College Football 2012: Biggest Concern for Every Top 25 Team
The preseason top 25 is a collection of the (alleged) best of the best in college football. The poll is one thing that separates college football from professional football and, for better or worse, it is a part of the sport.
The coaches poll has its fair share of teams that are ready to make a legitimate move for the national title, and also some that may not be there for long.
Legit contenders, or not, no team is ever perfect, and here is a look at the biggest concern for every team ranked inside of the top 25.
Anytime you lose a player like Michael Dyer, you have to be concerned. During the offseason, Dyer decided to transfer to Arkansas State and left the Tigers with a void to fill.
While the loss of their top running back could definitely hurt, Onterio McCalebb returns for his final season and has the potential to make people forget about Dyer altogether.
24. Notre Dame
Entering the third year of the Brian Kelly era, Notre Dame is still in need of a difference-maker at quarterback.
With Tommy Rees' suspension for the season opener, the QB competition with Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson has new legs.
If the Irish don't solve their signal-caller issues and take control of Kelly's offense, there will be trouble in South Bend.
One thing that Florida will not have to worry about this year is the defense. Coming into the season, the Gators defense could be the SEC's best.
What will keep the fans and coaches up at night is the offense. With the inability to score consistently, the Gators will struggle to compete for a conference title for one more year.
22. Boise State
It is no secret what Boise State is most concerned about this year. After having Kellen Moore lead the team in some very memorable season, the Broncos are being forced to turn the page.
Now that their former Heisman finalist is gone, the Broncos will turn to new quarterback Joe Southwick and hope that he can keep this team moving in the right direction.
Regardless of how well Southwick does, the loss of Moore will be felt all year long.
21. Kansas State
Last year, Collin Klein was the Kansas State offense. Both through the air and on the ground, Klein led the Wildcats to a breakout 10-win season.
Now entering 2012 with high expectations, the concern that should be on the mind of all Wildcat fans is the health of Klein.
If the line and backfield does a nice job of protecting their signal-caller, they will be fine. But things could get messy in Manhattan if Klein goes down with injury.
20. Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech's biggest concern is something they will only have to come face to face with once (twice, at the most), Clemson.
Last year the Hokies squared off against the Tigers twice and lost by a combined score of 61-13. This year, the Hokies take on No. 14 Clemson in a tough road tilt and may face them again in the ACC title game like last year.
Va Tech must move past last year's demons and find a way to take out Dabo Swinney's Tigers.
19. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State is going to be looking to fill the void left by not only star wideout Justin Blackmon, but also quarterback Brandon Weeden, who both made life terrible for opposing defenses.
If the Cowboys hope to remain strong in 2012, they will need to lean on Joseph Randle and the running game until the passing game builds itself back up.
When the 2011 season came to an end, so did the Andrew Luck era at Stanford. Now in 2012, the Cardinal are turning to Brett Nottingham to get the job done.
While Stanford still has a strong running game to rely on and a solid defense, the loss of Luck will cause this team to take a big step backward in the Pac-12 and nation.
Much like Boise State, TCU has been a team on the outside looking in regarding the BCS debate. But unlike the Broncos, TCU did something about it by moving to the Big 12.
The biggest concern that TCU should have in this crucial year is being exposed as a team that simply benefited from weak competition.
The Horned Frogs finally have a chance to prove they belong in the BCS debate, but must step up in a big way.
The offense looks like it is going to keep on rolling into the 2012 season, but for Nebraska to make some noise in the Big Ten, they need the defense to be solid from start to finish.
Last year, the Huskers defense was strong at times but proved inconsistent. That must change for Bo Pelini and company.
While the defense appears to be solid, the offense is another question for Texas. First order of business, the Longhorns have to figure out what to do between David Ash and Case McCoy.
Neither of these quarterbacks separated themselves last year, and if they fail to do so again this year, it will be another year gone by without the Texas Longhorns in the college football elite.
Last year seemed like it was going to be the perfect storm for Clemson (the good kind).
The Tigers started the season 8-0 and had already earned victories over Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech. After the hot start, Clemson went 2-4 down the stretch and was a mess come season's end.
The Tigers likely learned their lesson and understand the finish is just as important as the start. Should the Tigers get off to another great start, they must find a way to finish.
13. Michigan State
It's early, and the injuries are already beginning to pile up, but replacing Kirk Cousins has to be at the top of the list for Michigan State.
The Spartans have a tough defense from top to bottom, but the loss of leadership will be a factor.
The Spartans have newcomer Andrew Maxwell under center, and while reports have been glowing thus far, there is almost no way one can immediately step in for a predecessor like Cousins without the team missing a beat or two.
After Montee Ball was injured in an assault early this month, it became clear that their running back's health was the biggest concern for Wisconsin.
Ball is suffering from concussion-like symptoms, and while it appears he will be ready for the opener, you never know with this kind of injury.
11. West Virginia
Execution has to be the biggest concern for West Virginia. Last year the Mountaineers were the clear favorites in the Big East and stumbled their way into a three-way conference tie.
This year West Virginia is a dark-horse candidate for the national title but is playing in the Big 12. While they have the talent to be a competitor for a conference title, they will need to play up to their potential.
Arkansas understands that they now get to play Alabama and LSU at home and hopefully avenge last season's only two losses.
For fans, the concern this year should come from having John L. Smith as the head coach.
Smith showed that he could not handle the position at Michigan State, so having him lead you through an SEC schedule could be a painful journey for Razorback fans.
9. South Carolina
With the return of Marcus Lattimore from a severe knee injury, the Gamecocks appear ready to make a run at the SEC title. The biggest concern that they should have at this point is, can Lattimore return to form?
He has been one of the best backs in the nation, but, as everyone knows, a torn ACL is devastating and can alter entire career trajectories.
The biggest concern for Michigan also happens to be their biggest weapon.
In his time at Michigan, Denard Robinson has shown the ability to make explosive plays with his legs, but has lacked the ability to develop into an effective passer.
If the Wolverines are hoping to repeat last year's success, they must get solid play out of Robinson in the passing game.
7. Florida State
The biggest concern for Florida State is their own expectations.
The Seminoles have gone in the past few seasons with national-title hopes on the mind. While this is what every team should theoretically hope for, it has distracted from their conference goals and responsibilities.
They need to adopt a one-game-at-a-time mentality, and see where that leads.
Isaiah Crowell was dismissed from the team this offseason, and the running back position has to be the biggest concern for Mark Richt and the Bulldogs.
Aaron Murray is a great quarterback, but without a balanced attach, Georgia's potential is severely diminished in the always-tough SEC.
Does Oregon have an answer for the loss of LaMichael James? James was the workhorse of the Ducks offense, and with him gone, Kenjon Barner will be taking on the tall task of succeeding James.
While Barner has the talent and skill set to make the plays, the question will truly be if Barner can handle the kind of workload that James previously took on.
One huge question for Oklahoma this year is if Mike Stoops can come in and turn the defense around.
The past two years the Sooners have finished outside of the top 50 in terms of total defense. Landry Jones is back for his senior season and will take care of things on offense.
So the weight will rest squarely on the shoulders of the defense.
The Trojans appear to be the most talented team in the nation, but the one thing that may hold them back is the lack of depth on their roster.
The effects of the NCAA's sanctions on the program still linger, and USC could be in trouble if they get bit by the injury bug.
If the Trojans can remain healthy and keep Matt Barkley upright, USC could be on their way to another BCS title, in spite of the obstacles.
One of the hardest things in sports is to repeat as champion, and Alabama is about to find that out firsthand. The Crimson Tide will have to remain hungry and motivated throughout the season.
While the offense should be fine, the defense lost a ton of talent to the NFL. And while the players stepping in have a ton of potential, it will be hard to match last year's effort.
Last year it seemed like the player who made this team go was defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.
The Honey Badger is an energetic player who was always making things happen, but he is now gone from the program for a third violation of team rules.
The Tigers will have plenty of motivation to get back (or, remain) on top, but can someone step in and fill the huge void left by Mathieu?