Oklahoma is the final team on this list. They have a ton of talent, but it all starts with their senior quarterback, Landry Jones. Despite throwing for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns last season, Jones struggled down the stretch for the Sooners. After starting 6-0, Oklahoma finished 3-3 in their final six regular season games. Landry Jones is one of the favorites to contend for the Heisman Trophy entering his senior season.
Junior tailback, Dominique Whaley, was one of the best stories in college football last season. The walk-on led Oklahoma in rushing through six games before suffering a broken ankle against Kansas State and was shut down for the rest of the season.
Now that Bob Stoops has given Whaley a scholarship, the junior can finally quit his part-time job making sandwiches at Subway and focus on football. He will be the main cog in the rushing attack for Oklahoma heading into 2012. The Sooners also brought in two talented freshmen recruits in Alex Ross and David Smith to add depth to the backfield. Oklahoma also added a very talented back in Damien Williams, a junior college transfer from Arizona Western.
Michigan will bank on their senior quarterback, Denard Robinson to lead them through the Big Ten this season. Robinson is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country and he will have his work cut out for him in Michigan's season opener against defending national champions Alabama. He led the way for Michigan last season en route to an 11-2 record and a BCS bowl victory. If Michigan wants to win the Big Ten outright this season, it all starts with Mr. Robinson.
Georgia brings back a ton of talent this season. Head coach Mark Richt is perennially on the hot seat, but a 10-4 season and 10-game winning streak last year saved his job. Georgia started 0-2 last year, but rode a 10-game winning streak to finish the regular season 10-2 and win the SEC East. Richt had to make a tough decision during the spring. He dismissed former five-star recruit, Isaiah Crowell, after being charged with felony gun possession charges. Crowell was in and out of trouble during his freshman season. Georgia could no longer deal with his off-field issues and decided to dismiss him in June.
Oregon comes into the 2012 season as one of the most athletic teams in the nation. Chip Kelly has been an offensive guru since becoming the Head Coach before the 2009 season. Oregon has gone 34-6 overall, 26-2 conference record, in Kelly's first three seasons. They have won the Pac-10 (now Pac-12 after last season) all three years. Oregon won the Rose Bowl last season, and Kelly helped Oregon get to the BCS National Championship in 2010.
Kelly will depend heavily on diminutive sophomore running back De'Anthony Thomas this year. As a true freshman, Thomas rushed for 595 yards on only 55 carries, which averages out to a ridiculous 10.8 yards/carry and seven touchdowns. He also had 605 yards receiving and nine receiving touchdowns. He also had two more touchdowns as a kick returner and is one of the most explosive special team players in the country. Thomas' shared Offensive Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors with Marquise Lee. In the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin, Thomas showed how explosive he can be. He had two carries for 155 yards and two TD's.
Despite the losses of Dont'a Hightower and Heisman Trophy winner Trent Richardson, Alabama has their leader returning in head coach Nick Saban. It is hard to argue against him not being the best coach in the country. He has three BCS National Championship rings, two with Alabama and one with LSU. Saban is already one of the best coaches in the history of the game and he still has a long way to go. Alabama lost a ton of talent to the next level, but they had the top recruiting class in 2012, to go along with some very good players returning.
Junior quarterback, A.J. McCarron, was one of the best game managers last season. He threw for 2,634 yards and 16 touchdowns. The most important stat was he only had five interceptions. This year more weight will be put on his shoulders. They lost a ton of talent on defense along with one of the best running backs in the country. McCarron proved a lot in last seasons National Championship game. He was 23-34 for 234 yards against one of the best defenses in the nation. The most important stat: zero turnovers.