It's been a long eight months since we last saw the pigskin fly across our television sets. Finally, the most wonderful time of the year is back and the college football season is about to begin. There are tons of questions to be addressed so GTS is here to give you a full preview of each of the Power Conferences. Who will rise in the ranks of college football and who will fade into oblivion? Who will have a breakout year and of course, who will take home the title? The answers to all your questions can be found here in GTS Guide to the Football Season.
Team on the Rise: Stanford- Ever since the Cardinals miraculously upset USC in 2007, the team has been on a steady incline. Toby Gerhart graced the field for Stanford last season and put together one of the most incredible seasons in all of college football. Stanford has lost their All-American RB, but they still have one of the best QB's in the game in Andrew Luck. Luck put up sensational numbers last year as a freshman in the Pac 10 and is high on many NFL scouts boards. At 6'4, 235, Luck is bigger than most of his opposing Linebackers and is extremely hard to take down in the open field. Luck is a legitimate Heisman candidate and will help his Cardinals soar in the Pac 10. Stanford also has a very favorable schedule and does not have to travel to the Coliseum or Reser Stadium, two of the most difficult places to play in the country. Luck and the Cardinals will use this schedule to improve on their 8-5 record from a year ago and take home a top spot in the Pac 10.
Team on the Downfall: Oregon- The Ducks were flying high a year ago as they won the Pac 10 and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl. With Heisman Candidate QB Jeremiah Masoli on the field, it seemed like the Ducks were faster, stronger, and an outright better team than their opponents every game. However, after Masoli was charged with possession of marijuana in his vehicle in early June, he was immediately dismissed from the football team. Masoli was the main contributor to this powerhouse offense and the Ducks will most certainly feel the affects of his dismissal. Oregon also will be without RB Legarrete Blount who has moved on to the NFL after a controversial senior season. To make things worse, the Pac 10 has greatly improved over the last few years and Oregon has one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Oregon has lost some of its most elusive players and with the Pac 10 improving every year, the Ducks will fade in the conference.
Players to Watch: Pac 10 QB's (Andrew Luck, Stanford, Nick Foles, Arizona, Matt Barkley, USC, Jake Locker, Washington, Kevin Riley, Cal)- There's always that one conference that has a plethora of top Quarterbacks. For the past few years it seems like the Big 12 has dominated this category. This years' winner definitely goes to the Pac 10 conference. The Pac 10 has five high caliber QBs who all are destined to play in the NFL someday. Each player threw for over 2500 yards last season and led their teams to winning records despite having tough schedules. I highly suggest watching these talents dominate the college game before they start playing on Sundays.
Projected Winner: USC- The USC Trojans have had a far from ordinary offseason. After a long investigation on Reggie Bush, the NCAA decided to ban USC from postseason play for a total of two years. This resulted in multiple players transferring in the hope that they would find that Championship trophy elsewhere. While some chose to leave, most chose to stay and fight through these hardships and prove to the world that USC still can play World Class football. Matt Barkley is heading into quite possibly his final season as a Trojan and is determined to take this team as far as they possibly can go. Although USC doesn't return much of their other offensive weapons, the USC defense still remains relatively the same. The Trojans will be motivated and although they cannot win in the postseason, they will still take home the Pac 10 title.
Team on the Rise: Texas Tech- It's been a half-year full of controversy and confusion down in Lubbock Texas, and although many are counting them out for the 2010 season, I think it will all work out for the best. The Mike Leach era is gone and if the rumors we heard are true, he certainly wasn't quite the charmer. Former Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville, an experienced and established coach who was loved and respected by all his past players, will lead the Red Raiders this fall in what will surely be an impressive season. Tuberville will create a more relaxed environment and is the perfect man for the revival of this prestigious program. As Tuberville leads from the sideline, Heisman Candidate Taylor Potts will be the offensive General for the Red Raiders behind center. Potts threw for 3440 yards last season in his first year as a starter and is a legitimate pro prospect for the 2011 draft. Potts will also return all of his 2009 targets at WR, which is very important in Texas Tech's Air Raid style of offense. With Tuberville controlling the sideline and Potts and company dominating opposing defenses, the Red Raiders will rise in the Big 12 standings.
Team on the Downfall: Kansas- The Jayhawks have always been known for their prestigious basketball program. However, a few years ago Kansas football stunned the World and made a miraculous run all the way to the Fedex Orange Bowl in which they beat Virginia Tech. Although Kansas hopes that they stay at this elite level, all good things must come to an end, and this year will be the beginning of that downfall. The Jayhawks started their 2010 offseason by firing former Home Depot award winning coach Mark Mangino. Mangino had been accused of mistreatment of players and racist-motivational methods that was all part of a terrifying eight year run with the Jayhawks. Mangino's tactics left multiple players scarred and forced to transfer leaving the football program in total ruins. Former star QB Todd Reesing and top Wide Receivers Desmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier have all departed from the program leaving many wondering if the Jayhawks will even win a game in 2010. It's been only three years since the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl, but it will take decades for program to get back to that elite status.
Player to Watch: RB Demarco Murray, Oklahoma: One of the most electrifying players in all of the NCAA this year will be Oklahoma RB Demarco Murray. Murray has been plagued by injuries the past couple of years, but has shown sparks of incredible talent for the Sooners. Murray is one of the fastest Tail Backs in the NCAA having run a 4.4 forty time just last summer. He is also a fantastic pass catcher out of the backfield and is brilliant at HB screens. Murray is often compared to Reggie Bush with his great catching ability and agile feet, and if he stays healthy, could be as dominant as his USC comparative.
Projected Winner: Texas- The Longhorns are my early favorite to win the Big 12 and here's why. Texas has one of the greatest coaches in NCAA history in Mack Brown who has brought in yet again one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. Brown has also won the Red River Rivalry four out of the last five years, and we all know how important that game can be. Although the Longhorns did lose legendary QB Colt Mccoy to the NFL, they have one of the brightest young Quarterbacks in the NCAA in Garret Gilbert. That name might sound familiar and it's because Gilbert very nearly brought Texas back from an eighteen point deficit in the second half of the BCS National Championship Game last year. The Longhorns also return top RB Tre Newton who averaged 5 yards per carry as a freshman. It seems like it will all work out for the Longhorns despite it being a rebuilding year.
Team on the Rise: Michigan- The Wolverines have been far from satisfactory the last couple of years. After a loss to Appalachian State and a 9-4 overall record, Michigan decided to take a completely new path in 2007. The prestigious program started by firing long time head coach Lloyd Carr and eventually called on West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez to take over the reins. Rodriguez ran the spread offense at WV and was keen on bringing over his style of play to Michigan. The Wolverines have taken a while to adjust, but they have improved each year since his arrival. Rodriguez finally has players who can play in his system and the Wolverines have the speed on offense to finally run the Spread effectively. Starting QB Tate Forcier will return for his Sophomore year and will establish himself as one of the premier QB's in the Big 10. It's been a slow transition, but the Wolverines will climb their way back to the top half of the Big 10.
Team on the Downfall: Illinois- Illinois failed to exceed any of their high expectations in 2009. The Illini dropped to a 3-9 overall record, (2-6 in Conference) and were clearly over-hyped in the 2009 preseason. Juice Williams was projected to be one of the most dominant Quarterbacks in the NCAA, but threw just a mere 12 touchdowns and 1600 yards, nearly half of his 2008 stats. Arrelious Benn was the Illini's other offensive threat yet he failed to reach forty catches and reached the endzone only twice last season. Wiliams and Benn were the "stars" of the 2009 Illinois team, and neither of them are returning next season. If Illinois went 3-9 with Williams and Benn, I don't even want to know what they will look like without them.
Player to Watch: QB Kevin Newsome, Penn State- Daryl Clark had a terrific Senior Season for the Nittany Lions in 2009 and led PSU to an Capital One Bowl Victory. Now it's Kevin Newsome's turn. Newsome is a 6'2 225 dual threat QB that has the same playing style as his predecessor, Clark. He runs a 4.5 forty-yard dash and has a very strong arm when he drops back in the pocket. Newsome spent all last year learning behind Clark and now it is his time to shine in Happy Valley. Watch out for Kevin Newsome.
Projected Winner: Ohio State- The Buckeyes will be crowned Big 10 Champions yet again in 2010. OSU will return almost all of their offensive attack from 2009 that was so devastating to teams such as Penn State and Iowa in the regular season. Top rushers Brandon Saine and Dan Herron will be entering their Senior and Junior year respectively and top receiver DeVier Posey will return as well. 2009 Rose Bowl MVP Terrelle Pryor will also be back for Buckeyes in 2010 and looks stronger than ever. Pryor was fantastic in the Rose Bowl last season and has the talent to win the Heisman Trophy. However, the offense isn't OSU's only strong suit. The Buckeye's defense has always been one of the most dominant in the country and this year looks to be no different. Pryor and the Buckeyes will capture their 6th straight Big 10 Title on their path to another Rose Bowl appearance.
Team on the Rise: Virginia Tech- The Hokies finished in a disappointing third place last season despite going 6-2 in Conference Play. Hokie fans expect so much from their team, which means that last year's Bronze medal was clearly a failure down in Blacksburg. However, it seems like this year VA Tech can get back to that ACC Championship and play for a chance to get to the Orange Bowl. A key factor will be the addition of Darren Evans. Evans missed all last season due to a knee injury, which he suffered in last year's preseason. He is a star talent who will surely make an impact and lead the Hokies down the field. Tyrod Taylor also has another year under his belt and has been significantly improving as his college career has progressed. Taylor has a cannon for an arm yet also is a very good runner, which forces defenses to adjust their play calling to prevent him from breaking downfield. With Evans back and Taylor more experienced, the Hokies will have a good chance at getting back to the ACC Title game.
Team on the Downfall: Clemson- How can a team recover from losing a Heisman Trophy candidate? This is the question Clemson fans have been forced to ask themselves all offseason and it seems like everyone is headed into August still without answers. Spiller was everything to this team. He was responsible for more than 40% of the Tigers' offense and rushed for 1212 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also was a fantastic punt returner and even threw a Touchdown in Clemson's yearly romp against NC State. Spiller could do it all, but now with him out of the picture, Clemson will have to find a new playmaker who they can count on week in and week out to bring in a hundred yards and score. Clemson has some decent role players on offense, but without Spiller, they will fall in the tough ACC.
Player to Watch: QB Christian Ponder, Florida State- Now Ponder may not have as good stats as former Seminole greats Chris Weinke or Charlie Ward, but he does have something much more important, a future. Ponder is heading into his senior year and despite never breaking fifteen touchdowns in a season, he is already being looked at by tons of NFL scouts and is a top NFL prospect. Ponder was also named to the Davey O'Brien award preseason watch list and is projected to be a 1st round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Ponder is a fantastic talent and it might be useful to see how he plays in the College game before you start watching him on Sundays.
Projected Winner: Miami- Surprisingly, despite all the top teams I've mentioned, Miami is my winner in the ACC this season. Miami's schedule looks very promising receiving teams such as VTech, Maryland and Florida State at home and much weaker teams (Duke, Virginia) on the road. The Hurricanes' only real test will be heading up to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Miami also returns much of their offensive lineup from a year ago including star QB Jacory Harris. Harris was involved in the Heisman talk of 2009 and has the talent to finally win this year. Much of the Hurricanes defense will also return which will make this team not just hard to stop, but hard to score on. The easy schedule, the Heisman trophy candidate, and the returning defense will put the U back on top.
Team on the Rise- Arkansas- Funnily enough the most talented QB in the SEC may not be from one of the normal SEC powerhouses. Former USC Quarterback Ryan Mallet had a jaw-dropping season just a year ago, yet he has failed to catch much attention in the eyes of College Football fans. Mallet threw for 30 touchdowns and 3600 yards in his first year in a Razorback uniform. There's no doubt that last year was just a preview for what is to come from this top NFL prospect. The Razorbacks also filled in their weak Defensive Line hole bringing in more than 3 strong DT's to help plug up the middle. The Razorbacks are in a tough division, but they are slowly working their way to the top
Team on the Downfall- Tennessee- The once dominant Volunteers are definitely falling in the ranks of SEC football. Tennessee will showcase their third coach in just three seasons after Lane Kiffin ditched the Knoxville job for USC. Now the team is full of recruits playing for a new coach and in a completely different system. The clubhouse will be completely mixed, which will lead to a non-united team. The Vols also lose their starting QB Jonathan Crompton and star Safety Eric Berry to the NFL, which makes me wonder whether this team will have any leadership. Add that all in with their tough division and you have at most a 4-win team.
Player to Watch: ATH Randall Cobb, Kentucky- Cobb might not be the best player in the SEC, but he is certainly one of the most exciting. Cobb is a true athlete who can play multiple positions and is a scoring machine. Cobb was a QB his freshman year, but switched to WR in 2009 to fill in the Wildcats weak receiving core. However, this doesn't mean he doesn't take snaps behind center anymore. Cobb is often subbed in at QB for option sets and short yardage situations. He recorded more than 500 yards as a rusher last season including 10 touchdowns and a 61-yard dash in Kentucky's upset against Auburn. Oh and did I mention he returns kicks too! This guy can do it all and I highly suggest watching him this fall.
Projected Winner: Alabama- Who doesn't have Alabama winning the SEC this season? The Tide return much of their championship defense from a year ago that only gave up 11.7 points per game and shutdown Florida in the SEC championship game. They also return star RB Mark Ingram who is looking to repeat as the Heisman Trophy Winner for the first time since Archie Griffin in 1975. Nick Saban has also brought in one the best recruiting classes in the nation with standout DB Demarcus Milliner atop the group. Alabama is so stacked this year that the question is not whether or not they will win the SEC this year, but by how much.