25 College Football Teams That Will Have the Biggest Dropoff in 2012
The beginning of a new football season is much anticipated, hyped and talked about, particularly by those of us who make the game what it is: the fans.
This is a compilation of the 25 teams that may not be too thrilled about their prospects for next season.
Whether it means they have a far worse record in the regular season, or miss out on a fluke championship game (here's looking at you UCLA), these teams are going to struggle next season.
The teams on this list can be compared to your own experiences in college.
You knew a tough exam was coming, yet did not prepare, ended up sweating your way to a D- and told yourself that the next test would be better.
You will follow them next season, because you are a fan, but it may not be fun.
25. Cincinnati Bearcats
The Bearcats finished the season tied atop the Big East, and that was with starting quarterback Zach Collaros missing three games.
Next season, Cincy is going to struggle, as they are losing both Collaros and Isaiah Pead, the Big East's second leading rusher.
The Big East teams seem to have very little separation between them, and that will make it difficult for Cincy to win many more than seven games in 2012.
24. Missouri Tigers
They are headed to the SEC.
That is pretty much all that you need to know.
The Tigers have some very good young talent at the offensive skill positions, but are losing a talented tight end and running back.
Ask Utah and Colorado how easy it is to adapt in a new conference.
The move to the SEC, while likely beneficial in the long run, is going to wreak havoc on the Tigers in 2012.
23. Western Michigan Broncos
The Broncos could barely manage to stay above .500 with stellar receiver Jordan White.
Without him, some of those close games will not go their way.
Alex Carder will still get his yards, but without White the offense will not be nearly so potent, leading to some tough losses.
22. UCLA Bruins
Yes, I know the Bruins had a season in 2011 that was already just short of abysmal.
However, they did make the Pac-12 title game.
That's not going to happen next season.
Utah will be better, and USC will actually be able to play in the game.
Sorry, UCLA fans, it's going to be another mediocre season, this time without a reward at the end.
21. Alabama Crimson Tide
This one is interesting to talk about.
The Tide could lose as many as five starters from their stellar defense.
Throw in Trent Richardson, and things are going to be slim for the Tide.
The SEC schedule is brutal, and even though Nick Saban is a fantastic coach, there is no way they reach 10 wins next season.
20. Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State has now twice had the best record in the Big Ten, and yet has not earned the conference title due to tiebreakers and a loss in the conference championship game.
Cerebral quarterback Kirk Cousins will be gone, as well as some key pieces on defense.
Michigan is back on the rise, as is Ohio State, and the Spartans will have to face them both next season.
The Spartans are looking at a 8-4 record.
19. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
The Hilltoppers finally got over the hump this season, finishing a successful campaign at 7-5, and boasting one of the best running backs in the game, senior Bobby Rainey.
The loss of production from Rainey's departure is significant, as he finished third in the country with 1,695 yards rushing.
The Hilltoppers have come a long way since joining the FBS, but will take a step backward in 2012.
18. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Irish defense should be much better this season than last season, especially with linebacker Manti Te'o returning.
Of course that is what we said last season.
Michael Floyd, the most consistent part of the offense is gone, and the quarterback situation is not going to be much more settled than it was this season with Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix battling for starts.
The Irish were one of the most inconsistent teams in the FBS in 2011, and we will see more of the same next season.
17. NIU Huskies
The MAC schedule has yet to be released for 2012, but it doesn't really matter.
The Huskies are going to struggle mightily with three of their four non-conference foes, Iowa, Army and Kansas, and if they lose all three, would have to go undefeated in the conference to tie this season's record.
With quarterback Chandler Harnish at the helm, this might have been possible, but he is a senior and will be leaving the program.
Throw in an unstable, inconsistent offensive line, and you have a recipe for a tough season in 2012.
16. San Diego State Aztecs
Star running back Ronnie Hillman is back, but the Aztecs were worse than expected this year, mainly due to losses in the receiving corps and on defense, as well as the departure of head coach Brady Hoke.
Next season, things get bleaker, as quarterback Ryan Lindley is going to depart.
For a team that just lost to ULL with Lindley, the prospect of a season without him cannot look that great.
15. Ohio Bobcats
Tyler Tettleton led the Bobcats to a tremendous 10-4 record, despite of a loss in the MAC title game.
The Bobcats are going to struggle next season, as teams from the MAC start to figure out how to slow Tettleton and his dual threat capabilities.
Oh yeah, they have a little meeting with Penn State to start the season, and the Nittany Lions are going to be very difficult to move the ball against.
Ten wins is extremely ambitious in 2012.
14. Southern Miss Golden Eagles
The problem here is three-fold.
Quarterback Austin Davis is graduating and taking his 34 total touchdowns with him.
His primary target, Ryan Ballentine, is also leaving.
As if that isn't enough to deal with, the Golden Eagles are losing the services of head coach Larry Fedora, who departed for the beleaguered UNC Tar Heels.
It was a fun stay at the top while it lasted...
13. TCU Horned Frogs
The Frogs hung tough this season, in spite of some key losses on both sides of the ball, winning the MWC and finishing 10-2.
Even without many key losses in 2012, they are going to struggle.
The Big 12 is a whole new world, and Oklahoma, Okie Lite and Texas are a totally different level of competition than what the Frogs are used to seeing week in and week out.
Casey Pachal will have his work cut out for him.
12. BYU Cougars
Bronco Mendenhall has some personnel issues to deal with in the upcoming offseason.
The Cougars are losing some serious talent on the defensive side of the ball, as well as their top running back, JJ Di Luigi.
This whole independence thing is tougher than it looks, just ask Notre Dame, and BYU is going to continue to learn that lesson next season.
11. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
It's simple, really.
The loss of quarterback G.J. Kinne is a tough one to take and will hurt the offense, especially in tough road games.
The Hurricane face their toughest competition in the conference on the road next season.
But it will not be the tough games that dooms their season; it will be the loss of Kinne, and his 2,876 yards and 25 touchdowns through the air.
10. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake Forest is another ACC team that opponents are going to be ready for.
The Dekes sneaked up on a few teams this year, but that is simply not going to be the case in 2012.
Looking at their schedule, five wins might be realistic, six a possibility and seven a stretch.
While this is not a significant drop in wins, progress will be expected given another season of experience, and it is not going to happen.
9. Toledo Rockets
Toledo finished 8-4, and had teams like Ohio State, Syracuse and NIU on the ropes before faltering and letting them back up.
Running back Adonis Thomas and his double-digit touchdowns will be gone next season, and there is a very real possibility that explosive receiver/return man Eric Page will bolt as well.
Throw in some defensive linemen that are graduating, and this team is going to have some big holes to plug in the coming season.
The MAC does not exactly offer an unforgiving slate of games, but with trips to Arizona and Wyoming to start the season, the Rockets might find themselves behind the eight ball from the jump.
8. Clemson Tigers
Clemson is not going to be able to sneak up on anybody in the conference next season.
Yes, Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins should be better with another season under their belts, but the schedule is tough.
At Pitt, South Carolina and the season is ended with three out of their final four contests against high caliber opponents.
Sorry, Clemson, the orange and purple clad faithful that inhabit Death Valley in the fall are going to be disappointed.
7. Baylor Bears
It's as simple as this: Robert Griffin III was the best player in football this season, and deserved the Heisman he won.
That said, if he leaves Baylor, the Bears are going to drop back to a .500 team.
Losing Griffin means losing an incredible amount of offensive production, and for a team that will not have a strong defense, that is going to hurt.
6. South Carolina Gamecocks
Marcus Lattimore is going to be back, but even with a better team than this year, next year's edition of the Gamecocks is going to have a worse record.
They must once again face Georgia, who had them on the ropes this season before giving the game away, as well as improved and healthy Florida and Tennessee squads.
Add in the trip to Clemson and the Gamecocks' annual inconsistency, and things are going to go downhill.
5. Houston Cougars
Total offense, passing touchdowns, career completions—these are some of the records that belong to Houston quarterback Case Keenum.
Keenum is now in his sixth year of eligibility, and will be gone following this season, along with head coach Kevin Sumlin.
While the Cougars may still have some success in C-USA, they are not going to be able to avoid a loss in the regular season.
4. Stanford Cardinal
Call me crazy, but I have a tough time seeing Stanford finish in the BCS top five for a third straight season.
Even with star linebacker Shayne Skov back and healthy, and the defense playing at a high level, they will struggle to compete in the Pac-12 due to losses on the other side of the ball.
Offensive linemen David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin are seniors, as is Heisman finalist Andrew Luck.
Head coach David Shaw is going to need some guys to step up in a big way, or the Cardinal will find itself near the bottom of the Pac-12 North.
3. Boise State Broncos
Boise State, even with only one loss, did not seem to be the same Broncos that we have become accustomed to seeing.
With Kellen Moore taking his NCAA leading career wins total and leaving Boise, and the program moving to the, wait for it, Big East—because that makes perfect sense—Chris Petersen and the Broncos are going to find some tough sledding in 2012.
2. Wisconsin Badgers
We don't know yet whether stud running back Montee Ball will return for the Badgers.
What we do know is that Russell Wilson is going to be gone, as well as wide receiver Nick Toon and the defense's stand-out, Aaron Henry.
The Badgers are going to have an extremely difficult time duplicating their offensive success in 2012, especially if Ball leaves.
The Big Ten schedule is going to be tough, especially with a target on their back after winning the conference for two straight seasons.
1. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Due to the system that they run, the Cowboys are always going to have an explosive offense.
However, with Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden gone, they will not be near as good as this season.
The Cowboys had their best season in a few decades this year, losing only one game.
In 2012, Mike Gundy's posse will be fortunate if they find a way to win eight games.