BCS Projections: Labeling Every Top 50 Team a Lock, Contender or Pretender
This list is a compilation of your top 50 teams for next season, split into three categories:
Locks, Contenders and Pretenders.
At this point, it's very difficult to predict how the BCS pecking order will shake out.
Even so, some teams seem to have that perfect blend of experience, talent and production that makes them close to a sure thing.
Those teams are the locks on this list for a BCS game.
The contenders have some great potential, and with a little luck, could break into the BCS as well, but don't have that same elite feel that the "locks" might have.
The last category on this list, the pretenders, have absolutely next to no shot at making a BCS contest.
Whether it be lack of talent, significant attrition or being USC, these teams just can't quite cut it.
50. USF Bulls
The Bulls are not exactly BCS material.
Even though they finished 2010 with an 8-5 record, and they have some solid running back transfers coming in, the Bulls have issues.
Is quarterback B.J. Daniels consistent enough to actually win the Big East?
And who will replace Terrell McClain and the other departed seniors on the D-Line?
49. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Tech has an exciting offense, but their defense is a mess.
The Red Raiders allowed nine yards per completion against the upper echelon Big XII teams and with the departure of sack leader Brian Duncan.
As for the offense, the Red Raiders hand Seth Doege the reigns of the offense and run with it.
48. Baylor Bears
To be frank (not Caliendo), Robert Griffin III is one of the most exciting players in the college game.
The problem is, that's as far as it goes for the Bears.
After RGIII, Baylor has very little elite talent...
47. North Carolina State Wolfpack
The Wolfpack find themselves at somewhat of a fork in the road.
Their top defensive player, LB Nate Irving, is gone to ply on Sundays, and star QB Russell Wilson is off playing baseball.
That leaves a talented defensive squad, and an untested offensive backfield, with QB Mike Glennon and RB Mustafa Greene taking over.
If the Wolfpack offense lives up to potential, they could challenge Florida State atop the ACC Atlantic Division.
46. Navy Midshipmen
Navy has won at least eight games each of the last eight seasons.
Unfortunately, the catalyst of the Midshipmen's recent success is now gone.
Quarterback Ricky Dobbs is departed, and senior Kriss Proctor is slated to take over.
The triple option will continue to cause nightmares for defenses, but the passing game is going to be extremely suspect.
45. UCF Knights
Ronnie Weaver, Latavius Murray and Brynn Harvey make the Knights backfield one of the deepest in the country.
However, they have lost much of their talent on the defensive side of the ball, and replacing Bruce Miller and Derrick Hallman is going to be tough.
The departure of Jah Reid leaves another hole on the O-Line, and while the Knights should enjoy a winning season once again, the BCS is out of the question.
44. Iowa Hawkeyes
With the solid run game the Hawkeyes will have in 2011, some of the pressure will be taken off of first year starting quarterback James Vandenberg.
The Hawkeyes lost some receivers, but are capable of plugging guys in to fill those holes.
The real problem starts along the defensive line.
Adrian Clayborn and Karl Klug are gone, and the Hawkeyes only return one starter from last season's dominant defensive front.
43. BYU Cougars
Bronco Mendenhall is a solid coach, but he can't get these guys to the BCS this season.
In their first year as an independent, BYU might have the talent and experience to complete a great season.
The problem is, they have few solid opponents.
Texas, TCU and Utah should be tough matchups, but none of them has anybody shaking in their boots.
Even if the Cougars finished undefeated, it might be tough to get into the BCS party.
42. SMU Mustangs
June Jones is a wizard with quarterbacks, and Kyle Padron has the talent to shake things up in the BCS.
Couple that with the fact the 'Stang's offensive line is returning all five starters and leading rusher Zach Line, and you have an interesting development.
The defense returns all of their key playmakers, and the Mustangs have a manageable schedule.
While they are a long shot for the BCS, they certainly have the talent to make a run for it.
41. Tennessee Volunteers
Tennessee is definitely on the track to getting back in the national picture, just not fast enough for this season.
The offensive line that gave up TFL after TFL last season looks like they might have the ship righted, and senior RB Tauren Poole should take full advantage.
Tyler Bray has the arm strength to make big plays, and if the offense can develop any kind of balance to its attack, they will be a tough team to stop.
40. Air Force Falcons
The Falcons won the Commander-in-Chief's trophy in 2010 for the first time since 2002.
However, against tougher competition like San Diego State, TCU and Utah, the Falcons had a tough time getting of the field on defense.
Besides the defensive woes, the all-important fullback position in the triple option needs to be filled.
Too many questions for any run at the BCS here.
39. Arizona Wildcats
Simply put, the Wildcats just aren't there.
They have all the tools on at the offensive "skill positions" with quarterback Nick Foles and wide receiver Juron Criner, but the defense has holes you could drive a bus through.
On top of that, the Wildcats have to break in a brand new offensive line, all five positions.
38. Utah Utes
The Utes are in for a brutal season.
Quarterback Jordan Wynn is coming off a less than impressive performance when he did play last season, and the Utes are transitioning into the Pac-12.
Even Norm Chow can't save this offense, especially since Wynn will just be coming back from a shoulder injury when the season starts.
Utah's defensive weakness was the secondary in 2010, and unless that area is remedied, the Utes will be scorched repeatedly by the Pac-12's offenses.
37. Maryland Terrapins
Randy Edsall is a wizard, and the Terps have a gaggle of talent returning.
Quarterback Danny O'Brien was efficient last season, and he will be joined by four returning starters on the offensive line and Davin Meggett, who was the Terps leading rusher last season.
While Florida State does not present an easy in conference challenge, don't be surprised if Maryland sneaks up on everybody and makes the ACC championship game.
36. Miami (OH) RedHawks
The RedHawks are potent on offense.
Zac Dysert and Austin Boucher (no relation to Bobby) are both quite capable quarterbacks, and the O-Line is returning four starters.
That being said, Miami has to find a tailback that can produce on a consistent basis, but the defense returns every starter and significant backup in the front seven.
Miami RedHawks 2011's BCS Buster?
35. Tulsa Golden Hurricanes
G.J. Kinne and the offense are a dynamic, explosive bunch that can put points up in a hurry.
All-purpose star Damaris Johnson is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and the Golden Hurricanes developed an effective run game.
All that being said, they have a new head coach and don't have enough defense to make it through the season undefeated, which it would take for them to make the BCS.
34. Northwestern Wildcats
Check this out.
The Wildcats get both Michigan schools and Penn State at home, don't play Wisconsin or Ohio State, and have a less than imposing non-con schedule.
On top of that, the 'Cats dual threat quarterback, Dan Persa, is back with another year of experience.
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has things looking up for the perennial Big Ten doormat.
33. Miami Hurricanes
Miami is not back.
Al Golden is just the man to bring them back, but they need another year or two.
This season, Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris will battle for the starting QB position, and the 'Canes have explosive ballplayers on both sides of the ball.
However, until they demonstrate some level of consistency on the football field, all the hype is just that, hype.
32. Texas Longhorns
For the second straight year, Texas won't even sniff a BCS game.
The 'Horns will be lucky to finish 7-5, especially if QB Garrett Gilbert and their defense make no significant progress before the season starts.
Mack Brown might want to think about retiring and running for senator since Jim Tressel's rep is too tarnished at this point.
31. USC Trojans
With the NCAA's upholding USC appeals goes any chance of the Trojans making a bowl game—they are banned.
That being said, Matt Barkley is a top five quarterback, and the Trojans have some serious athletic talent.
Oh, and Lane Kiffin is everyone's new favorite guy in L.A.
It's OK, Trojan fans, your team isn't winning yet. You can come back and pretend like you care next season.
30. Penn State Nittany Lions
JoePa is old.
The Lions have no reliable quarterback.
It will be a long year in Happy Valley.
While the secondary should be a solid unit, the Nittany Lions need some help in the front seven.
No one has stepped up to this point in a big enough way to make us believe they will be dominant on defense to atone for a few deficiencies on offense.
29. North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels are a somewhat forgotten commodity in the ACC.
Florida State and Va. Tech get all the press, but the Heels have the talent and experience to make a run at the conference crown.
Defensive end Quinton Coples leads a unit that could be dominant.
Bryn Renner is going to have some growing pains taking over the reigns of the offense from the departed T.J. Yates, but coach Butch Davis is the man to help him.
Expect big things from these guys this season.
28. Michigan Wolverines
The Wolverines have five straight games in the comfort of the "Big House" before they venture on the road.
Notre Dame might be a tough one, but the rest are easily manageable.
The problem is, immediately following that stretch, the Wolverines must travel to Northwestern and Michigan State in back-to-back weeks.
The Wildcats are no pushover, and the Spartans are flat out good.
In Brady Hoke's first year, it will be obvious Michigan has made strides, but they will not quite win the conference.
27. San Diego State Aztecs
Ryan Lindley is quietly one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but he gets overshadowed by running back Ronnie Hillman.
The Aztecs could be Nevada to Boise State this season, especially with the level of offensive talent they can throw on the field.
San Diego State's unique 3-3-5 defense will gel this season under Rocky Long, and the Aztecs will be a threat to every team they face.
26. Pitt Panthers
This is emphatic.
The Panthers lost Dion Lewis, and Tino Sunseri is not the second coming of Dan Marino.
Couple this with a new head coach and a tougher than average schedule, and the Panthers are in for a long season.
25. Florida Gators
John Brantley looked as lost in the new offense as he did in the old one.
The loss of Janoris Jenkins was a blow, but Coach Muschamp did the right thing.
The Gators should be slightly improved over the 2010 version, but not much.
The offensive line, which has at times last season been compared to a sieve, has a year of experience under it's collective belt, but will still struggle at times.
Muschamp is the right guy for the job, but give him a year.
24. Missouri Tigers
The Tigers have enjoyed success in a six team division filled with powerhouses such as Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State and Colorado.
Now the harsh reality of the new Big XII sets in.
To win the conference, the Tigers must find a way to beat Oklahoma consistently, get past Oklahoma State and succeed against a rejuvenated Texas A&M program.
While the Tigers have some talented experience returning, the level of competition just took a step up.
23. Georgia Bulldogs
The Dawgs get Mississippi State and Auburn at home, as well as South Carolina, and avoid altogether LSU and Alabama.
Florida's woes leave work to the Dawgs advantage, and if Georgia can get past rival South Carolina, the road looks pretty wide-open to the SEC championship game.
That being said, the Dawgs are not exactly boasting an explosive offense, especially with A.J. Green gone, and it could be a long year if they don't have the answers, quickly.
22. West Virginia Mountaineers
And not only because someone from the Big East has to make the BCS.
New offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen has the offense clicking on all cylinders, and quarterback Geno Smith may be a dark horse Heisman candidate.
The defense was drained of playmakers last season, but the Mountaineers look more than capable of plugging the holes before the season starts.
Losing RB Noel Devine is a blow, but if anyone can solve such problems, it's Holgorsen.
21. Mississippi State Bulldogs
In another conference, the Bulldogs might be considered contenders, but the SEC is too tough this season.
Running back Vick Ballard and quarterback Chris Relf are two of the most dynamic rushers in the conference, but State lacks the talent on defense to hang with the superior offenses in the SEC.
All three of the Bulldogs leading tacklers are gone, and it's going to be tough to replace that kind of productions.
On top of that, State is trying to plug the hole left when tackle Derek Sherrod left for the NFL.
20. Arizona State Sun Devils
Quarterback Brock Osweiler will more than fill the shoes of the departed Steven Threet.
He has a huge arm and surprising mobility.
Dennis Erickson has the Sun Devils back into contention, finally.
The defense is definitely the strongest unit, led by linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
The man is a monster.
If he can control his emotions, and the the Devils can get corner Omar Bolden back to form in time for conference play, they have a great shot at making the Pac-12 title game
19. Nebraska Cornhuskers
The picture says it all.
While the Huskers are definitely a talented bunch, they did not exactly do much to inspire confidence at the end of last season.
Besides that, the Huskers have a brutal conference schedule in the Big Ten, including trips to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan.
The Huskers host Ohio State and Michigan State.
Unless they develop some cohesiveness as an offensive unit, the Huskers will struggle with Big Ten defenses.
18. TCU Horned Frogs
Hey, the Horned Frogs accomplished great things last season.
But that was last season.
Casey Paschall is going to be a solid replacement for quarterback Andy Dalton, and Gary Paterson will have a receiver ready to take Jeremy Kerley's place.
However, you don't just replace talent like Jake Kirkpatrick and Marcus Cannon on the offensive line.
Granted, the Horned Frogs will be a good team yet again, as they prepare for the jump to the Big East, but their schedule is not conducive to consecutive BCS appearances, especially with a trip to Boise State in the offing.
17. Virginia Tech Hokies
Quarterback Logan Thomas is an adequate replacement for the departed Tyrod Taylor, and David Wilson may be the most explosive RB in the ACC.
Beyond that, the Hokies have a a solid defensive unit, and coach Frank Beamer always has his special teams ready to go.
While Thomas does not have the athletic ability out of the pocket that Taylor did, he has a better arm, and the Hokies should get off to a better start than last season.
Expect an FSU vs. Va. Tech rematch in the ACC Championship.
16. South Carolina Gamecocks
The Gamecocks have a stellar offensive unit, loaded with playmakers such as WR Alshon Jeffery and RB Marcus Lattimore.
Even with QB Stephen Garcia's suspension, SC will have a solid offensive unit.
However, the big story is going to be the defense.
The Gamecocks front seven dominated last season, but the secondary allowed anyone who could throw a forward pass to absolutely decimate them.
The D-Line gets better with an impressive recruiting class, and the secondary should be better with more experience and a few tweaks.
15. Ohio State Buckeyes
You can say until you are blue in the face that the Buckeyes will pick up where they left off last season, but it just ain't so.
You don't just "replace" an incredible athlete such as Terrelle Pryor for five games.
While the schedule is manageable during the suspensions, one big contest looms.
The Buckeyes face off against Michigan State in their last game before everyone returns from their five game suspensions.
As if that one is not going to be tough enough, OSU then has to tangle with Big Ten newcomer Nebraska the following week.
14. Arkansas Razorbacks
The defense is the best seen at Arkansas in a while.
Bobby Petrino has one most talented group of receivers in the country, and Knile Davis leads a stable of punishing backs.
The Hogs may have something special brewing in Fayetteville
13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Look, we hear every year about how the Irish might be back, and every year it seems they find a way to lose.
This year is different.
Across the board, the Irish look to be an improved unit, especially after a great recruiting class.
LB Manti Te'o leads a solid defense that will get a big boost from freshman DE Aaron Lynch.
While the quarterback position is not exactly the most solid in the country, the Irish have two serviceable starting quarterbacks in Tommy Rees and Dayne Crist.
The schedule is brutal, but the Irish have the talent to make it to the BCS.
12. Wisconsin Badgers
The Big Ten is going to be wide-open, and the Badgers are as good of a candidate to take the conference as the next guy.
The Badgers' biggest hole is at quarterback, where Jon Budmayr will attempt to fill in for the departed Scott Tolzien.
Montee Ball and James White are an incredibly explosive rushing combo and will be tough to stop.
The Badgers also lost J.J. Watt to the draft, but get star linebacker Chris Borland back on the field after he missed most of last season with an injury.
If the Badgers can somehow overcome back-to-back road games against Ohio State and Michigan State, they have a shot at the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive year.
11. Auburn Tigers
Will the Tigers have a winning season?
Will they get back to the BCS?
Losing four offensive linemen and two wide receivers is the biggest obstacle Auburn has to overcome.
They seem to have the talent to fill the holes at linebacker and defensive tackle, but if they can't protect the quarterback, it won't matter.
10. Michigan State Spartans
The Spartans have the potential to be better than last season.
The offensive backfield is absolutely loaded, and the defensive unit is resplendent with great athletes and playmakers.
The question for the Spartans is whether they can replace their leading tackler and vocal leader Greg Jones, and his sidekick Eric Gordon at linebacker.
The Spartans special teams may be the best in the nation.
On top of all that, they get Ohio State during their suspensions, and they get Wisconsin at home for the second year in a row.
9. Boise State Broncos
Honestly, it hurts to say this, but the Broncos have a shot this season.
It's hard to see them losing, with the exception of a possible slip-up against Georgia.
While their level of competition is a wee bit stronger than it has been, they are still not playing in a BCS conference, so they may have a hard time getting into the championship game, but it's not tough to imagine Kellen Moore leading the Broncos to a BCS at-large berth in a different contest.
Doug Martin and Moore will power a very potent offense, and the defensive front seven is loaded, but the secondary may be an issues that has to be resolved quickly, before games against pass-happy Georgia and Tulsa.
8. Texas A&M Aggies
Any team with the backfield talent boasted by the Aggies is going to be a contender.
Christine Michael and Cyrus Gray make up one of the top three backfield rushing duos in the country.
If the offensive line can keep Ryan Tannehill upright, this offense will be tough to stop.
With 18 starters returning, the Aggies seem poised to challenge the Big XII front runners for conference supremacy.
7. Stanford Cardinal
Andrew Luck just might be the best quarterback in college football.
That being said, the Cardinals have too many questions to be legit contenders for the BCS.
From the loss of Owen Marecic and coach Harbaugh, to the fact that only two O-Linemen are returning and one D-lineman, there are more holes at Stanford than in Swiss cheese.
The Cardinals have a favorable schedule, missing Arizona State, but Oregon is clearly the cream of the crop in their division of the Pac-12.
6. Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys seem to be making progress along the defensive side of the ball.
They are still not a top five defensive unit, but even a serviceable defense is good enough to let this explosive offense win several games.
The Cowboys must contend with the Sooners for Big XII supremacy, and an at-large bid or even Big XII championship is not out of the question.
Besides, Justin Blackmon is a monster...
5. Oregon Ducks
This sign is so true.
Chip Kelly is a genius.
Even with the attrition the Ducks have suffered, their offense is set to become even more potent.
Devon Blackmon and Tacoi Sumler are great receivers who will help spread the field for LaMichael James to do work.
While the Ducks may have a challenger in upstart Arizona State, they will have a pretty good handle on the new Pac-12
4. LSU Tigers
For all the hype surrounding the new, improved Jordan Jefferson coming out of spring ball, he was nowhere to be found.
To most people, he looked like the same old inconsistent, inaccurate Jefferson.
No doubt, LSU will be a very solid team, but with the level of play in the SEC this season, it's tough to see them making the BCS.
Now, if Jefferson comes out and is consistent, they will be tough to beat, but if they cannot score, they will have a tough time in an explosive offensive conference.
3. Florida State Seminoles
Let's settle this once for all.
E.J. Manuel has had the experience while his starting quarterback was injured to be able to lead the 'Noles next season.
On top of that, the defense seems to be gelling, and if they make progress from last season, this defensive unit could be elite.
Even if FSU falls to the Sooners early in the season, they should have no problem coming out on top in a less than great ACC.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Who cares about which guy plays quarterback?
Whether Nick Saban starts A.J. McCarron or Phillip Sims, the offense will hum along like a well oiled machine.
The only reason the Tide is not a lock is the simple fact that the SEC is ridiculously deep this season.
While 'Bamahas the talent and experience to get to the BCS, no SEC team is a lock, but the Tide might be the closest thing to it.
1. Oklahoma Sooners
Yes, the Sooners are going to be good.
Yes, Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles are going to be exciting to watch.
No, the Sooners will not have any trouble replacing DeMarco Murray.
All that aside, the Sooners may have trouble when they travel to Florida to battle the Seminoles, but it won't stop them from winning the Big XII.