Friday, September 9, 2011

Jeff Bailey's quick overview of the BCS Conferences

2011 College Football Preview - Jeff Bailey

NOTE - this post was written two weeks prior to the start of the season.  Due to our real jobs, we apologize for the delay.

With the college football season just beginning it’s time to take a look at the six BCS conferences and who will be competing for championships.  Most conferences this year are wide open without a clear cut favorite, which should create some great matchups late in the season.

Big 12
With the loss of Nebraska and Colorado to other conferences, the Big 12 is down to only 10 teams this year.  Looking at the remaining 10 teams it is hard to think of anyone but Oklahoma winning this conference.  Oklahoma is the early favorite for the National Championship and returning the bulk of their main performers from last season when they won 12 games.  

Landry Jones is poised for a huge year and possibly a Heisman Trophy run as well.  With the return of sensational receiver Ryan Broyles, the Sooners offense will be explosive.  Oklahoma’s only real question is on the defensive side, especially at linebacker.  Going into this offseason, The Sooners had a very solid defense, but with the recent, and very unfortunate, death of Austin Box and now the injury to Travis Lewis, who could be out up to 8 weeks, Oklahoma has some holes to fill.

Even with the great team Oklahoma has put together, it won’t be a walk in the park.  In state rival Oklahoma St and Texas A&M will make Oklahoma earn everything.  Both OSU and Texas A&M have very solid teams that can compete with anyone in the country and are looking for a Big 12 championship and a shot at a BCS bowl.  Even with a horrendous season last year, Texas is still looming and could come out of left field to make some noise.

The surprise team to look out for is Oklahoma St.  The Cowboys return one of the most explosive QB-WR combos in Weeden and Blackmon, which can take over any game.  Despite some scares, I still believe Oklahoma will come out on top in this conference and might even end up in the BCS National Championship game.
Big 10

The Big 10 has been pretty easy to figure out the past few years with Ohio State dominating the competition, but the 2011 season brings with it a lot of change.  Not only did the Big 10 add powerhouse Nebraska, but the conference split into two divisions and will feature their first conference championship game.  This new alignment, coupled with all of the turmoil at Ohio State, it’s difficult to determine a clear-cut favorite.  Wisconsin, Ohio State, and newcomer Nebraska are the top 3 teams in the conference, but teams like Michigan State, Penn State, and Northwestern will push for their share of the spotlight.

Wisconsin is probably the early prospect for the Big Ten’s best team, especially when you consider the addition of dual-threat QB Russell Wilson.  Wisconsin features one of the best backfields in the country, with the dynamic tandem of Montee Ball and James White.  The Badgers are a very solid and veteran team on both sides of the ball who will have a lot to prove coming off a frustrating Rose Bowl loss to TCU.  

You can expect Nebraska to make a huge splash in its first Big Ten campaign.  With Taylor Martinez leading the way, Nebraska will make some noise early and often and should compete for their spot in the inaugural conference championship.  

It’d be foolish to rule Ohio State out entirely.  While the off-season drama certainly hurt their chances, the Buckeyes still have a solid group of core players capable of putting together a run of their own.  Ohio State’s success will hinge on the transition at quarterback and the capability of Luke Fickell to rally his players behind him.

The surprise team in the Big Ten this year is Northwestern.  Coach Pat Fitzgerald has quietly put together a very solid and great team.  Northwestern has started to make some noise in the Big Ten recently, and their 2011 team is one of their most complete in years.  With the return of QB Dan Persa, Northwestern is a bit of a sleeper pick to compete in the Big Ten Championship game.  

When it’s all said and done and the Big Ten champion is crowned in Indianapolis, I believe Wisconsin will take home the top prize.


   The ACC is one of the few conferences that was not affected by teams moving around.  Even with that said, the ACC is not the strongest BCS conference this year.  At this point, it is just looking like a two team race between Florida State and Virginia Tech.  Both teams have high expectations for a BCS bowl game coming into this season.  The past few seasons have been a bit of a disappointment for ACC fans, as Virginia Tech has been the only consistently successful program.  However, Florida State, under Jimbo Fisher, is looking like they’re truly on the road back to prominence.
 By all accounts, the Seminoles are poised to cruise to an ACC title.  Both FSU and VT lost their starting QBs to the NFL in the offseason and are looking to find a suitable replacement.  Florida State has the lead in this department with EJ Manuel expected to transition the Noles out of the Christian Ponder era.  Running back Chris Thompson should help make that transition an easy one, as I expect him to have a great season.  FSU always has a solid defense and that should continue for the 2011 season.
With the Miami scandal in full-fledged panic mode, I truly see the ACC as a two-team race with Florida State edging Virginia Tech for the conference’s automatic BCS bid.


 There are some new faces in the Pac-12 this year, which is going to make for a very interesting season.  At this point it seems like a one team league with Oregon coming off a National Championship run last year, but the showed some vulnerability in their opening loss to LSU.  USC is still under NCAA sanctions and cannot win the Pac-12 or go to a bowl game.  That said, USC is nowhere near as good as Oregon coming into the season, and showed that in their week one struggle against Big Ten bottom dwellar Minnesota.  With USC out of the picture, only one other team will compete with Oregon for the Pac-12 championship.   
Stanford is about the only team that will compete with Oregon for the Pac-12.  Stanford returns the Heisman front runner and future #1 draft pick in the NFL in Andrew Luck.  Luck is by far the best QB in all of college football, but he won’t be able to do everything by himself.  Stanford has a very solid team, but Oregon just clips them in personnel.  Oregon returns one of the best QBs in the country along with arguable the best RB in college football.  Their high powered offense from last year that averaged 47 points per game is looking to make a trip back to the national championship to clean up some unfinished business.  Besides being the best offensive juggernaut, Oregon has a very solid defense that most people overlooked.   
The biggest surprise team will also be one of the newcomers in Utah.  Utah returns an overall solid team, but will have to prove to both the Pac-12 and the country that they do below with the big boys.  What will help Utah out the most is their schedule.  Utah avoids playing both Oregon and Stanford, so they should make quite a large splash.  With the likes of Utah and Stanford hovering just behind, Oregon should still find a way to win the Pac-12 and compete for a 2nd straight trip to the National Championship.  This league will mostly likely come down to the huge matchup on Nov 12 in Pal Alto when Oregon and Stanford run head first into each other.

Big East

Oh, the Big East, the lonely cellar dweller of the BCS conferences.  Last year the winner of the Big East had 5 losses, while at least three teams from both the Big Ten and SEC had fewer losses.  This coming season is no different for the Big East.  The preseason polls are out and zero, yes zero, teams from the Big East are currently ranked.  With that said, there are two main competitors for the Big East title, and they are West Virginia and Pitt.

    West Virginia is the early front runner, but the Big East is still pretty wide open since no one wants to separate themselves.  WVU returns one of the best athletes in the Big East with QB Geno Smith.  Not only that, but WVU surprisingly had the 3rd best overall defense in the country last year.  They should be able to replicate that again this year with at least a top 10 defense.  Pitt returns a great QB in Tino Sunseri, but they have some big shoes to fill at RB since Dion Lewis is now in the NFL.  Pitt will give WVU a run for their money, but WVU should easily walk away with a BCS bowl game in January 2012.

    As for a surprise team, I’ve always been a fan of Connecticut but they have to replace one the best RBs in the country last year and deal with a transition at the head coach positon.  UConn has had recent history of producing very good RBs, but can they keep that streak alive?  Even if UConn can reload at the RB position, they will be no match for WVU.  WVU should easily run away with in the Big East with minimal speed bumps.
  The SEC is looking for an unprecedented 6th straight National Champion.  Auburn and Cam Newton shocked the world last year, but will fall back into the middle of theSEC again this season.  The two candidates to keep the SEC National Champion streak alive are Alabama and LSU.  Top to bottom, the SEC will still be the countries strongest conference.  Teams like Georgia and Florida are looking to rebound and get back to their normal top 10 ranking.

    LSU and Alabama are the best two teams in the SEC and should stay in the top 8 throughout the entire season.  LSU lost their leading rusher from last year, along with other key playmakers on both sides of the ball, but they should be able to reload.  Jordan Jefferson might just be the best QB in the SEC this coming season, and if he can keep everything rolling on all cylinders, LSU could be looking at a possible National Championship game.  On the other hand, Alabama lost their three offensive leaders in McElroy, Ingram, and Jones.  Bama just reloads at RB with Trent Richardson, who a lot of people think has always been better than Ingram.  Both LSU and Alabama had top 10 defenses last season, and should easily keep that going this coming year.  Overall, LSU edges out Bama as a team, but as we’ve learned in the past from the SEC…anything can happen.

    There seems to be a different surprise team every year in the SEC, but this year it will be South Carolina.  SC won the SEC East last year since Florida and Georgia were having down seasons, and are looking to repeat.  South Carolina just reinstated their starting QB from last year, which is a huge surprise and help for them.  Not only is QB Garcia coming back, they also have one of the most explosion RBs in the country coming back in Marcus Lattimore.  Lattimore is looking to have a Heisman-like year and hoping he can help SC get back to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta.  With the likes of South Carolina, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Alabama, and LSU, anyone will have a tough time winning this conference.  At the end of the day, LSU should come out on top with Jefferson leading the way.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for further college football posts.

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