Potential for a letdown
Ranked teams are not immune to falling out of the BCS race
Every year it seems that a team expected to be dominant falls flat on its face. Last year it was Southern California, the year before that it was Arkansas.
This year will probably be no exception. There are teams in the top 25 that have the potential to be good, but are also a candidate to be this year’s disappointment.
• Key losses: Jon Bostic (LB), Jordan Reed (TE), Sharrif Floyd (DT), Matt Elam (S), Jelani Jenkins (LB), Mike Gillislee (RB), Caleb Sturgis (K), Josh Evans (S)
• 2012 record: 11-2, lost to Louisville, 33-23 in Sugar Bowl
• Key stat: 4-0 in games decided by eight points or fewer in 2012
How it falls: Offense can no longer win ugly.
Florida fans may have been better off not watching some Gator games last year, especially early November games against Missouri and Louisiana-Lafayette. The Gators didn’t win those games pretty and had to eke out wins against lesser teams. Even in a 44-point outburst against South Carolina, the Gators were out-gained, 191 yards to 183. Thanks to a defense that gave up 14.5 points per game, fifth best in the nation, Florida was able to win those games. But as good as the defense was, and probably will be this year, Gator fans should be in a panic if the offense doesn't show any improvement.
Jeff Driskel threw for just 1,641 and 12 touchdowns last year but often played second-fiddle to Gillslee. But this year, Gillislee and his 1,152 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns is now in the NFL, leaving head coach Will Muschamp to replace that offense. Florida has enough talent on offense to make up for it, but it will need a player or two to step forward.
• Key losses: Kenny Vaccaro (S), Marquise Goodwin (WR), Alex Okafor (DE), D.J. Grant (TE), Ryan Roberson (FB), Brandon Moore (DT)
• 2012 record: 9-4, defeated Oregon State, 31-27, in Alamo Bowl
• Key stat: 74th in points allowed per game in 2012 (29.2)
How it falls: Defense doesn’t find its footing.
Texas has the names to be successful, but in 2012 it struggled to put it all together. The talent was there to be a dominant defense with Vaccaro and Okafor yet the team ended up giving up about 30 points per game. Even before Jackson Jeffcoat was lost for the season, the team had given up an average of 34 points in its previous four games. Now it’s up to Jeffcoat and Carrington Byndom to be the leaders on the defense that got gashed for an average of 192.15 rushing yards per game (88th in the nation) last season.
The offense was decent last year, but quarterback David Ash would need to turn into former Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy to cover the defense if it doesn’t improve.
• Key losses: Tyler Eifert (TE), Everett Golson (QB), Theo Riddick (RB), Jamoris Slaughter (S), Kapron Lewis-Moore (DE), Zeke Motta (S), Manti Te’o (LB)
• 2012 record: 12-1, lost to Alabama, 42-14, in BCS national championship
• Key stat: 80th in points scored per game (25.8) in 2012
How it falls: The luck of the Irish runs out.
Yes, Notre Dame did what it had to do last year for an undefeated regular season, but that doesn’t mean it was always pretty. The Irish won five games that were decided by a touchdown or less, including a controversial overtime win against Stanford. The Irish struggled to score points last year with Golson, and will now have to turn back to Tommy Rees after Golson’s suspension from the team. Rees (436 passing yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions in 2012) has had some good moments, but failed to capitalize when Golson was benched for poor play at times last season. Rees doesn't have the same mobility as Golson which will limit the Fighting Irish's playbook.
Oh, and if that wasn’t hard enough to overcome, don’t forget about the post-BCS hangover.
• Key losses: Landry Jones (QB), Kenny Stills (WR), Justin Brown (WR), Stacy McGee (DT), David King (DE), Lane Johnson (OT)
• 2012 record: 10-3, lost to Texas A&M, 41-13, in Cotton Bowl
• Key stat: 61st in rushing yards (161.4) per game in 2012
How it falls: The quarterback situation looks like Oklahoma circa 2006.
Last year’s Sooners team ranked fifth in the nation with 336.5 passing yards per game. Some Oklahoma fans may have complained about Jones’ lack of progression but he got the job (mostly) done. Fans in Stillwater may be missing him more than they expect by the end of the year. Head coach Bob Stoops has annointed redshirt freshman Trevor Knight as the new starting quarterback instead of Blake Bell. Knight may have more potential but any team that starts a first-year quarterback has to be worried about how he’ll respond on Saturdays.
• Key losses: DeAndre Hopkins (WR), Andre Ellington (RB), Malliciah Goodman (DE), Jonathan Meeks (S)
• 2012 record: 11-2, defeated LSU, 25-24, in Chick-fil-A Bowl
• Key stat: 2-4 in last six games versus ranked opponents
How it falls: Big-game jitters derail the Tigers.
Make no mistake about it -- this is a talented Clemson team. But head coach Dabo Swinney has had talented teams in the past that have underachieved. The Tigers struggled against two ranked opponents in 2012 (No. 4 Florida State and No. 12 South Carolina) and required a wild finish to beat No. 8 LSU in a bowl game after which 11 LSU underclassmen declared for the NFL draft. Going back even further, the Tigers were blown out by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl to end the 2011 season. With quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins leading the offense, it has potential to be a big year for the Tigers. But recent history hasn’t been kind to Clemson.