Joining Weeden is Justin Blackmon at wide receiver who won the 2010 Biletnikoff Award for his 111 catches for 1,782 yards, scoring 20 touchdowns.
In 2010, the Cowboys averaged 520.2 yards and 44.2 points per game. The offensive output was amazing, ending the season with an 11-2 mark, 6-2 in the Big 12.
The Cowboys defeated Arizona in the Alamo Bowl 36-10.
This year, Oklahoma State must bolster their defense, plugging some holes left by graduation and departure.
The Cowboys also have a wicked schedule with games at Texas A&M, at Texas and at Missouri before meeting Oklahoma on December 3.
Oklahoma State will have one loss on October 16, 2011
9. Wisconsin (Big Ten)
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The Badgers were red hot in 2010, compiling an 11-2 season, going 7-1 in the Big Ten.
Their only loss during the regular season came at the hands of Michigan State in East Lansing.
True, the Badgers lost the Rose Bowl to the TCU Horned Frogs 19-21, but still, the season was memorable with many high points to soothe the pain of losing that elusive Rose Bowl title.
In 2011, coach Bret Bielema welcomes back running backs Montee Ball and James White as well as vaunted receiver Nick Toon to lead the offense.
While quarterback Scott Tolzien’s departure represents a real hurdle to be overcome, with any luck, the Badgers will fill the quarterback position without too many interruptions in the offensive production fans have come to expect with the Badger running game.
Still, the Badgers play Nebraska to open the Big Ten season and then play games on the road at Michigan State and Ohio State on back-to-back weekends. It could be a rough few weeks.
The Wisconsin Badgers will have one loss on October 16, 2011.
8. Oregon (PAC-12)
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Oregon will figure out immediately what their future holds for the 2011 football season.
Right off the bat, the Ducks face the highly-ranked LSU Tigers, predicted by many preseason polls to reign as one of the top teams in the nation.
The Oregon team that stumbled in the 2010 BCS Championship game to Auburn has high ambitions as the 2011 season gets underway.
This time they want to win it all.
Darron Thomas returns as starting quarterback to run the high-powered Oregon offense aided in the backfield by LaMichael James who should enjoy another record-setting season in the Duck’s spread offense.
Both players have Heisman potential coming into the season.
Because they face a powerful LSU team in their opener, the holes in the defensive line must be plugged immediately and well.
The Ducks will have one loss on October 16, 2011.
7. Nebraska (Big Ten)
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It is Nebraska’s first year as a member of the Big Ten, specifically as a member of the “Legends” Division along with Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern.
The Huskers expect to win their division in their inaugural year in the Big Ten.
But it will not be easy. The Huskers play Washington on September 17––the team that embarrassed Nebraska 7-19 in the Holiday Bowl––the same team they defeated earlier in 2010 by a score of 56-21.
In fact, the Huskers lost three of their last four games in 2010.
On October 1, the Huskers must travel to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers to begin their Big Ten play and follow that game by welcoming Ohio State into Lincoln.
They come into the Big Ten with a top-ranked defense anchored by Jared Crick on the line with Lavonte David as linebacker and Alfonzo Dennard on the corner.
But defense has never been the issue with this Bo Pelini-coached team.
The Husker weakness has been on offense where the passing game has not developed sufficiently to alleviate the pressure on the run. The new offensive scheme to be implemented in 2011 will be designed to help create balance play on offense.
Nebraska will be undefeated on October 16, 2011.
6. Texas A&M (Big 12)
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The Aggies literally turned on the after-burners in the second half of the 2010 season.
Quarterback Jerrod Johnson who never returned to his pre-shoulder surgery form was replaced by Ryan Tannehill who took the mediocre Texas A & M team to the very top of the Big 12 South, tying with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State for a piece of the division title.
The Aggies had six straight victories including wins over Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas.
Even though Texas A & M lost to LSU 24-41 in the Cotton Bowl, they return 18 starters from last year’s team including Tannehill and tailback Cyrus Gray whose name has been linked to “Heisman hopefuls.”
This year, however, marks the beginning of a new Big 12 without Nebraska and without Colorado.
With continuing improvements on defense, the Aggies are a top 10 team in the making.
Texas A&M plays Oklahoma State at home on September 24 and Arkansas on October 1. Those two games should give an early indication if the Aggies are back on a winning tract in 2011.
Texas A & M will be undefeated on October 16, 2011.
5. Stanford (PAC-12)
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The Cardinal (6-0)
"Luckily" for the Cardinal, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be back in the pocket for the 2011 football season.
Luck is definitely the NCAA top-ranked returning quarterback and a shoe-in for the Heisman, according to many rating agencies.
Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh, however, departed for the NFL and will not be leading the Cardinal in 2011.
New head coach David Shaw will have that honor.
Harbaugh took many of his assistants with him to San Francisco, and there are question marks about how well Stanford will compete without Harbaugh and company planning the offense and defense.
Still, with Luck leading the attack and with leading personnel still in place, Stanford should be in a position to capture a PAC-12 title for the first time in its history and remain a top 10 ranked football program.
Or even better.
Stanford will be undefeated on October 16, 2011
4. Boise State (MWC)
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There is something uniquely appealing about the blue boys out of Boise State who pulled up their Western Athletic Conference roots to head to the Mountain West Conference where TCU welcomes them with open arms.
Well, sort of.
Quarterback Kellen Moore returns to lead the Broncos along with tailback Doug Martin and receiver Tyler Shoemaker.
Operating behind a seasoned and tough front line, the Boise State offense promises to be as exciting as ever.
Just as they did last year, Boise State will face a top-ranked opponent in their opening game. This year, it will be the Georgia Bulldogs, ranked No. 22 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll.
In 2010, the Broncos took on Virginia Tech in their opener. Boise State will play the game in Atlanta, hoping that a victory over the Bulldogs will secure their top 10 ranking while silencing critics.
The Broncos meet TCU but late in the season. If Boise State gets by Georgia, they should retain their top 10 ranking and with a win over TCU perhaps leading the way for a shot at the national title game.
Boise State will be undefeated on October 16, 2011.
3. Alabama (SEC)
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Crimson Tide (6-0)
You just cannot overlook Alabama for the No. 1 spot in college football.
Even with a few questions like who will stand in at quarterback?
How long before the defensive line is settled firmly in place?
Who will hold down the top spot at wide receiver?
Alabama is loaded with talent including All-American probable Trent Richardson at tailback and Courtney Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower at linebacker.
Out of the SEC West, Alabama’s schedule also lends some support to their title hopes because the Tide has home field advantage when they face LSU and Arkansas, likely to be Alabama’s biggest rivals in the SEC West.
Even though Alabama must travel to Florida out of the SEC East, the Tide does not play Georgia or South Carolina.
The Tide should be undefeated on October 16th.
2. LSU (SEC)
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Expectations fly high for Les Miles and the LSU Tigers as the 2011 college football season looms on the horizon.
LSU comes off an 11-2 winning season in 2010 where the Tigers upended Alabama 24-21, ending the Tides hope for a shot at a national championship.
LSU also defeated Florida in Gainsville but are still stinging over the miraculous escape Auburn pulled winning 24-17. A win was within the grasp of LSU well into the fourth quarter.
Jefferson Jordan returns as the LSU quarterback but with former Georgia QB Zach Mettenberger breathing down his neck for that vaunted starting spot.
The Tiger offense looks solid, especially the O-line where four starters return and veteran backups plug the additional spots.
Although running back Stevan Ridley left for the NFL, three veteran receivers will populate the backfield, providing moving targets for the LSU quarterback Jordan.
The defense looks solid, but the kicking game may prove to be the Achilles heel for a team aspiring for a national title.
LSU’s true test will come on opening day when they must face their first non-conference opponent, the Oregon Ducks.
LSU will be undefeated on October 16, 2011.
1. Oklahoma (Big 12)
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The Big 12 has shed some Husker and Buffalo pounds in 2011, but even with this leaner and hungrier look, the Oklahoma Sooners are still the top team in the Big 12.
After many frustrating seasons of “almost,” the Sooners are ready to battle all the way to the BCS Championship game in January.
Landry Jones will return at quarterback to lead the Sooner attack with Ryan Broyles receiving.
True, Oklahoma will miss DeMarco Murray out of the backfield, but there is multitude of talent on the way up at tailback.
With Texas still rebuilding, the Sooners have to get by only Oklahoma State (on the road) and Texas A&M (at home) for the conference title.
The Sooners non-conference game at Florida State could also prove to be difficult to handle but expect Oklahoma to prevail.
After years of coming close to repeating their national championship season of 2000, this year's team, which returns 29 players who have started for the Sooners, expects to repeat.
It will be 2000 all over again for Bobby Stoops and company.
The Sooners will be undefeated on October 16, 2011