Penn State has taken over the recent college football front pages after receiving a four-year bowl ban, lost scholarships, and a $60 million dollar fine after the NCAA announced their sanctions on the University.
We are nearly a month away from college football's opening weekend, so let's take a break from Penn State, and get geared up for the 2012 season.
Alabama will try and do something no team has ever done since the BCS was formed in 1998. No school has ever won back-to-back BCS National Championships. The Crimson Tide dominated LSU in last years BCS National Championship allowing only 92 total yards. It was one of best defensive games any team has ever displayed.
However, it will be tough for Bama' to repeat because they lost a ton of talent. Four defensive players, along with star running back, Trent Richardson, all heard their names called within the first 35 picks of the 2012 NFL Draft.
This leaves the door wide open for the rest of the country.
USC is finally bowl eligible after a two-year ban, and they bring in one of the most explosive offensives in the country. LSU brings back a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball and they hope junior quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, can help lead the way. Despite Alabama losing a ton of talent to the NFL, they had the best recruiting class in 2012, and still have some very good players returning. Oregon will depend on Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas to lead the way after LaMichael James left for the NFL. Georgia has nine defensive starters returning, to go along with one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Michigan has one of the most exciting and explosive players in the country in Denard Robinson, to go along with 13 starters returning. Senior quarterback, Landry Jones, will look to prove to Sooner nation that he can lead Oklahoma to a Big 12 Championship and contend for a National Championship.
Since there is nearly seven weeks to go until the 2012 season officially kicks-off, I felt it was necessary to give a breakdown of seven teams to keep a close eye on.
USC knew they would be one of the favorites after Matt Barkley announced he was returning for his senior year. Barkley threw for 3,528 yards, 39 TD's, and completed 69% of his passes last season. No other USC quarterback has ever had that high of a completion %. His 39 touchdowns in a season set a new Pac-12 record.
Junior, Robert Woods, is one of the best receivers in the nation. Last year, Woods had 111 receptions (USC record) for 1,292 yards and 15 TD's despite playing a chunk of the season on a bum ankle. Sophomore, Marquise Lee, is coming off a stellar freshman campaign and was named the Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year. Lee had 73 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 TD's. Lane Kiffin believes that Lee could be the most talented receiver to ever play for the Trojans. That is saying a lot because USC has had a ton of talented receivers to rock the cardinal red and gold. The receiving corp is hoping sophomore, George Farmer, can help his former Junipero Serra teammates. Woods, Lee, and Farmer all played for Serra High School where they won the state title during the 2009-10 season. Lee and Farmer also helped Serra High School become the first school in California, to win both a basketball and football state title, during the same academic year. Head Coach Lane Kiffin is hoping this dangerous trio will help lead USC to their 12th career National Championship.
The Trojans were hoping Matt Kalil would stick around for his senior year, but he bolted for the NFL Draft and was selected fourth overall by the Minnesota Vikings. Luckily, for USC, the other four starters on the offensive line are returning. USC was tied with Boise State and Middle Tennessee in the nation for fewest sacks allowed (8), so the loss of Kalil won't hurt too bad.
Senior running back, Curtis McNeal, will lead the way for the Trojans' rushing attack. There is not much depth for USC in the backfield, so McNeal needs to do exactly what he did last season unless the Trojans are able to secure Penn State sophomore running back Silas Redd. Redd is one of the better running backs in the nation and had over 1,200 yards rushing in his sophomore season. He rushed for 1,005 yards on only 145 carries, averaged nearly seven yards a carry and scored six touchdowns. He will be the featured back from day one this season, so durability could be an issue for the senior.
USC lost some talent on defense. Nick Perry is gone. Two other starters on the defensive line graduated. Luckily, USC brings back very capable guys on the defensive side of the ball. USC has one of the fastest defenses in the nation. Seniors Wes Horton and Devon Kennard should help fill the void of Nick Perry. Sophomore linebacker Dion Bailey is one of the best linebackers in the nation and was named the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. The Trojans have one of the best secondaries in the nation. They are led by junior cornerback, Nickell Robey, and senior free safety, T.J. McDonald. McDonald is Tim McDonald's son, a former Consensus All-American safety at USC and a six-time All-Pro safety in the NFL.