Each of the 10 teams that comprised the 2012 BCS bowls and championship game will try to convince their fan bases that another trip to these showcase events is achievable in 2013.
Even Northern Illinois’ first-year coach Rod Carey will try to sell his team and Husky fans on the idea of returning to a BCS bowl by playing to their potential. Nobody outside of DeKalb, Ill., will be buying — probably some of the returners and fans will not also — but Carey will try to sell the thought as motivation.
At the other end of the spectrum is Alabama, which has a tailor-made schedule in 2013 to go after a three-peat national championship. Alabama coach Nick Saban does not need to sell his players on anything.
He only needs to push the same buttons, say the same things and utilize the same routine because the schedule allows for continued success.
Here is a ranking of the 10 teams that comprised the BCS bowls and championship game and their chance of returning to the BCS stage after next season:
10. Northern Illinois: The Huskies lost head coach Dave Doeren to North Carolina State, and his absence immediately affected them in their 31-10 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Jordan Lynch returns at quarterback, which should create another exciting season, but the schedule is daunting (on a MAC scale) with games at Central Michigan, Kent State and Toledo. The Huskies’ non-conference schedule includes games at Iowa and Purdue.
9. Florida: The Gators’ schedule in November will be a grind, as Florida plays against Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida State. At least they play Georgia in Jacksonville, and Vanderbilt and Florida State must travel to Gainesville. Florida also has road games against LSU and Miami. The Gators’ stringent defense must replace three starters on its front, including junior tackle Sharrif Floyd, who entered the NFL Draft.
8. Kansas State: Collin Klein, who provided so much magic at the quarterback position for coach Bill Snyder, is gone. The new guy probably will be untested sophomore Daniel Sams. The Wildcats have a decent schedule, though, to harbor hope for a return to the BCS spotlight. K-State plays five of its last seven at home with the road games being winnable contests against Texas Tech and Kansas.
7. Wisconsin: Hiring Gary Andersen from Utah State to replace Bret Bielema was a step in the right direction in 2013 for athletic director Barry Alvarez. The Badgers’ early schedule with road games against Arizona State and Ohio State in September will be difficult hurdles to overcome. Wisconsin has eight starters returning on offense and seven on defense, including the entire defensive line, so there is hope if they can survive September.
6. Florida State: The Seminoles have a lot of holes to fill on defense, which will also be led by a new coordinator with Mark Stoops becoming the head coach at Kentucky. Only four starters on defense return, all of them talented in the secondary, but the entire front must be replaced. The quarterback position is also up for grabs with E.J. Manuel off to the NFL. The Seminoles must also play road games against Clemson and Florida.
5. Stanford: The Cardinal has November home games against Oregon and Notre Dame and plays at USC. Utah replaces Colorado on Stanford’s schedule. A significant advantage: Stanford has 12 days to prepare for the Ducks at home. While the schedule might be difficult overall, Stanford has the system and the returning players on defense to handle the challenge. Ten starters return for Stanford’s No. 3 defense against the run.
4. Notre Dame: Everett Golson, who will be a sophomore, will only get better at quarterback. The Fighting Irish also return a strong nucleus of 15 starters. Heisman contender Manti Te’o is gone, but is that such a bad thing? That circus will not be above Brian Kelly’s head. Road games against Stanford and Michigan will be difficult, but Oklahoma and USC must go to South Bend and the Irish play Arizona State on a neutral field in Arlington, Texas.
3. Louisville: Teddy Bridgewater is a legitimate Heisman contender at quarterback and Charlie Strong is a head-coach-in-waiting for a traditional college football power (USC maybe?). The Cardinals also have 10 starters returning on defense including All-Big East safeties Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor. Louisville’s non-conference schedule is weak (Kentucky at home is the only challenge). It must play at Cincinnati and South Florida, but those programs are under new coaches.
2. Oregon: Chip Kelly is gone but new head Mark Helfrich has served as the offensive coordinator since 2009 and the players are comfortable with him calling the shots. Helfrich has sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota to continue the potency of the spread offense. Kenjon Barner is off to the NFL, but the Ducks have a capable replacement in the backfield with De’Anthony Thomas. The Ducks have 16 starters returning overall. Oregon has difficult road games against Stanford and Arizona in November but it misses USC this season.
1. Alabama: Not only is Heisman contender A.J. McCarron back, but the Crimson Tide has a tailor-made schedule for success. Alabama plays at Texas A&M in the second week of the season, which is good timing because the Aggies’ had a chance to build momentum with Johnny Manziel before upsetting the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. That is also a revenge game for Alabama. Saban gets LSU at home. November road games against Mississippi State and Auburn will be challenging, but Alabama’s talent and coaching should be enough to top them.