2012 CFB Preview Part 12: Season Predictions (Big 12 and SEC, National Picks)


It’s that time of the year ladies and gentlemen. The time of year when we separate the men from the boys. It’s officially time to start prognosticating the upcoming college football season where endless people all over the internet wish failure upon me in hopes of trashing me at year’s end. Over the next couple weeks we’ll go two conferences at a time, laying out everything from conference champs to bowl teams to a national title pick. In there I’ll be criticized, complimented, hit on, and torn limb for limb for my “stupidity.”  The play is just about here and after an entire offseason of debate, insults, and research, we’re all ready to sit back and enjoy Saturday afternoons with some good food and beer (or anything you drink…just not sweet tea…that’s gross.) Let’s get into the first two leagues and see how we stack up to last year in a few months.

However, before we get there, remind yourself or check out for the first time what was already covered this offseason:

Post National Signing Day Top 25

Part 1: #’s 18-25
Part 2: #’s 9-17
Part 3: #’s 1-8

Also Parts 1-12 of the offseason preview that preceded this one can be found below:

Part 1: Ten Teams on the Rise
Part 2: Ten Teams Due For a Fall
Part 3: New Coaching Faces
Part 4: Replacing 2011′s Stars (CFB Replacements)
Part 5: Top 5 Non-AQs Not Named Boise St.
Part 6: Coaches Feeling The Heat
Part 7: Top Storylines Entering 2012
Part 8: Five Weekends to Circle
Part 9: Ranking The Conferences (#’s 11-12)
Part 9: Ranking The Conferences (#’s 9-10)
Part 9: Ranking The Conferences (#’s 7-8)
Part 9: Ranking The Conferences (#’s 5-6)
Part 9: Ranking The Conferences (#’s 3-4)
Part 9: Ranking The Conferences (#’s 1-2)
Part 10: Ten (Roughly) Heisman Contenders
Part 11: Ten Games That Will Define The Title Chase
Part 12: Season Predictions (WAC and Sun Belt)
Part 12: Season Predictions (MAC and CUSA)
Part 12: Season Predictions (MWC and Independents)
Part 12: Season Predictions (Big East and ACC)
Part 12: Season Predictions (PAC-12 and Big Ten)

Lastly we wrap up with some Big 12, SEC and National Picks:

Big 12

1. West Virginia 8-1 *
2.  Texas 7-2 (owns tiebreaker)*
3. Oklahoma 7-2*
4. TCU 6-3*
5. Kansas St. 5-4*
6. Oklahoma St. 4-5*
7. Baylor 3-6 (owns tiebreaker)*
8. Texas Tech 3-6*
9. Iowa St. 2-7
10. Kansas 0-9

Analysis: The Big 12 is an absolute mess to try and predict. It feels like you could take the top five in the conference, roll them into a ball and pull one out at a time to predict the top five. Oklahoma is perceived as the best, but unless Texas is a national title contender then when is the last time the Sooners didn’t look like the premier team in the league. West Virginia and TCU come over for their Big 12 debut seasons and if 2011 showed us anything the two should fit in just fine with a strong passing game and mediocre defense. Nonetheless, I’m taking a leap of faith and rolling with…WVU.

West Virginia may actually be better equipped to play in the Big 12 than they were the Big East. While the level of competition jumps a bit, the style of play in the Big 12 is set up for what Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia does. The Mountaineers aired out their passing attack against the country a year ago finishing 6th nationally in the pass game as Geno Smith lived up to the hype surrounding him going into the season. The Mountaineers bring back their top three receivers from last season with Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin leading the pack. Austin has even garnered some pre-season hype for the Biletnikoff award and All-American team after his explosion in the Orange Bowl. Dana Holgorsen is familiar with the league having been Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator prior to the move to Morgantown and has built the Mountaineers into a national threat in two years. They bring back six defensive starters but lose Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller up front. For a new team to the league the Big 12 hooked West Virginia up nicely with Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas St. and Baylor at home. Barring an upset at Texas Tech or Iowa St. they could easily go 3-1 on the road and then it would come down to protecting homefield.

Texas fell on their faces in 2010 when they missed a bowl game at 5-7 and despite bouncing back with eight wins last year, finished with a losing record in Big 12 play. The one question I have regarding Texas coming into 2012 is whether David Ash gives them enough from the QB position in a league where offense is so essential to team success. They were a young squad a year ago that will reap the benefits from that this season with four starting offensive linemen and close to every major skill player back as well. Malcolm Brown is back but the name everyone is excited about at the RB spot is Jonathan Gray, a freshman from Aledo, Texas who set the national HS record for career TDs and has drawn compliments along the lines of “best HS Texas RB ever.” If they get something out of the passing game, the Longhorns offense should jump up 15-20 spots from their #50 ranking a year ago. Defensively they were elite a year ago overall with the 11th best defense though games against Texas and Baylor led to less than stellar outings. With the defense among the best in the league, they’ll be tested on the road at Oklahoma State and Kansas State, but with the Cowboys new QB situation and Kansas St. heavy on the run game, the Longhorns may match up well with both.

The Sooners third? It sounds like a stretch now but the Sooners were a vastly stronger team a year ago and finished in fourth place. In 2012 the Sooners return eight offensive and seven defensive starters from last year and most importantly get back RB Dominique Whaley next to Roy Finch to compliment a running game that was coming on later in the year until the injuries. We know what Landry Jones is capable of at the QB position and has Kenny Stills back but is what he’s capable of going to show up in 2o12 or will it resemble the last 5 weeks of 2011? Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Quentin Hayes all were dimissed from the team and the receving corps now breaks in some new parts including Penn State transfer Justin Brown. They were prepared to have four offensive linemen starters back but Ben Habern decided to hang em up due to injury issues and Tyler Evans suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Defensively the Sooners get Mike Stoops back on the staff after losing Brent Venables to Clemson and his success at Oklahoma in the past has to excite the Sooner fanbase this upcoming season that they’ll tighten up a unit that didn’t have their usual success last year. A road game at West Virginia could be a swing game in who becomes the favorite to win the league.

TCU could be the wild card in 2012 as we get our first shot at seeing them in a major conference for an entire season. The interesting thing to watch will be can Gary Patterson turn around a secondary that was gutted in games against Baylor and SMU last season. If the Horned Frogs can’t fix a pass defense that ranked 54th (and even that was inflated by the MWC) in the country last year, it won’t matter how good of a season Casey Pachall has. Pachall returns at QB with Josh Boyce, his main target at WR back as well as a couple good backs in Matthew Tucker and Wayman James. The offensive line faces questions with only two starters back there not to mention the special teams has new faces coming in replacing both the kicker and punter positions. The issue facing TCU is a tough schedule setup where they should jump out to a 6-1, 7-0 type start depending on games against Virginia and Baylor but the back end of the schedule is brutal. In their final five games with the conference title race on the line they’ll play Oklahoma St, West Virginia, Texas, Kansas St and Oklahoma, including three on the road. That’s a tough slate to close with if you’re in title contention.

Kansas St. will be disrespected by everyone again and in a sense I feel like I’m disrespecting them as well. Still the four teams I have in front of them are all teams I think will be top 25 material and three of those four they play on the road. Collin Klein was without question the most under appreciated star in college football last year taking a team most had finishing 7th-8th in the league to a second place finish all the while putting up monster stats. Can he do it again in 2012? Well he might have to. The Wildcats are almost forced to play from ahead given their style of play and with so much turnover on the offensive line (three starters gone), you wonder if they’ll be forced to throw more this year if they can’t get up on teams. The majority of the skill positions are back and the team as a whole has 16 combined starters back, 2nd-best in the Big 12. On the opposite side of the ball they have seven starters back and face questions on the line as well with two starters gone. The run D can’t afford to have much of a fall off unless the secondary corrects glaring holes that were exposed multiple times last year. They’ll be good again, a bowl game almost a lock, but I can’t see double-digit wins again.

Oklahoma St. seems like a prime candidate to take a step back in 2012, not only for the losses of Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden but because of who the replacements will be. Wes Lunt won out for the quarterback position, the one option coach Mike Gundy had of a big armed, passing quarterback and he’ll get the call as a freshman. He’ll lean heavily on RB Joseph Randle  who had 1200 yards, but was a major force in the red zone with 24 TDs on the ground. Tracy Moore will look to minimize the dropoff at the receiver position but the combination of an inexperienced offensive line that has to replace multiple all-conference performers, a young inexperienced quarterback and not a ton of help around him, the offense should see a noticeable fall. The defense was about as opportunistic as they come last year, finding ways to come up with turnovers time and time again despite an inability to stop teams on the ground or through the air. In their favor is many winnable home games but the road games in Big 12 play outside Kansas all could easily be losses. I don’t foresee another year in the top three of the Big 12 and while maybe you could argue them over Kansas St or Texas (if you don’t buy the Longhorns), I can’t see them finishing ahead of OU, WVU or TCU. 4th should be the ceiling but they’ll be back in a bowl.

Baylor lost all three studs off the offense from last year with Terrance Ganaway, Kendall Wright and of course the Heisman winner Robert Griffin III moving on and the question for Baylor is are they capable of winning the shootouts they found ways to win time and time again last year. If there’s one silver lining for the offense it is that Nick Florence, a senior QB with experience in the past, will take over and has shown he can play well when called upon. Eight defensive starters return to the team but not much can be expected from a unit that finished 112th in the country a year ago and showed his futility again in an Alamo shootout with Washington. Baylor essentially is banking on 35+ a week most of the time to give themselves a shot at victory. They have a good shot at three OOC wins so it should only take three league wins to get back to a bowl game.

Texas Tech has more coming back in 2012 than almost any team in college football with 19 combined starters and is looking at a similar start to last season. The non-conference schedule is….not sure how else to say it…horrendous. Northwestern St, Texas St and New Mexico make up the non-conference slate before the schedule starts to heat up. Iowa St. in the first Big 12 game perhaps becomes a must win for them, though as last year’s upset at Oklahoma showed, you can’t completely rule out upsets in a league with minimal defense. Seth Doege and the entire receiving core is back but the offensive line has some holes that need to be plugged. Defensively the whole group is juniors and seniors so it’s now or never for them after finishing 111th in the country last year. Might come down to a last game of the year at Baylor that determines their bowl faith. I think they can get to 6-6 and get back in a bowl game. Anything less and Tommy Tuberville might be unemployed.

Iowa St. snuck into a bowl game last year with an upset of Oklahoma State that also happened to knock the Cowboys out of the title game but they’ll be hard pressed to repeat those fortunes. They have to go to Iowa in the non-conference schedule as well as TCU, Texas and Oklahoma St in league play. They have only 12 starters combined and have no bye weeks during Big 12 play. For all the credit Paul Rhoads got last year (and deserved), things likely will regress this upcoming season.

Kansas gets Charlie Weis in his first season at Kansas after a less than aspiring tenure as Florida’s offensive coordinator and he’ll give the keys to the offense to Dayne Christ whom he brought to Notre Dame. The storylines are deeper than the Jayhawks’ potential in 2012 and the cellar seems like a certainty. Seeing what Charlie Weis can do off the field in recruiting may be more intriguing than what they do on it for a couple years.

SEC

East:

1. South Carolina 6-2 (owns tiebreaker)*
2. Georgia 6-2*
3. Tennessee 5-3*
4. Florida 4-4*
5. Missouri 3-5*
6. Vanderbilt 2-6*
7. Kentucky 1-7

West:

1. LSU 8-0*
2. Alabama 7-1*
3. Arkansas 6-2*
4. Auburn 4-4*
5. Texas A&M 3-5*
6. Mississippi St. 1-7
7. Ole Miss 0-8

Conference Championship Game: LSU over South Carolina

Analysis: Lastly we run through the SEC and it’s grip on the college football world over the last six years. Fourteen teams make up this league now with the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M from the Big 12 and as a result we see a shift in league play that could benefit some teams this upcoming season. The West again figures to have the two best teams at minimum and a good chance for the three best too if Arkansas doesn’t slip after Bobby Petrino’s departure. In the East the Bulldogs look to defend their division crown with South Carolina as the main threat, thought CFB guru Phil Steele likes the Gators to surprise and win the East.

I’m taking the South Carolina Gamecocks to win the East and acknowledging the help they may end up needing to accomplish that. While they face the losses of playmakers Alshon Jeffery and Stephon Gilmore off each side of the ball, the Gamecocks will have seven starters back on offense and six on defense for a team that still is oozing with talent. Connor Shaw didn’t get the full-time gig until Stephen Garcia exhausted his “get out of jail free” cards with the Ole’ Ball Coach, but once he did he proved a worthy replacement as the Gamecocks lost only once, on the road to an Arkansas team that was top 5 quality. Marcus Lattimore returns from his knee injury and if he has no setbacks or lingering effects has Heisman potential talent for a team that will rely heavily on the ground game. They’ll be soft at wide receiver and have some O-Line holes to plug but this is a team that thrives off its defense and until that changes they should be fine. The defensive line figures again to be among the best in the country and if the secondary follows up its 2011 season with another stellar showing, points will be a premium against them. They get Georgia at home in an absolute must-win and cross-division games vs LSU and Arkansas loom large but the thinking is they can win one of the three and sweep the rest. At 6-2 they’ll be susceptible to another 7-1 Georgia season, but with the thinking, I’ll roll the dice on UGA slipping up once more.

Georgia enters 2012 as the SEC East favorite and arguably the best team in the division. With another marginal schedule that dodges Alabama, LSU and Arkansas from the West, if Georgia simply wins a lot of SEC games it should, they will likely be back in the SEC title game. Still, if history has taught us anything it’s that Georgia is susceptible to falling short of preseason expectations and I’m banking on a similar turn of fortune in 2012. The Bulldogs by all accounts will be loaded this season with Aaron Murray set for his junior season after a historic season for Georgia’s program a year ago. With over 3000 yards passing and 35 TDs a year ago, he’ll be one of the most prolific passers returning in all of college football, though there is some gaps around him. The offensive line returns just two hogs from a year ago and after the dismissal of praised but problematic RB Isaiah Crowell and transfer of Carlton Thomas, they’ll rely on perhaps a couple top freshman recruits Keith Marshall or Todd Gurley to mix into their committee. Orson Charles is the only Bulldogs receiver/TE among their top six pass catchers a year ago who won’t be back. Defensively they return nine starters from the country’s #5 defense, including eight seniors. Jarvis Jones returns as one of the country’s premier defensive linemen and the entire secondary is back. The one game I have them dropping that others may not that they have a habit of always dropping (last year not the case) is the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. With those two losses and a tiebreaker disadvantage, I’ll say they don’t make it back to the title game.

I loved Tennessee coming into this year as a surprise top 25 team and potential sleeper and then Da’Rick Rodgers went out and got himself dismissed from the program. Not exactly a running start for that pick but like anyone with a backbone I’ll only temper the expectations moderately. I still like Tyler Bray coming back with Justin Hunter to form a potent pass-catch combo in the SEC and they’ll still have one of the highest returning starter totals in the country even with Rodgers gone. The defense has nine starters back including the entire secondary which finished the season 11th in the country against the pass. On both sides of the ball they have to improve the run game. SEC defenses are tough, nobody is ignoring that. But any team that wants to give itself a shot week in and week out against the level of competition they play can’t average less than 100 YPG on the ground. On the other side, while 64th isn’t inexcusable nationally, if they can strengthen it a bit with the secondary they have, the defense could become formidable. The two games that will swing their SEC performance are home games against Florida and Missouri. I don’t think they can upset South Carolina or Georgia on the road and they should be good enough to beat Mississippi St. and Vanderbilt away from home. Of their home games, Mizzou and Florida should dictate whether this team is a 3, 4 or 5 win team in SEC play.

While Will Muschamp will likely continue to improve as the year’s go on and he can implement more of his type of players, I don’t like Florida in 2012 anymore than I did in 2011. The sticking point with the Gators that will buy them some support is the 10 defensive starters coming back from the nation’s #8 defense. If they can ever find an offense they could be a 10-win team as last year was a perfect case of offense failing to win games as oppose to defense losing it. Still I’m not overlooking the fact an offense that managed to finish 101st in the country lost two of its best playmakers and still hasn’t decided on a starting QB. Instead they’ll play both Jeff Driskell and Jacoby Brissett on Saturday with the plan to decide after the first half on who will start going forward. We all know the addage on having two quarterbacks. The schedule has a number of challenges as well with road trips to Texas A&M, Tennessee and Florida State included. Even two of their home games in league play will come against South Carolina and LSU. They have 6-7 wins written all over them and unless the defense overwhelms teams or they discover a QB who can produce, I think talk of them challenging South Carolina or Georgia is premature for 2012.

Missouri enters its first season in the SEC fresh off the unfortunate news that RB Henry Josey won’t play this season as he still recovers from a gruesome injury suffered last year. The losses they sustained coming off 2011 make it seem like a long shot they can contend in the East division. They lose the bulk of their receiving core and three starting o-linemen in a division with defensive lines from South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Now take away their premier RB and James Franklin may be running for his life this upcoming season. T.J Moe is a sure handed slot receiver who maybe will get some looks similar to last year if WR Dorial Green-Beckham lives up to the hype as the #1 recruit in the country last season. Defensively they lose five starters and will be breaking in a completely new defensive line which doesn’t bode well for a league so heavy on the run game and line play. We’ll know by the end of September where they fall into the SEC race as they get South Carolina and Georgia in their first two league games.

James Franklin worked wonders to get Vanderbilt to a bowl game a year ago, and he’ll likely be reaching for straws again this year to scratch out 6-7 wins given a tough SEC schedule. Road games at Wake Forest and Northwestern may determine their bowl faith as 4 wins in SEC play seems unlikely if they lose both of those and two seems like a strong possibility if they win both. They’ll have nine starters on offense and seven on defense returning for 2012, making this the second straight year they’ll be among the leaders in that category in the SEC. Zac Stacy set the Vandy single-season rushing mark last season and will be joined by Warren Norman, the 2009 SEC freshman of the year who is finally back after two injury-filled seasons. They have the potential to scare some teams, especially teams susceptible on run defense but for now the pick is 6-6, a bowl game, but 6th place in the SEC East.

Kentucky comes up the back end of the division and some have to start wondering what Joker Phillips long-term retention status is. While it’s hard to say he’s underachieved or failed outright, the program hasn’t done much in a couple seasons and with only six starters back on both sides of the ball, 2012 looks bleak for any resurgence as well. They travel to Florida, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas meaning Vanderbilt and Mississippi St. might be their two best shots at league wins. The offense was anemic a season ago finishing 114th nationally. While the SEC isn’t the Big 12, you’re not going to win many games in any league with that production and the Wildcats know that is priority #1 to improving this season.

The SEC West is where the fun begins. I’ve stated all offseason I thought Alabama was still better than LSU and on a neutral field I’ll take Bama. However 2012 brings that matchup to Baton Rouge and I think that plays the difference in the division. LSU knows what they left in New Orleans last year and each week this season should be a reminder of that as I expect similar dominance over the majority of their competition. LSU starts and ends with their defense but the offense should be able to more than hold their own. They have a staple of backs who figure to chip in led by Spencer Ware, an All-SEC performer last year but has endless depth behind him. The most anticipated member of the LSU team this season will be QB Zach Mettenberger, the Georgia transfer who essentially can’t possibly draw the anger of fans given the lack of production he is replacing. If his hype comes to fruition, LSU might have a pass game to compliment for the first time in years. With that said, LSU will ride the dominance of its defense as far as it goes in 2012. Despite the loss of Tyrann Mathieu the Tigers still boast a number of NFL caliber players all over the field, with senior Eric Reid and juniors Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo leading the pack. While they’re going to use many backups from last year, LSU was praised for the depth they had built on the defensive line and secondary for a year now and we’ll get to see many of them full-time in 2012. LSU has a number of tough games outside of the Alabama game including at Arkansas and home vs South Carolina. I came dangerously close to picking a loss or two but it still feels like an Alabama-LSU game will decide the division and likely, a spot in the national championship.

Alabama has a very good team again and picking them to win the SEC West isn’t a mistake or irrational by any means. In fact as I said, on a neutral field I’d probably take Alabama. One thing that does alarm me is the hunger teams try to rekindle after winning a national title. The Crimson Tide team in 2010 that came off the 2009 national title had MUCH more talent and experience than this group coming back and they lost three games, missed a BCS bowl and lost to a growing, but not elite yet South Carolina team. The Tide will again be led by a sound run game headlined by an elite offensive line that returns four starters including All-American candidates Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones. Ed Lacy takes over for Trent Richardson with freshman T.J Yeldon a candidate to steal some carries and early on may even see a larger role as Lacy battles injuries. They’ll lose a bit of experience in the receiving core that will test McCarron throughout the year to produce with new parts. The defense loses quite a bit from last year, six starters in all, but when was the last time Alabama didn’t play defense as an elite level? How many honestly think Bama won’t plug some new parts in and be a top 10-15 defense at worst again? The trouble for me is just the number of games they have to win in tough venues. Beyond the opener in Dallas they have road SEC games at LSU, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. While Missouri and Tennessee should be no problem, that was supposed to be the case in South Carolina a few years ago as well. I like Bama a lot, I really do, but I’ll roll with the team with home field in 2012, LSU.

Arkansas may just be the most unfortunate team in all of America. In pretty much any other conference they would be a major contender for the national championship. Even a move to the SEC East would put them in serious contention status. Now to all those saying “they still are”….just stop it. I’m as big an Arkansas supporter as there is outside the fanbase. If Clemson’s not playing my hope is the Hogs are slicing and dicing teams up. But at the end of the day they just are not the caliber of team LSU and Alabama are. Tyler Wilson is back and despite a major overhaul to his wide receiver group, he does get Knile Davis back from injury, a dominant back who should drastically improve a running game that ranked 77th last year. Colbi Hamilton leads a wide receiver group that despite the losses still has some horses and with Wilson slinging the ball around should still be one of the best in the country. The offensive line will be a key as they showed time and time again they had trouble protecting Wilson in the pocket last year and despite three starters back must do a better job giving him time. Defensively Arkansas should be what they normally are, a middle of the pack SEC defense that finishes somewhere in the 50′s/60′s nationally and does enough to let their potent offense win them a lot of games. They get both LSU and Alabama at home. Last time that happened they went to the Sugar Bowl. A big one at South Carolina could be key to both teams’ seasons as well.

Auburn will be an interesting team to follow as we’ll get a chance once and for all to see if there’s any credibility to the notion Gus Malzahn and not Gene Chizik was the most influential coach on the team. Auburn finally has a starter who it appears they can be comfortable and confident in with Kiehl Frazier who looked good in the team’s bowl victory over Virginia. Onterio McCalebb will finally get a chance to be the featured back now that Michael Dyer has left the program and he has to be itching to show what he can do in a full-time role. The receivers come back but don’t figure to factor in much. In fact Philip Lutzenkirchen may be their best target as he returns for roughly his 14th year as Auburn’s TE. Defensively Auburn has 9 starters back and will look to fix a defense that got exposed time and time again by the best offenses and teams last year. They are almost locked into a 4th or 5th finish as they’re clearly not on level with Alabama, LSU or Arkansas but not as bad as Mississippi St. or Ole Miss either. 7-5 for Auburn.

Texas A&M is the other team that comes over from the Big 12 and Kevin Sumlin gets the gig fresh off his superb season at Houston. The Aggies lost Ryan Tannehill from last season but otherwise have a lot back in the fold for this year with nine offensive and eight defensive back. The entire offensive line returns as well as Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu come back to the receiving core. Christine Michael is also a RB who last year I expected to be much better than he was but got overshadowed by Cyrus Gray. With Gray gone he has 1000 yard potential. Defensively the linebackers should be the strength of a team who was best known last year for their inability to hold a lead.

Mississippi St. never lived up to the hype surrounding them in 2011 and now with both Chris Relf and Vick Ballard gone, you have to wonder if the slide is starting for coach Dan Mullen. He still has the monkey on his back of having not beaten Alabama,  LSU, Arkansas or Auburn in his time at Mississippi St. The offense turns over to Tyler Russell who didn’t do much in his time last year to make coaches encouraged going into this season. Defensively, they have to replace Fletcher Cox but do have seven starters back. They have a good shot at four wins in non-league so it should only take two league wins. They’re probably a bowl team but I needed to cut one. 5-7 is the pick, 6-6 more likely.

Ole Miss will be one of the worst BCS league teams in 2012 and after the entire offseason I’ve spent on teams, that’s as far as I’m going on them. Eight offensive and seven defensive starters return.

NATIONAL PICKS:

BCS Order Selection: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange

Rose Bowl: USC over Wisconsin

The Trojans go to the Rose Bowl as the PAC-12 replacement for Oregon and play the Big Ten champ Wisconsin. Yet again the Rose Bowl eludes Wisconsin as the passing attack of USC is too much for Wisconsin to overcome and they fall by a 7-10 point margin.

Sugar Bowl: Alabama over Texas

The Sugar Bowl gets their replacement pick for LSU and takes Alabama. With the Fiesta Bowl not being able to take the Big 12 at-large, the Sugar benefits from the power program Texas who gets the nod over Oklahoma. A rematch of the 2010 national championship game, Alabama uses their run game and swallows up the Longhorns rush attack. Once again the Tide leave Texas fans in anguish.

Fiesta Bowl: West Virginia over Florida State

The Mountaineers go to the Fiesta as the Big 12 champ and having to skip Texas or Oklahoma, the Fiesta elects to go with the 11-1 Seminoles as an at-large over the Big East champ. Florida State and West Virginia go up and down the field a little more than expected and the Mountaineers pull it out late 28-24.

Orange Bowl: Clemson over Louisville

The Tigers go back to the Orange Bowl and are happy to not see West Virginia waiting. In a game that has a lot of mistakes and sloppy offense, the Tigers playmakers lead to the difference as Clemson erases the memory of 2011 with a redeeming win over Louisville 20-14.

National Championship: LSU over Oregon

LSU is again an easy pick as the only unbeaten team. Oregon surpasses USC with the PAC-12 title win and outranks 12-1 Wisconsin, 11-1 Alabama and 11-1 Florida State for the bid as pollsters do all they can to avoid a rematch of the LSU-Bama rematch last year. LSU’s defense again shows the strength of SEC D-Lines as the Tigers throttle the Oregon running game while Kenny Hilliard runs away with offensive MVP. LSU wins 31-20.

Some National Awards:

Davey O’Brien: Geno Smith, QB West Virginia
Doak Walker: Montee Ball, RB Wisconsin
Biletnikoff: Marqise Lee, WR USC
Outland Trophy: Barrett Jones, C Alabama
Bednarik: Barkevious Mingo, DE LSU
Maxwell: Matt Barkley, QB USC
Nagurski: Mingo, LSU

Heisman Finalists: Matt Barkley, Montee Ball, Geno Smith, Landry Jones, Marcus Lattimore

Heisman Trophy Winner: Geno Smith


About Bryan Doherty

Boston native and Clemson grad. Big fan of sports, beer and country music. Ride and die with Arizona Mens Basketball. Bill Russell is the GOAT. Tom Brady is trying to get there. Failure with women. Find me at @BDohertyCFB on Twitter.

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