2012 NCAA Football Preview

The NCAA is so happy to see September 1st date approach with an offseason to forget much like every year. The NCAA is a league that has gone through its fair share of controversy and it seems that every year is the same story. As the season begins fans flock to the TV and the stadium to watch these College kids play football. The season continues and moments continue to pile up impressing fans and proving that college football is some of the best football in the world. Then comes the middle of the season when the BCS standings come out and the constant debate over rankings and playoffs gets revved up. When the season ends the debate is at its highest pitch as the BCS National Championship is announced always with something to debate about. As the bowls move through the complaints about how many games and how much time there is between games take focus. Then comes the National Championship as fans tune in to look at the biggest game of the year in the NCAA and eventually the season is done. After that the real issues seem to pile up for the NCAA as players get in trouble and programs take the focus of the sports world for all the wrong reasons. It seems that every year the NCAA has a tumultuous offseason with something happening that dominates the news reels in the offseason. Whether it is a booster giving a recruit money or presents illegally or something much worse the NCAA cannot avoid staying out of the news. This offseason was no different as the worst scandal in the history of the NCAA got much worse and forced the worst punishment since the Death Penalty was given to SMU. So you can’t blame the NCAA for awaiting the September 1st start of the season. The new season marks a new life for the NCAA as they hope to move on and just play football to avoid dealing with the scandals and punishments from the previous year. Although the scandals will never be forgotten no matter how good the football is the new season is a time to focus on football and start the debate over who is the best team and little else.

 

New Format Yet Debate is Alive

 

 

 

 

For years the NCAA community the debate has raged on for over a decade as to how the NCAA should determine their champion. Since 1998 the NCAA has looked to a series of bowls to determine the best teams in their game. In 1998 the NCAA established the BCS Series of bowls where the participants would be determined by a ranking system. This system would be like the previous rankings except would take into account not only the votes from media and coaches but also the strength of victory, strength of schedule, and a number of other factors. All of these factors would be plugged into a computer that would spit out a ranking. At the end of the year the top 10 teams in the ranking would be eligible for the BCS Bowls with the top two teams in the ranking would face off in the BCS National Championship. For many this system was immediately a failure as it may not truly determine who the best teams in the nation were. A system that takes into account votes tended and schedule tended to shun smaller programs like Boise State or Oregon. With some great teams not being able to make it to the top-level fans began to demand a change in the format. They wanted to see a playoff format where a number of teams could play their way into the finals rather than just being selected. After years of no change the NCAA finally made that change that many had been wanting. In the offseason the NCAA decided to create a playoff format for the BCS National Championship. The new format will begin in 2014 and will go until the 2025 season. This new format will feature four teams in two semi-finals to determine who will play in the National Championship. The semi-finals will rotate between the four BCS bowls including the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and the Fiesta Bowl. All teams will be determined by the BCS rankings as the top four ranked teams will be put into two of the bowls for their chance at the national championship game. It will add a playoff system but will continue the ranking system which will be sure to keep the debate raging on. It is a step in the right direction though as the NCAA will make some progress, although it won’t be for another two seasons.

 

The Wounds Still Fresh

 

 

 

The offseason for the NCAA concentrated around one major story this offseason as Penn State took the focus of the sports world. Last year at the end of the season a story broke that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually assaulted multiple children at his camp. After the story came to light the story of the coaching staff, athletic director, and school, president also came out as none took they steps they needed to stop the crime. As a result Sandusky was tried for his crimes while Joe Paterno resigned, Graham Spanier (PSU President), and Tim Curly (PSU AD) were all fired. The offseason saw even more developments in the case as Jerry Sandusky was convicted and faces a sentence of 60-442 years in prison, essentially a life sentence in either respect. Meanwhile a report arose that looked into the school and the actions of all involved. The Freeh report did even more damage to the school’s reputation as the report stated that Joe Paterno and those involved in the program did a lot more to hide the crimes than was once thought. Paterno passed away last year shortly after leaving the team and cannot face charges but his legacy took a massive hit. The statue of Paterno located on the campus of Penn State was removed marking the end of his storied history as it will likely move into the “let’s not talk about it” category of Penn State history. That was not the end of the damage to PSU though as the NCAA waited until the Freeh report to create their punishment based on the school’s involvement. The NCAA decided to level some of the biggest sanctions in history against the school that are only surpassed by the death penalty given to SMU in 1987. The NCAA would put PSU on probation for five years, ban the program from bowl games for four years, vacate all wins earned from 1998-2012 (effectively removing Joe Paterno from the all-time win list), fine the school $60 million, and remove 40 scholarships from 2013-2017. For the Penn State football program they will be in big trouble for the next few years as they will suffer from losing scholarships and being unable to recruit. Nothing will be worse for the program though than the name Jerry Sandusky as that part of the history will never be forgotten.

 

SEC Still Dominant?

 

 

 

 

The NCAA is a league that is cyclical in nature as different conferences begin to dominate at different times. Lately it has been the Southeastern Conference that has taken the reigns of the NCAA. Over the past 6 years the SEC conference has been home to the National Championship including the 2011. Last year was the ultimate in dominance as the SEC produced both championship teams. In a matchup of Alabama and LSU the Crimson Tide came out on top in a game that was going to produce another SEC champion. The SEC has become the conference as anyone coming out of the SEC is immediately favoured to win the National Championship. This year the SEC looks to continue the trend with Alabama and LSU both back to show the dominance of the league. There are some new challengers though as the 2012 season approaches with teams from the Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences looking to end the reign of the SEC. The biggest threat to the SEC reign will be the USC Trojans from the Pac-12.  The USC Trojans are coming off of a two-year bowl ban and with their first year of bowl eligibility they are looking great. The Trojans are looking to be the first non SEC team to win the National Championship and they will have a good shot. Still though, the SEC is a strong conference with four teams in the Preseason top 10. It will be a tough task to unseat the dominate conference as LSU and Alabama both look strong again this year while South Carolina and Georgia are also looking good. The SEC has been dominant for so long and as with any conference their strength continues on with the best recruits looking to play in the best conference. If any team can beat the SEC it will hopefully begin a trend as the NCAA looks to get back to a more balanced league. This become even more difficult when teams continue to change conferences in hopes that a new conference can give them the advantage they need. It will be something to watch this season as the SEC would love to boast another champion from their conference. Meanwhile the rest of the conferences are looking to USC or Oklahoma to end the trend and end the reign of the SEC.

 

Heisman Hopefuls

1. Matt Barkley, QB (USC)

 

 

 

 

Leading the charge for the USC Trojans is Matt Barkley as he decided to forgo the NFL draft in order to come back to the Trojans. A large part of this was the chance to play in a major bowl game possibly even the National Championship. If Barkley can continue to perform like he has the last two years he will be the frontrunner for the Heisman with the bowl ban lifted.

 

2. Landry Jones, QB (Oklahoma)

 

 

 

 

Landry Jones came close last year but the focus on Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck left Jones in the background. This year Jones looks to return to the Sooners and attempts to steal the focus from the golden boy of Southern California. Jones will need to lead the Sooners to an almost perfect season to do so and if he can improve on his 4,000 yard season from 2011 he may give Barkley a run for his money.

 

3. Montee Ball, RB (Wisconsin)

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin is now without it’s starting QB Russell Wilson and so Montee Ball becomes that much more important to the team. Ball will need to repeat or even better his record-breaking numbers from last year. It will be tough for him with a brand new team but if he can help his team to the top of the Big Ten he may have a shot.

 

4. Marcus Lattimore, RB (South Carolina)

 

 

 

 

Last year a QB won the Heisman with the passing game becoming so important but that didn’t stop Lattimore from making noise. As the key part to South Carolina’s offence Lattimore will get his shot at the Heisman this year. He will just need to make sure he does not get lost in the SEC madness and will need to lead the Gamecocks to the top of the division.

 

5. Denard Robinson, QB (Michigan)

 

 

 

 

One of the most exciting players to come into the NCAA in years the man known as “Shoelace” will be a popular pick. His ability to pass and run the ball will give him consideration this year especially if he can put Michigan into the national picture. He will need to worry a bit though as his non-traditional style may not sit well with the voters.

 

AP Preseason Ranking:

1. USC Trojans

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

3. LSU Tigers

4. Oklahoma Sooners

5. Oregon Ducks

6. Georgia Bulldogs

7. Florida State Seminoles

8. Michigan Wolverines

9. South Carolina Gamecocks

10. Arkansas Razorbacks

11. West Virginia Mountaineers

12. Wisconsin Badgers

13. Michigan State Spartans

14. Clemson Tigers

15. Texas Longhorns

16. Virginia Tech Hokies

17. Nebraska Cornhuskers

18. Ohio State Buckeyes

19. Oklahoma State Cowboys

20. TCU Horned Frogs

21. Stanford Cardinal

22. Kansas State Wildcats

23. Florida Gators

24. Boise State Broncos

25. Louisville Cardinals

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