By Jose M. Romero / @ RomeroJoseM
The 2012 college football season kicked off Thursday night and those teams expected to win their openers got the job done.
So who stayed up late and watched Minnesota and UNLV go into overtime? Raising my hand.
The Golden Gophers and Vegas won’t make this list of teams to watch, but it was a perfect end to the first big day of college football in America.
Let’s go Top 10.
10. Penn State. It’s going to be interesting to see if those kids come together and win as the post-Paterno/Sandusky travesty era begins in Happy Valley. A few players transferred, a lot stayed and talked a lot about sticking together amid the fallout from the scandal. Let’s see just how strong that bond is, and if it leads to a successful season. No doubt the Nittany Lions will have plenty of detractors out there who won’t separate the current program from the shame of its failures off the field.
9. West Virginia. A great offense in the Big East. Oh wait, they moved to the Big 12. Now WVU is a conference with the likes of Oklahoma, Texas, TCU and Oklahoma State. They must play all of those teams this season. The Mountaineers at Oklahoma on Nov. 4 could be huge. Oh by the way, there are only 10 teams in the Big 12. I wish these conferences would stay true to the number of teams in them.
8. LSU. So the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu, is gone. Doesn’t his name sound like a character in HBO’s Game of Thrones? But seriously, let’s hope the young man is seeking treatment and helping himself. The Tigers should still be in the conversation as a national title contender. The SEC is so tough.
7. Boise State. The Broncos try to load up their schedule with good non-league opponents year after year to catch the eye of the BCS, and this year is no exception. The post-Kellen Moore era begins with Michigan State and includes BYU on the blue turf in Idaho on Sept. 20. Boise State will have to go undefeated to even get a sniff of attention.
6. Notre Dame. When will the Fighting Irish return to the football powerhouse status? Will it be this season? Will it ever happen again? Will the Irish need to incorporate some criminal element (players with sketchy backgrounds, as broadcaster Allen Pinkett opined and was suspended for a game) to be great again? It’s Notre Dame. All of their games are on TV. It’s one of the signature college football programs of our nation. The Irish have grueling schedule featuring Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma and USC. Enough said.
5. Miami. This space was originally reserved for Alabama, but everyone knows the Crimson Tide is a national championship contender having won two of the last three titles. But in an ode to past years of coolness and dominance, there’s a place for the Hurricanes. They look pretty average this year. Six, seven wins and some minor bowl game is likely. But Kansas State, Florida State and Virginia Tech are on the schedule.
4. Oklahoma. The Sooners have one of the best quarterbacks in school history, and a guy who could have been drafted in the NFL, Landry Jones. He’s back for his senior season, and he’s a winner. Offensively, the Sooners will score a lot. Defense will be the key to them rising from top-five team to BCS championship participant. The end of the regular season will be rugged with games at West Virginia and TCU and a home game against Oklahoma State.
3. Michigan. M Go Blue is back! But for how long? A loss to Alabama at Cowboys Stadium on Sept. 1 could ruin the Wolverines’ national title hopes. But Michigan will be exciting with quarterback Denard Robinson’s playmaking ability, and it should win the Big Ten.
2. Oregon. If new quarterback Marcus Mariota can run the system and allow dynamic skill players De’Anthony Thomas, Kenjon Barner and Josh Huff to make a lot of the plays on offense, the Ducks could run the table and go undefeated. USC will have something to say about that on Nov. 3 in Los Angeles, and there could be a rematch between the Ducks and Trojans in the Pac-12 championship game in December.
1. USC. The Trojans have Matt Barkley, already the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, back with an outstanding group of receivers and backs to help him, Two receivers, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, had well over 1,000 yards in catches last season, and USC simply challenged and repeatedly beat Oregon’s defensive backs with deep passes and jump balls in a big road win last season. Is this the best team in America? Offensively, yes. The Trojans’ defense needs to play big for USC to become national champions.