USC Trojans: Many had USC ranked number one preseason. We were a fraction more skeptical. We had them at two. The Trojans impressed down the stretch last season, winning seven of eight and upsetting Oregon. They had a number of starters coming back, most notably Matt Barkley, and skill position talent. They looked loaded. In retrospect, depth and turnover on both lines should have been graver concerns, but instead of progressing toward Lane Kiffin’s third year this team regressed to his first. The offense made mistakes. The defense was soft and often ill-prepared. Maybe this team was not BCS title ready, but it should have done better than 7-5. At least Barkley can soothe his pain with a Helen of Troy hairdryer.
Arkansas Razorbacks: We dropped Arkansas from six to ten in our preseason rankings after the Petrino scandal. We thought there would be some continuity with John L. Smith and the assistants staying. This team was bringing back Tyler Wilson and a ton of depth at running back. We saw a solid nine to ten win SEC team. It did not work out that way. This team regressed on offense and defense and absorbed a dash of John L. infirmity. The season went off the rails early. Though they rebounded to an extent late and covered against a few teams, 3-8 vs. FBS with wins against Auburn, Kentucky and Tulsa impresses no one.
Michigan State Spartans: The Spartans were the cool pick to win the Big Ten. Our initial concerns about massive turnover in the passing game and past performances being inflated by fortune in one-score games proved dead on. The MSU offense ranked just 114th in passer rating. After an 8-1 record in one-score games in 2010 and 2011, the Spartans went 3-5. Their defense, though formidable, made far fewer big plays without Jerel Worthy absorbing attention. Michigan State had 38 sacks through its first 12 games last season. This year? Just 16. We can claim we saw some regression coming. We did not see the Spartans needing to win at Minnesota on the final day to reach bowl play.
West Virginia Mountaineers: The Mountaineers entered 2012 flying high. Dana Holgorsen’s offense had dropped 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl. They had a senior quarterback and most of the offense returning. They were ranked 11th in both preseason polls. The era of good feelings continued into the season. They won their first five games. They beat Texas in Austin. Geno Smith was at one point the overwhelming Heisman favorite. Then reality came. WVU lost five straight, including blowouts by Texas Tech, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. They fell from “possible BCS contender” to “Pinstripe Bowl with Syracuse.” Questions remain where answers seemed apparent.
Virginia Tech Hokies: They were Virginia Tech. Bud Foster’s defense. Beamer Ball. Easy schedule. Things would be fine. Eh…not so much. The defense held serve. The offense fell from quite decent to manifestly awful. Quarterback Logan Thomas’ draft stock took a steep fall. It turns out losing just about every starting lineman and skill player was not conducive to his development. Tech went 6-6, with an FCS win and two overtime wins against Georgia Tech and Boston College. This snapped a streak of eight consecutive 10-plus win seasons and was Beamer’s worst since 1992.
Washington: The Huskies went from 24th to 104th in yards per play offense. A couple impressive wins: Stanford and Oregon State, though they were blown out by Arizona and blowing a late lead in the Apple Cup was inexcusable.
Michigan: Denard Robinson’s senior year never materialized. Their offensive line was a disaster. The Wolverines had chances to beat Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State on the road and did not take them.
Florida State: Could not have had a schedule more conducive to running the table. The Florida loss? Fine. Losing to N.C. State was inexcusable. A number of other road games where they looked poor.
Texas: The Longhorns defense was an unexpected disaster. 8-4 was inexcusable given the number of starters they had coming back. Then there was the loss to Oklahoma…
[Photo via Presswire]