Projecting the Favorites in All the BCS Conferences Next Season

Dan VastaSenior Writer IIIDecember 18, 2011

Projecting the Favorites in All the BCS Conferences Next Season

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    Though we are all awaiting games in the BCS, it is never too early to break down which teams will be the favorites to land in next season's games.

    For now, the Big East remains as an automatic qualifying conference towards the BCS, and the SEC has continued to defy all odds by having two teams in the latest BCS National Championship. 

    What conference is in store to end the supremacy of the SEC? Can the Pac-12 or the Big 12 step up, or will we see continuing dominance?

    Before we see an SEC team falter, the other contenders must first win their very own conferences. So, here are your way-too-early projected favorites in next year's BCS conferences.

    Note: Favorites listed on bottom with projected preseason rankings next August

Big East

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    This conference is diminishing by the minute despite the additions of Boise State, Houston, UCF, SMU and San Diego State.

    However, West Virginia is still on the fence for next season as to whether they will be able to immediately leave for the Big 12 despite Big East commissioner John Marinatto doing his best to keep the Mountaineers in conference for another year per Big East rule.

    However, Louisville is really thriving under Charlie Strong, and I doubt quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffers a sophomore slump.

    He is extremely talented, and the offense will only improve by leaps and bounds by this time next season, and we can always count on their defense to be dominant in the Big East. Syracuse, Rutgers and Pittsburgh should be factors, but Louisville should be ranked in the preseason top 25.

    Favorite: Louisville, Projected Ranking No. 22

ACC

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    Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech could be ranked in the preseason top 10 if they can win their bowl games along with returning their future NFL players.

    Clemson will be likely be in the top five with or without Dwayne Allen because Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins could be hyped (deservedly so) as one of the greatest pitch-and-catch combos in the BCS era.

    The Seminoles could feature an elite defense, and the return of E.J. Manuel will hopefully improve an offense that was ranked just 99th in rushing offense.

    Frank Beamer and Bud Foster will have a better defense, which is a scary thought, but the Hokies’ BCS fates may be determined on whether David Wilson returns or not. Miami, Georgia Tech and the North Carolina schools could become darkhorses if they end the recruiting trail on the right note.

    Favorite: Clemson, Projected Ranking No. 5

Big 12

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    The Oklahoma Sooners will certainly be the favorites if Landry Jones returns, but if he goes, then the Drew Allen or Blake Bell era would start. Collin Klein returns for the Wildcats, whereas all the star power on Oklahoma State leaves.

    Texas will be returning over a dozen starters total, but they proved this past season that they may be another year away from becoming legitimate contenders.

    Also, with the Aggies gone to the SEC, there is more of a chance for a team like the Longhorns, or say, the Missouri Tigers (wait, scratch that).

    The Baylor Bears could be legit if Robert Griffin III were to miraculously come back, but the true darkhorse should be the Iowa State Cyclones. Paul Rhoads received a 10-year, $20 million contract. He has gone 18-19 in three seasons, but he brought quite the energy to Ames this past season.

    The true contender that can make an impact right away will be TCU. Casey Pachall has a loaded backfield and a ton of receivers to spread the wealth. Throw in a Gary Patterson defense that will only get better and you could have yourself a top-10 team that should stay in the hunt for the conference championship all season long.

    Favorite: Oklahoma, Projected Ranking No. 3

Pac-12

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    The USC Trojans will still lose a few recruits due to the improper benefits the program received, but that will not stop them from winning games. They just came off a top-five finish in the AP Poll, and even if Matt Barkley leaves, they should be a top-10 team next season.

    Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are the stars for the best receiving corps in the country, and whoever is threading the needle (Scroggins, Kessler, Wittek) should be just fine.

    However, the Trojans will not be the favorites on account the Oregon Ducks will likely be ranked second or third come next August. Who is going to knock off the high-octane Ducks offense?

    Darron Thomas may lose LaMichael James, but Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas will dazzle the landscape of college football next season.

    Favorite: Oregon, Projected Ranking No. 2

Big Ten

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    Urban Meyer returns, but the Michigan Wolverines should be the favorites to represent the Big Ten in Pasadena. Denard Robinson has all of his explosive playmakers back, and Greg Mattison’s defense has proven to be a genius right out of the gates.

    They play Alabama at Dallas Cowboys Stadium (Sept. 1) in what should be a great litmus test to see how much Brady Hoke has improved his team from the first year to his second.

    A victory there, and they would certainly be considered the heavyweight in the Big Ten. However, the Buckeyes have eight home games and do not have the toughest competition on the road (Indiana, Wisconsin, PSU, MSU).

    The Badgers and Spartans will be solid even without Russell Wilson or Kirk Cousins, but I like the Iowa Hawkeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions to actually finish ahead of both of them.

    Nebraska is a real threat to win the Big Ten next year with Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez returning. However, if freshman superstar Jordan Westerkamp were to not commit to the Huskers then my expectations would be lowered a bit (10-3 type of year again).

    Favorite: Michigan, Projected Ranking No. 7

SEC

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    Alabama may very well be losing their entire defense outside of a starter or two, whereas the Bayou Bengals return nearly everyone. Certainly winning the BCS National Championship could change things for both teams, but LSU should have more back regardless.

    For that alone, we should rank the Tigers as the SEC and national favorites to play in consecutive title games.  Like most of the time in the SEC, there will be a few teams that will crack the top 10 throughout the season.

    Georgia and Arkansas certainly fit the bill, with All-American caliber quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Tyler Wilson returning.

    Plus, South Carolina has a ton of their studs coming back, and they could be a sneaky team since they do not possess that sexy team that the “experts” rave about. Their defense is ferocious, and they proved how great they are when they lost their star on offense, Marcus Lattimore.

    Favorite: LSU, Projected Favorite No. 1