Preview 2011 - The 40 Key Questions No. 31-40
BYU LB Jordan Pendelton
BYU LB Jordan Pendelton
Posted Jul 24, 2011

Can BYU remain relevant nationally as an Independent? Which true freshmen won't play like rookies this fall? If you can watch just one non-conference game all year, which one gets the nod? How does Georgia respond from last year's 6-7 debacle? Richard Cirminiello answers these questions or more in the 40 Key Questions of 2011.

Preview 2011 ... Turning 40 

The Key Questions For 31-40

By Richard Cirminiello

The 40 Key Questions of 2011
No. 1 to 10 | No. 11 to 20 | No. 21 to 30 

- 2010's 40 Key Questions | Preview 2011 

Is Oklahoma the team to beat in 2011? How will Ohio State and Michigan react to new head coaches? Can a senior with the Heisman Trophy for the first time in five years? As always, there's no shortage of tantalizing questions, storylines, and sub plots on the minds of college football fans as the 2011 season rapidly approaches.

The following 40 queries will define the upcoming campaign and be fodder for endless debates until the opening kickoff in early September.

40. Can BYU remain relevant nationally as an Independent?
Leaving the Mountain West will certainly be a financial benefit to the University, which no longer has to share TV revenues or a spotlight with Utah and TCU. The Cougars are on their own, free to schedule as they'd like and lay down a clearer path to possible BCS bowl berths. In time, BYU is aiming to become the Notre Dame of the West, a lofty goal. For now, it'll attempt to remain on the national radar when not facing the likes of Texas on Sept. 10 and the rival Utes a week later.

39. Who wins the transitioning Mountain West, TCU or Boise State?
Like two schools passing in the night, the Broncos arrive in the conference just as the Horned Frogs start packing for their relocation to the Big East. The darlings among BCS busters met in the postseason in 2008 and 2009, laying the groundwork for what might have been a fantastic rivalry had TCU stayed put. The two meet for the first time in the regular season on Nov. 12 in a showdown that could decide more than just the identity of the Las Vegas Bowl participant.

38. Besides the Mountain West winner, Boise State or TCU, which non-AQ schools will compete for a BCS bowl berth?
For starters, it's doubtful anyone from the Sun Belt, WAC or MAC will get into the mix, leaving Conference USA and the Independents. Conference USA has as much depth and talent as it's had in years, boasting UCF and Southern Miss in the East, and Houston, SMU and Tulsa in the West. If one does the improbable and runs the table, it could hand the league its first BCS berth. Recent Independent BYU will be much-improved, with a chance to show it in attention-getting games versus Ole Miss, Texas, Utah, and Oregon State.

37. How many records can Houston QB Case Keenum break now that he's back for a sixth year?
A bunch will be up for grabs now that the Cougar gunslinger has been granted another season. Last year was lost to an ACL injury suffered in a September loss to UCLA. An ideal fit in the Houston passing game, he'll begin 2011 ranked in the top 10 all-time in total offense, passing yards, touchdown passes, attempts and completions. Hawaii's Timmy Chang holds the NCAA career record with 17,072 yards, which Keenum is capable of eclipsing at some point in early November.

36. Will a senior win the Heisman for the first time since 2006?
Not since Ohio State's Troy Smith five years ago has a senior won an award dominated by fresh faces in recent seasons. And breaking that trend will not be easy. The majority of this year's favorites, such as Andrew Luck, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, Denard Robinson, Trent Richardson and Landry Jones, all have eligibility beyond 2011. The best bets among the elders? Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Broyles and Case Keenum, who are all mild longshots heading into September.

35. Which true freshmen won't play like rookies this fall?
At least 500 rookies will avoid a redshirt year this fall, but only a handful will leave an indelible mark the way South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore, USC WR Robert Woods, Oklahoma State LB Shaun Lewis and LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu did in 2010. Obviously, there's no shortage of viable candidates who'll start making their cases shortly after fall camp begins. If you'd like to look prescient in November, start dropping the names of South Carolina DE Jadevon Clowney, USC WR George Farmer, Texas RB Malcolm Brown, Clemson LB Tony Steward, Notre Dame DE Ishaq Williams and Georgia RB Isaiah Crowell now. All have the size and skills to play as if they've been on campus for years instead of months.

34. If you can watch just one non-conference game all year, which one gets the nod?
Right out of the blocks, Week 1 will have a couple of can't-miss, neutral site match ups pitting LSU and Oregon in Arlington, Tex., and Boise State and Georgia in Atlanta. On Sept. 10, Missouri at Arizona State could define the seasons for both programs, while Alabama at Penn State is a battle of historic powerhouses. On Oct. 1, Texas A&M and Arkansas meet in Arlington, Tex. in a doozy of a revival of an old Southwest Conference rivalry. Still, if you can settle in for just one game, it might have to be Oklahoma's Week 3 visit to Tallahassee in an early National Championship separation game.

33. How about the conference games?

As usual, there are a slew of can't-miss league games and rivalries to choose from, but it'd be hard to top LSU at Alabama (Nov. 5), Nebraska at Wisconsin (Oct. 1), Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (Dec. 3) and Oregon at Stanford (Nov. 12). Although a lot can change between now and the fall, the four aforementioned battles jump out for their ability to impact the race for BCS openings, including the National Championship Game. Out of the non-AQ leagues, TCU's visit to Boise State on Nov. 12 will be flush with excitement and storylines.

32. Which coaches are in the greatest danger of increasing the unemployment rate this fall?

Yeah, the hot seat is a perennial nuisance for the profession, hanging over the heads of the sport's most vulnerable head coaches. Out of the Big 6 conferences, no one has more of an urgency to win right now than Georgia's Mark Richt, UCLA's Rick Neuheisel, Arizona State's Dennis Erickson, Ole Miss' Houston Nutt, Illinois' Ron Zook and Washington State's Paul Wulff. The biggest focus of attention throughout 2011 will be on Richt, a terrific coach who's won just 14 games over the last two seasons.

31. How does Georgia respond from last year's 6-7 debacle?
The pressure weighs heavy on more than just the head coach. The players are feeling it as well after slipping below .500 with a listless Liberty Bowl loss to UCF. It's been six years since the Dawgs won an SEC title, a stretch that has everyone around Athens a little agitated. Even with depth concerns at running back, there'll be no excuses for the program, especially since up-and-coming Aaron Murray is widely considered the premier quarterback of the SEC. With Tennessee and Florida down from their usual standards, this is a year that Georgia must at least rise to the top of the league's eastern half.

The 40 Key Questions of 2011
No. 1 to 10 | No. 11 to 20 | No. 21 to 30