2012 NCAA Football Preview: Final Thoughts

September 7, 2012

Sure, it’s almost a week late, but if you remember my “Final Thoughts” preview last year, you know that there isn’t any information in it that is too late to preview until about the third or fourth week in the season.

So if you’re still interested (well, if you were even interested to begin with), in this post I’ll give you a rundown of my Heisman Trophy candidates, some of the bigger things that I think will happen this season and predictions for which teams will play in BCS bowls this year.

Heisman Trophy Short List (in random order)

Matt Barkley, Southern California quarterback

Barkley is the face of one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, and will have a big say in whether or not the Trojans are playing for the national title on January 7th. The 6’2, 230 pound senior made fans in Los Angeles very happy when he decided to return to Southern Cal for a final season instead of bolting for the NFL Draft a year early. Now, he has the chance to cash in by winning two of college football’s most recognized trophies.

If USC does in fact go undefeated and make it to Miami, expect Barkley to be a frontrunner for the Heisman. Recent history suggests a quarterback playing in the BCS National Championship Game has a very good shot at winning the Heisman Trophy as well. Barkley doesn’t throw a lot of bad passes and will rack up a ton of passing yards this season, so he’ll be deserving of the award if he were to win.

Geno Smith, West Virginia quarterback

One of the most calm and collected college quarterbacks in the pocket gets to play his final season in a West Virginia uniform in a new conference while being led by a coach that understands how to exploit Big 12 defenses. Geno Smith should be near the top of the national rankings for total passing yards and touchdown passes, which will help his Heisman case. Smith has the benefit of playing for head coach Dana Holgorsen, whose Air Raid offense demands one thing above all else: scoring. A lot.

The Mountaineers should be a contender for the Big 12 crown, which will help Smith’s cause as well. If West Virginia manages to receive a BCS bowl bid, expect Smith to be one of the select few invited to New York City in early December.

 Aaron Murray, Georgia quarterback

In case you aren’t aware yet, I really like Aaron Murray and think he’s going to be one of college football’s biggest names by the end of this season. He has the ability to make all the throws, and is one of the main reasons why Georgia could have a tremendous year. Playing in the SEC will give him the exposure needed to become a true Heisman Trophy threat, and his offensive line will determine whether he gets the invitation to join the other hopefuls in New York City.

Unless the Bulldogs win the SEC championship and are headed to the national title game, Murray is probably an outside shot to take home the trophy. However, his 2012 performance could lay the groundwork for a serious 2013 campaign if he decides to return to Georgia for his senior season.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin running back

Ball is the only player left in college football that was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year. The senior had a monster year in 2011, scoring 39 touchdowns (33 rushing, 6 receiving) to tie Barry Sanders’ record for total touchdowns in a season. Ball is only 18 rushing touchdowns from breaking the career record for rushing scores, which was set by Travis Prentice back in 1999. Assuming Ball stays healthy, he shouldn’t have an issue surpassing that mark.

Ball will again be the focus of the Badger offense, but thanks to his superior speed and field vision, he shouldn’t have trouble putting up big numbers in 2012. If there was one player in the country with the best shot to steal the Heisman Trophy from all the talented quarterbacks, it would be Montee Ball.

Kenjon Barner, Oregon running back

Thanks to LaMichael James, there was the illusion that Chip Kelly’s offense sent someone to the Heisman Trophy presentation yearly. Although James is gone, Kenjon Barner has the chance to pick up where James left off and sustain that illusion. Barner rushed for almost 1,000 yards last season, and will be the feature back in the Ducks’ offense this year. Barner will be called upon even more often since Oregon will be relying on a redshirt freshman at quarterback, so expect the rushing total to be well above 1,000 yards.

Barner is exciting and versatile, so expect him to get the attention necessary to be a Heisman Trophy contender. However, when it comes right down to it Barner is probably nothing more than a dark horse unless he has a breakout year.

Things I Think Will Happen

Let me preface this section by warning the readers that of my three big predictions last season, exactly zero of them ended up happening. Typical.

Someone other than Alabama or LSU will win the SEC

In fact, neither Alabama nor LSU will even make it to the SEC Championship Game. Although Bobby Petrino is no longer with the program, things haven’t looked better in Fayetteville in quite a while. Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis lead a very potent offense, and the defense isn’t bad, either.

Both LSU and Alabama has been Arkansas’ Achilles heel in recent years, with the Razorbacks beating pretty much every one else in the SEC (other than Auburn in 2010). However, the schedule is set up very nicely for Arkansas to finally break through; they play both Alabama and Arkansas at home.

After Alabama’s big victory over Michigan, it might look like a tall task for Arkansas to take down the Crimson Tide. But remember two things: I thought Michigan was overrated anyway, and Arkansas has an offense capable of putting up 41 points against a top team, too.

We’ll party like it’s 2008

Urban Meyer led Florida to the national title. Mike Leach led Texas Tech to a tie for first in the Big 12 and a Cotton Bowl berth. Rich Rodriguez, who while not faring too well in 2008 did lead West Virginia to the Fiesta Bowl a year earlier, which he ended up not coaching.

All of that happened in 2008, and a few years later all of those coaches were out of college football. Surprise! They’re back, and are going to bring their teams back in a very short amount of time. In case you haven’t heard already, Meyer is now the coach at Ohio State. Rodriguez has brought his spread offense to Arizona and the Pac-12. Leach is also in the Pac-12, attempting to reinvigorate a Washington State team which has struggled the better part of the last decade.

I believe that all three men will do well at their respective programs. Meyer’s team is ineligible for postseason play this year, but should be a preseason national title contender next season. Rodriguez has the chance to thrive in the Pac-12, where the defenses will not chew up and spit out the spread offense like the Big Ten defenses did. Leach has the most work to do, but is creative enough to build a winner in Pullman.

Oregon will get hit with penalties

Oregon is still in hot water stemming from a 2011 investigation of the program after it was learned the school paid more than $25,000 to two men associated with a 7 on 7 camp that once featured Oregon players such as DeAnthony Thomas and former defensive back Cliff Harris. While no decision has been made yet, it does not appear that this case will just go away.

I expect Oregon to receive the usual slap on the wrist penalties: scholarship reductions for a few years, and maybe a one-year postseason ban if the NCAA is feeling particularly strong. This kind of thing is hardly a story anymore, but considering the fact that Oregon has emerged as a premier program, it will resurface in the headlines if something does happen.

One thing is for sure; since the Ducks aren’t a member of the SEC, this won’t just be slipped under the rug. Even Pat Knight doesn’t wield the type of power the SEC has in college football.

BCS Bowl Predictions

Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Ohio

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. South Florida

Sugar Bowl: West Virginia vs. Michigan State

Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. LSU

BCS National Championship Game: Arkansas vs. Southern California

As I always do, I’ve really enjoyed writing these college football previews. Since I’m normally wrong in my predictions, please feel free to let me know what you think is going to happen, because there is a good chance it will probably be more accurate. You can comment on any one of my conference previews, send me an email at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, shoot me a tweet @KBecks_ATC or comment on Around The Corn’s Facebook page. I truly appreciate those of you who have read even one of my posts over the past two weeks, and I hope that you’re as ready for an entertaining season of college football as I am! Thanks everyone.

– K. Becks

One Response to 2012 NCAA Football Preview: Final Thoughts

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