By: David Folz
Continuing the countdown on Top 25 football, here are numbers 20-16 and don’t be surprised if one or more of these teams wind up in the BCS at year’s end.
20. Texas- The Longhorns have been bad the last two years by Texas standards. They have been 13-12 under Mack Brown and that has raised eyebrows and questions on whether they can get it done anymore. It has not helped at all that the Quarterback play was terrible the last two years, and it led to a shift in strategy last year to their strong group of Running Backs. Texas will have to rely on their backs again to lead a top rushing group and hope that either Case McCoy or David Ash show some form of progress throwing the football. The defense in the Big 12 should be one that is very good, as they return many skill players and have to focus on improving the tackle spot. Texas will be back in contention this fall as long as QB play gets better.
19. Utah- The Utes’s first season in the Pac-12 resulted in an 8-5 record and the thought that they can compete this year. The running game was solid last year and this year should be the same way. The problem for Utah is like Texas and Florida, Quarterback play. The fact that Jordan Wynn last year struggled mightily then getting injured could make or break the Utes again this year. The defense returns 7 starters and should be really stout. However, like many teams wanting to take the next step like Utah, Quarterback play is the key component, and could be the difference between 7 wins or a shot at the Pac-12 Title game.
18. TCU- The Horned Frogs go from the Mountain West to the Big 12 for this year, thus guaranteeing a spot in a BCS if they get that far. Gary Patterson’s teams in the past were playing to see if they win a spot in the BCS, now it’s a shot at a national title. A Rose Bowl win two years ago and a great group of recruits have helped TCU to national prominence, but this year on defense could be a struggle if their unit doesn’t gel early and often. On offense it should not be a problem with Casey Pachall back at Quarterback and a deep cast of Running Backs and Wide Receiver. It may rest on how quickly Patterson gets this defense to gel together, because the Big 12 offenses are not going to be forgiving.
17. West Virginia- Like TCU, West Virginia is a new member to the Big 12, coming from the Big East. Dana Holgerson is not unfamiliar with teams here, however, having been the Offensive Coordinator at Oklahoma State prior to his job in Morgantown. The Mountaineers are led by the typical Holgerson offense, full of speed at the skill positions and will put points on the board with ease. The defense switches to a 3-4 from the 3-3-5 under new Defensive Coordinator Jeff Casteel. The unit last year was 61st nationally, which was towards the top in the Big East, but will be cause for alarm in the Big 12. In the end for West Virginia, the 8 returning starters on defense will have to adjust to the new system and Casteel will need to get his system implemented with success early.
16. Stanford- The first year without Andrew Luck will bring a new identity for the Cardinal. Also gone are two first-round linemen, their top three receivers and three of the starting four in the secondary. In the midst however is quite possibly one of the greatest offensive line recruitments in history, with two five-stars and a four-star as part of the seven linemen to sign. On offense a lot will go through Senior RB Stepfan Taylor, who comes off back-to-back thousand yard seasons. The defensive front seven is very talented, but it will rely on the secondary and if they stop the opposing receivers, then it will be a top defense yet again. The offense will be the spotlight as the new Quarterback, likely Brett Nottingham will find his receivers thin unless Ty Montgomery is the star the Cardinal think he will be. It will be a year of transition for the Cardinal this year.