With the college football season less than a month away, fans across the nation are chomping at the bit to get a chance to watch each of their team's seasons unfold.
The beauty of the beginning of the season for each fan is that their favorite team can be gearing up for an undefeated run to the national championship; everybody is on the same level.
For most fans, this college football season will bring about a record of four or more losses and an appearance in mid-major bowl game. However, there will be some teams throughout the season that will make a run at an undefeated season and thus essentially capture a berth in the BCS National Championship game.
This is a list of the teams who are the best equipped to accomplish this goal.
Any team with the front-runner at the Heisman watch list will be in the hunt at the end of the season to finish with a perfect record, and so is the story of this year's Stanford Cardinal. Coming off of a year where they only lost to the BCS National Championship runner-up University of Oregon Ducks (in which they were actually winning that game 21-3 on the road), the Cardinal are ready to prove to the nation that they are not just a school full of "egotistical braniacs."
Predicted to finish with the second best record in the Pac-12, Stanford is led by none other than Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck, who enters his senior year as the biggest prize on the NFL draft boards already.
Luck not only boasts an incredible intelligence for the game of football, but he is also a player who gives 110 percent on every play (just ask the USC Trojans linebacking corps). With both a great pocket-presence and escapability factor, Luck proved to defense after defense last year that he was a force to be reckoned with.
Though many do knock Stanford for not having the coaching continuity (Harbaugh left for the NFL), their new coach (David Shaw) is an energetic and knowledgable man who has the whole Stanford campus buzzing with possibilities for this upcoming year.
Further aiding Stanford's possibilities of an undefeated season is the marshmallow schedule they will get to have throughout the entire season. The Cardinal start off with games against San Jose State and Duke (both not what anybody would call football powerhouses) and face their first test with a depleted Arizona in Week 3.
After that, their schedule looks pretty simple until an Oct. 29 meeting against USC, followed by a date against Pac-12 favorite Oregon two weeks later on Nov. 12 at Stanford Stadium. Their season is finished with a game against a Notre Dame team that is once again looking to bypass their perennial hype and actually make something of a season.
While all of these may seem to put Stanford in a prime position to achieve an undefeated season, with games against USC in the Coliseum and Oregon (the Pac-12 favorite) just two weeks apart, the Cardinal will most likely be worn down and will lose one or both of these games. They also face a trap game in between these two powerhouses with a date against Oregon State, a team that also manages to hit the right stride right around this point in the season.
If the Cardinal can manage those three weeks, as well as questions as to who will comprise the rest of the team besides Andrew Luck, they may just be looking at a perfect record.
Coming off of a season where they finished ranked No. 2 in the final AP poll and an undefeated season, the TCU Horned Frogs are primed for a run at the National Championship in the 2011 season.
Though they did lose their quarterback, Andy Dalton, the part that makes TCU such a legitimate candidate for a repeat undefeated season is, once again, their schedule. With a move to the Big East (ooooooh how scary) looming next year, it seems as though TCU is trying to take advantage of the east schedule that they are offered as being part of the Mountain West. So, just so you can have some laughs, here is their complete schedule:
|09/02/11||at Baylor||Waco, Texas||7:00 p.m. CT|
|09/10/11||at Air Force||Colorado Springs, Colo.||2:30 p.m. CT|
|09/17/11||vs. Louisiana-Monroe||Fort Worth, Texas||1:00 p.m. CT|
|09/24/11||vs. Portland State||Fort Worth, Texas||1:00 p.m. CT|
|10/01/11||vs. SMU||Fort Worth, Texas||2:30 p.m. CT|
|10/08/11||at San Diego State||San Diego, Calif.||9:30 p.m. CT|
|10/22/11||vs. New Mexico||Fort Worth, Texas||1:00 p.m. CT|
|10/28/11||vs. BYU (at Cowboys Stadium)||Arlington, Texas||7:00 p.m. CT|
|11/05/11||at Wyoming||Laramie, Wyo.||1:00 p.m. CT|
|11/12/11||at Boise State||Boise, Idaho||2:30 p.m. CT|
|11/19/11||vs. Colorado State||Fort Worth, Texas||2:30 p.m. CT|
|12/03/11||vs. UNLV||Fort Worth, Texas||1:30 p.m. CT|
Their toughest challenge will undoubtedly be Boise State, where I predict that they will lose, although they could very well win that game and thus finish an undefeated season. Aided by essentially 7-8 home games (games in Texas against BYU and Baylor), TCU fans are itching to find an explanation as to why a schedule like this should permit a team to appear in the National Championship game.
However, before TCU fans get too excited about their undefeated season, they will need to find another stable quarterback to replace Dalton, as well as get past their two toughest games (BYU and Boise State).
LSU is one of those teams where people just look at their roster and are in awe of the NFL-caliber players that they have on their team and always imagine them going undefeated every year and winning the National Championship.
While LSU is still a very good team, every year there always seems to be a game or two where LSU just downright sucks. Both questionable coaching calls and quarterback play, as well as competing in the SEC, have led to LSU finishing the season with two or more losses recently.
However, with a returning NFL-caliber QB in Jordan Jefferson (though questions still remain who will be the starter) and the oh-so-talented Les Miles behind the playbooks, the LSU Tigers are ranked fourth in the preseason and are anxiously awaiting the start of a new season where they can potentially go undefeated.
The toughest challenge for the Tigers will be their Week 1 opener against the Oregon Ducks, who beat them in the rankings by one place. LSU will have to make sure they are in mid-season form when they come to play against the Oregon Ducks in Texas as Oregon plays with one of the fastest offenses in the game, wearing down defense after defense until they start to walk all over their opponents.
If they are able to navigate through Oregon in Texas and some key conference matchups, particularly at Alabama, LSU will undoubtedly become the front-runner for making a National Championship appearance and an undefeated season a reality.
Though their toughest challenge does come at the beginning of the season, LSU will also have to navigate through college football's toughest conference, the SEC, with cupcake teams (as always) wiggled in-between SEC opponents. With home games against both Florida and Arkansas (arguably the other two teams most threatening to LSU), the Tigers are primed to chase for SEC and college football glory.
Yes, I know that Oklahoma Sooners are preseason No. 1 and that most everybody believes that they are a shoe-in for the national championship.
My opinion on this matter will go against the grain from what everybody believes. Though ranked No. 1 last season, Oklahoma once again failed to live up to expectations. For some reason, this team always finds a way to lose games at key points in the season, and I think that they actually have a chance to right that wrong this year.
With Landry Jones seeming as though he is finally ready to take control of the reigns in Oklahoma, the Sooners are primed for an undefeated season and a run at the national championship. Jones is a stellar quarterback who exemplifies what it means to be a NFL-caliber college QB who will only get better as the season progresses; look for him to be in contention for the Heisman Trophy as the season comes to an end.
The biggest question for the Sooners is at their RB position. With DeMarco Murray's departure to the NFL, the Sooners will look to Jonathan Miller, a red-shirt sophomore. In his first year in 2009, he rushed for 130 yards on 18 carries and one TD, which are pretty impressive numbers for anybody's standards, but that was over a span of seven games.
Though he is most likely going to be a good college running back, Miller must demonstrate that he has both the leadership to lead the Sooner backfield as well as contain the endurance to finish the season strong.
With games against a much improved Florida State team, a Missouri team that beat them last year, and not to mention a rebuilding Texas program as well as the always dangerous Oklahoma State, Oklahoma will have to play elite football throughout the season in order to secure a spot in the national championship.
Though many people do believe the Sooners will be able to finally live up to their preseason potential, I believe that their youth as well as schedule will hinder their path to an undefeated season, unless their backfield can step up and provide Landry Jones with some much needed support.
Florida State is another team that is being hyped up at the beginning of the year (again) and looks as though they are also primed to contend for a National Championship if not an undefeated season.
With a schedule that opens up with games against Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern, Florida State will have time to let new starters such as QB EJ Manuel and C Jacob Fahrenkrug to learn and adapt as well as have some room for mistakes as FSU should be able to steamroll these two teams with their third strings.
Though he has made appearances as a backup to Christian Ponder in previous seasons, EJ Manuel is in his first season at QB for the Seminoles and is perhaps one of the most-hyped quarterbacks this season.
A 2011 preseason All-American, EJ Manuel will look to bring the Seminoles back to national prominence as they look for their first ACC title since 2005.
The biggest question for the Seminoles heading into this year is the position that they are hyping up the most: QB. EJ Manuel has all of the potential to lead the Seminoles to an undefeated season, it is just a question if he will actually shine like everybody expects him to.
It is almost too often that we see these supposedly elite quarterbacks not live up to everybody's expectations and drag their teams down as they are given too much to handle throughout the college football season.
For Florida State, they will prove to the nation who they really are as they face the Oklahoma Sooners in Week 3 at home, in perhaps their biggest game of the season.
If they can get past the Sooners and have stable QB play from Manuel, the Seminoles might just be singing to the tune of a perfect record.
Once again, it will not be a surprise to anybody if Boise State goes undefeated, although this year may be tougher than any previous years.
Coming off a season where they only lost one game to an underrated Nevada team on two missed field goals that would have essentially won them the game, the Broncos are looking to rally and finally reach the coveted ground of the national championship game.
Returning potential-Heisman QB Kellen Moore, the Broncos are more poised than ever to make a run at yet another undefeated season, and will have to prove themselves with a Week 1 matchup against No. 22 Georgia.
Though the ranking may throw the importance of this game off by a little bit, Georgia is a very young and very talented football team that will look to play spoiler to the Broncos season just as it is beginning.
If the Broncos are able to get past Georgia, the only threatening opponents left on their schedules will be Nevada and a very good TCU team. For these games, the Broncos will need to prove to the nation that they belong in the national championship by playing pristine and mistake-free football.
With wins against Georgia, TCU and Nevada, the Boise State Broncos may just be able to once again boast about an undefeated record and perhaps a national championship appearance.
Coming off of a 12-1 season where they lost to Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers 22-19, the Oregon Ducks are primed to make a run at the first ever Pac-12 Title.
Projected to win the innagural Pac-12 Championship, the Ducks are loaded with talent and are also ready to make another national title run.
With an offense that includes returners such as QB Darron Thomas, RB LaMichael James and RB Kenjon Barner, the Ducks will be putting up points at the same rate (if not faster) than they did last year.
Though many people do point out the fact that their offensive and defensive line did lose key starters, the depth of both lines has allowed for the players who will be starters this year to have made appearances in the past, giving them much needed experience as they assemble into Chip Kelly's offense.
Perhaps the biggest test for the Ducks will come in Week 1 against LSU where Chip Kelly's offense will once again be tested by a big SEC defense. Though many people expected the Ducks to be able to light up the Tigers defense, Auburn proved that SEC defenses can go toe-to-toe with the fast-paced Pac-10 offenses.
If LSU is in prime condition (which they will most likely not be), then they may be able to take advantage of an inexperienced Duck offensive line and halt the progression of Thomas and James.
Their other big test will come form a conference game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium, where the Ducks lost one of their three games during their Rose Bowl season of 2009. If the Ducks are to prevail against Stanford, they will need to contain Andrew Luck better than last year when Luck led the Cardinal to a 21-3 lead before an improbable comeback by the Ducks.
Questions also remain at WR, where the Ducks will be bringing back only Josh Huff and Lavasier Tunei. While both of these players made significant appearances and contributions in 2010, the Ducks will look for production from freshmen Devon Blackmon as well as JC transfer Rahsaan Vaughn, who has impressed Duck coaches with his sub-4.5 speed and ability to stretch the field.
While the Ducks may seem inexperienced, there is a strong sense of veteran leadership among the team as they look to a strong depth-chart rotation as in the past.
Eugene is buzzing with the opportunity to host the first Pac-12 championship and the Ducks are ready to make another run at the National Championship.
Alabama, just like Oklahoma, did not make it through the season undefeated or make it to the national championship game, and yet they are (once again like Oklahoma) ranked in the top two in college football heading into the season.
While preseason rankings may not mean much in the long run and the way the season plays out (just look at Auburn last year, preseason 22), Alabama is looking to live up to its No. 2 ranking with an undefeated season and an SEC title on the way to a National Championship.
Loaded with star potential and talent, Alabama may be the team who is most likely to achieve an undefeated season this year in college football.
Led by a defensive unit that will return nine of its starters, Alabama's main weakness may be one of the most important factors in determining its success in the coming season: their quarterback. After losing McCelroy to the NFL, the Crimson Tide now have to choose between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims.
Despite a dismal spring game for both of the potential starters, from all reports, both are excelling already in the short fall camp that Alabama has been holding. Though there is a lack of experience at this position, with an opener against Kent State, the QB's should be able to adjust quickly to Alabama's offense while gaining much needed QB experience.
Aiding to the young guns is a talented backfield, highlighted by Heisman candidate Trent Richardson, who rushed for over six yards per carry in 2010-2011 (6.5 ypc to be exact).
Though lacking at the QB position, Alabama is stacked at every other position and is ready to make a run for the SEC title once again after suffering three losses in 2010.
With tough games against Penn State, LSU, Auburn and Florida, the Crimson Tide are set to prove that they are the best in the nation.