Outside of the 6 BCS conferences, its difficult to gauge where most teams will be heading into the season, at least for this guy. So for these purposes we’ll take a look at just 4 teams: Notre Dame, Central Florida, BYU, and Boise State.
Notre Dame (2011 Record ATS: 5-8)
In one word, Notre Dame’s 2011 was underwhelming. The team showed signs of elite play in destroying a handful of teams (including Michigan State), but appeared flat in losses to South Florida and Florida State and wins over Wake Forest and Boston College. Expectations aren’t as high for the Irish heading into this season, but is there any reason to think the result won’t be better? 14 starters return, and with 3 players in the mix, the quarterback situation just might work itself out. Don’t expect a top-10 finish just yet ND fans, but they won’t disappoint the way they did a year ago.
Central Florida (2011 Record ATS: 5-7)
To some UCF may not fit on this list, but the with an enrollment of 58,000, a recent bowl win over Georgia, and recruiting prowess that’s big-program worthy, I’m always interested in what George O’Leary has to say. After finishing 11-3 ATS in 2010, the Knights took a big step back in 2011. For UCF it may have been the rare case where the numbers did lie, with a good offense (406 ypg) combining with a great defense (303 ypg, 9th in FBS) leading to a paltry 5-7 straight up record. If Blake Bortles provides more sustainability at the QB position, expect at least 7-8 covers.
BYU (2011 Record ATS: 9-4)
Congrats Riley Nelson, with the graduation of Case Keenum, you’ve been anointed David Masons Favorite Mid-Major QB. The scrappy Nelson was a shot in the arm for the Cougars in 2011, taking over the underachieving Jake Heaps and leading the Cougars to 7 straight covers to finish the season. In 2012, I expect much of the same magic to continue, especially with 7 starters returning on a defense that finished last season ranked 13th in the country in total yards allowed.
Boise State (2011 Record ATS: 5-8)
Having a down arrow on a squad that finished a poor 5-8 ATS a year ago is more an indication of the drop I expect Boise to encounter this season relative to the quality of the team from a year ago. Boise may not have been a cover machine in 2011, but they were a fantastic team. With Kellen Moore’s eligibility having expired, in steps Joe Southwick, something I don’t feel too good about based on what I saw in mop-up duty last year. The defense essentially resets (only two starters return) and in essense so does the offense without Moore. Don’t expect the same Bronco team whose weekly -37.5 point lines have come to frustrate you.