There's no one happier to have football season finally here than me. While nothing quite tops the NFL in my book, NCAA football comes pretty darn close. With all its pageantry, rivalries and BCS drama, what's not to like?
Here's an in-depth look at some of the teams and players that should help make this college football year one to remember:
Once again, the SEC is loaded. Alabama, LSU and South Carolina all start the season ranked in the top fifteen.
The big question marks for the Crimson Tide are on the offensive side of the ball. Sophomore A.J. McCarron and freshman Phillip Sims are competing to replace the departed Greg McElroy at quarterback. Whoever wins the job obviously won't have Julio Jones to throw to, nor will they have Heisman-winning running back Mark Ingram in the backfield. However, wideouts Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze have 2,039 career receiving yards between them, and running back Trent Richardson has rushed for 1,451 yards during his first two seasons. The offensive line also has four of five starters from 2010 returning.
|Photo by: Bob Rosato|
The biggest weapon for the Gamecocks will be running back Marcus Lattimore. He was the consensus national freshman of the year last season, rushing for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns. He ran for five more touchdowns than the entire team did in 2009. At the quarterback position, Fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia has started twenty-eight straight games. He threw for 3,059 yards last season, which was the most among returning SEC QBs. He also led the conference with 14 interceptions. No doubt coach Steve Spurrier would like to see that number lowered significantly.
|Photo by: Richard Shiro|
For the Sooners, quarterback Landry Jones flourished as the starter last year, throwing for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Ryan Broyles is one of the best playmakers in college football. He had 131 receptions last season, for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Cowboys are led by all-conference quarterback Brandon Weeden, who threw for 4,277 yards last year. His favorite target, junior wideout Justin Blackmon, snagged 20 TDs on the season. Oklahoma State averaged over 44 points per contest last year, so it's pretty obvious that offense is this teams strong suit.
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Other school's that may have a chance to play for the crystal football in New Orleans this year include: Oregon, Florida State, Nebraska, Stanford and Boise State.
The Ducks came up just short against Auburn in last seasons championship game, but they're poised to make another run at the title this year. They're explosive on offense, led by junior running back LaMichael James. He rushed for 1,731 yards in 2010 and finished third in the Heisman voting. Cornerback Cliff Harris led the nation with 23 passes defended, and he even returned four punts back for touchdowns. Also, lets not forget this squad has like seventy-six different uniform combinations they can bust out in on any given Saturday, clearly making them the most fashionable team in the country if nothing else.
|Photo by: Steve Dykes|
The Cornhuskers enter their first year in the Big Ten with championship aspirations. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is finally healthy after struggling through much of last season with toe and ankle injuries. Running back Rex Burkhead rushed for 951 yards and 7 touchdowns while splitting time last year. Linebacker Lavonte David set a school mark for tackles with 152 after transferring from junior college. Defensive tackle Jared Crick was a second-team All-American in 2010, and ranks seventh in school history with 19 career sacks.
Quarterback Andrew Luck could have gone pro after last season. Instead, he decided to return to the Cardinals and make a run at the national championship. Andrew will probably need some "luck" to overcome the loss of his two top receivers from 2010, three starters on the offensive line and the departure of coach Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers. Having said all that, the guys got skills, so he should keep Stanford in the title hunt.
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As far as the Heisman Trophy goes, I like Trent Richardson, Landry Jones, LaMichael James, Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore as the five finalist, with LaMichael James taking home the hardware. The November 12th game between Oregon and Stanford may very well help determine who wins it.
So who will be playing for the national championship? I'm going with the Oklahoma Sooners and Oregon Ducks. Two high-powered offenses going head-to-head for the whole ball of wax. Of the two, the Ducks have the easier road to get there, but I really like all the talent this Sooners squad brings to the table. Coach Bob Stoops and company should bring home Oklahoma's first national championship since 2000.
|Photo by: Doug Benc|