The dog days of August bring more than just hot temperatures to baseball fields around North America. They bring fierce anticipation to college campuses and their surrounding areas as fans wonder if their team could pull it off this year. With the 2011 college football season quickly approaching (not quickly enough), we give you the top 10 storylines to look forward to in 2011.
Is Boise State finally going to break through to the national title game? On the shoulders of Utah, TCU and their own former teams, the Broncos have been knocking on the national title game door for a couple of years now. They play a little bit tougher of a schedule, and the deep SEC may beat up each of the teams enough to pave a path to New Orleans for Boise State. We’ll know pretty quickly if they will contend when they travel to Atlanta to play Georgia the first week of the season. Of course, TCU might also have something to say about it.
Will the defending national champs even make a bowl game in 2011? The SEC West division has six teams that would compete to be the top six or seven teams in any other conference in America. Auburn only returns three starters on offense (one of which is NOT Cam Newton) and three on defense. The top four teams in the conference could all compete for the division title, and Auburn plays at Clemson, at South Carolina, at Georgia and at LSU. Auburn could very easily go 5-7 or even 4-8 with its brutal schedule, just one year removed from winning the BCS national championship.
How will the new coaches around college football do in 2011? Can Will Muschamp and Charlie Weiss get things back on track in Gainesville? Will Brady Hoke bring the former glory of Michigan football back to Ann Arbor? How will Al Golden navigate through the massive controversy surrounding his team at Miami? Can David Shaw get the same out of Andrew Luck that Jim Harbaugh did last season? Which Norm Chow will Utah get, the one from USC or the one from UCLA? These coaching questions and many more will be answered in 2011.
The excitement is mounting and the seemingly annual August national title talk is swarming around Provo. This year, however, the Cougars are independent and can schedule whoever they want. They could very well start 0-3 and then proceed to win the last nine games of the season. They could pull a couple upsets at the beginning of the season and be in BCS talks in November. The possibilities are compelling to Cougar fans as their team sails into uncharted territories.
Will the popular sleeper teams live up to the hype? Virtually every expert is picking South Carolina to win the SEC East again. Notre Dame appears to be making its annual climb up the preseason polls. Many prognosticators are giving Texas A&M a better-than-average chance to knock Oklahoma out of national championship contention. Will these teams live up to all this hype? We should find out pretty quickly when the Gamecocks go to Georgia early, Notre Dame goes to Michigan the second week of the season and A&M hosts Oklahoma State in its third game of the season.
Luck is the obvious pre-season pick for the Heisman Trophy, but he will not have a cake walk to the trophy. He will have to compete with other favorites like Landry Jones at Oklahoma, Trent Richardson at Alabama, LaMichael James at Oregon and Kellen Moore at Boise State. He will also have to stave off sleepers like Case Keenum at Houston, Marcus Lattimore at South Carolina, Brandon Weedon at Oklahoma State and Logan Thomas at Virginia Tech.
The inspiration of the Tide after the Tuscaloosa tragedy. Many are picking Alabama to win the 2011 national championship. Normally that would make the Tide every college football fan’s most hated team, but this year, Alabama will have a lot of people cheering for it after a tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa in April.
Can the big-name teams rebound after bad showings in 2010? Texas didn’t even make a bowl game in 2010. Florida was in a state of flux last season with the resignation of Urban Meyer and didn’t exactly have its typical year. Both teams have very difficult schedules and Florida has a new coach, but these top-tier programs look to be contenders in their respective conferences.
Ohio State and Miami will be managing major scandals or controversies while others like USC and North Carolina will be dealing with the fallout of their past scandals. Meanwhile, Oregon and LSU will be answering questions all season about looming scandals. Can the Buckeyes sustain the losses resulting from last year’s suspensions to still compete in the Big Ten? Can Al Golden live up to the high expectations in Miami despite the new scandal there? It’s unfortunate that this is a storyline, and hopefully once the games start, the scandals will fade into the background, but that’s highly unlikely.
Can Nebraska waltz into the Big Ten and win it in year one? Can Colorado move out of the cellar in the Pac-12 after not being able to in the Big 12? Will Texas A&M move to the SEC? Can Utah compete for the Rose Bowl in its first year in the Pac-12? The most intriguing move might be Utah because it will be the most monitored. Anti-BCS people will be pulling hard for the Utes (even those Mountain West fans who resent them for leaving) because it will prove that the non-AQs can compete in a BCS conference on a weekly basis. BCS good ole boys will be secretly pulling hard for Utah to end with a losing record to prove the opposite. It will be captivating to see how the Huskers, Buffs and Utes do, but it will also be interesting to see how Boise State and TCU compete in the same league and how BYU does as an independent.