Preview 2011 - The 40 Key Questions No. 21-30
Texas A&M WR Jeff Fuller
Texas A&M WR Jeff Fuller
Posted Jul 24, 2011

Will the most talented Texas A&M team in over a decade deliver? Can Tyler Wilson pick up where Ryan Mallett left off at Arkansas? Is Arizona State for real? Can Al Golden alter the mindset in Miami overnight? Richard Cirminiello answers these questions or more in the 40 Key Questions of 2011.

Preview 2011 ... Turning 40 

The Key Questions - 21-30

By Richard Cirminiello

The 40 Key Questions of 2011
No. 1 to 10 | No. 11 to 20 | No. 31 to 40

- 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.

30. Can Kirk Cousins and the Michigan State offense carry the team to another 10-win season?
If it happens, it's going to be fueled by the playmakers, hardly what's expected from a Mark Dantonio production. However, if the rebuilt offensive line cooperates, the Spartans is capable of leading the Big Ten in scoring. Underrated Kirk Cousins might be the nation's best NFL prospect among senior quarterbacks. And he'll be surrounded by a terrific ensemble of weapons, headed by RB Edwin Baker and WR B.J. Cunningham. Michigan State is out to prove its 11-2 mark in 2010 was no fluke.

29. Can Tyler Wilson pick up where Ryan Mallett left off at Arkansas?

Testament to head coach Bobby Petrino's penchant for attracting and developing quality quarterbacks, the Hogs aren't expecting much of a drop-off from a year ago. Wilson, a 6-3, 215-pound junior, has all of the tools for success, including a dynamite arm and a feel for the offense. He'll also be complemented by a fantastic collection of skill players, like budding RB Knile Davis and one of the country's best receiving corps. Wilson is properly aligned to be one of the breakout stars of 2011.

28. Is Arizona State for real?

For the sake of embattled fifth-year head coach Dennis Erickson, it better be. The Sun Devils have been a trendy choice to play the role of sleeper in 2011 ever since 2010 came to an end. It's understandable since they return a bunch of starters from a squad that was just 13 points from being 10-2 instead of 6-6. However, Arizona State has been a notorious underachiever lately, and must prove it can handle elevated expectations. To win a wide-open Pac-12 South, it must also overcome the crushing ACL injury to all-star CB Omar Bolden.

27. Does Iowa have the Big Ten right where it wants it?

With some rebuilding to do, the Hawkeyes are rated somewhere in the middle of the Big Ten pack entering the summer. It's a good thing that the program tends to do its best work under Kirk Ferentz when it's being overlooked. Yeah, Iowa has parted with a bunch of important veterans, but there's enough of a foundation, especially along the Riley Reiff-led offensive line, for the rest of the league to be worried about the Hawks' potential. Few schools live by the next-man-in mantra better than Iowa, so get ready for a new set of all-stars in black and gold, such as QB James Vandenberg, RB Marcus Coker and LB James Morris.

26. Which of the young ACC quarterbacks will reach his peak the fastest?

One of the better kept secrets of 2011 is that the Atlantic Coast Conference, hardly a haven for next-level passers, is loaded with up-and-coming quarterbacks this year. All at once, the league is lifting the curtain on a half-dozen former four and five-star recruits. Plus, its most decorated quarterback, Maryland's Danny O'Brien, is only a sophomore. A former who's-who of can't-miss prospects, Florida State's EJ Manuel, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, Clemson's Tajh Boyd, North Carolina's Bryn Renner, NC State' Mike Glennon and Virginia's Michael Rocco get their shot to elevate their school and the national image of the conference.

25. Will this year's Backyard Brawl be the strangest in rivalry history?

If nothing else, it's going to be flush with storylines as both Pitt and West Virginia pop the cork on new and inventive coaching staffs. The Panthers hired Todd Graham to replace Dave Wannstedt after original successor Mike Haywood got the boot for a domestic violence charge. The Mountaineers elevated Dana Holgorsen from coach-in-waiting in June when it was learned that then-boss Bill Stewart was plotting a covert sabotage campaign through the media. Both schools are installing creative offensive attacks that raise the tempo and accentuate the arms of the quarterbacks. Whichever coach gets his system purring faster could finish his debut in a BCS bowl game.

24. Can Al Golden alter the mindset in Miami overnight?

Although it's unlikely the Hurricanes will have enough stability under center to win the ACC this quickly, it doesn't mean Golden and his staff can't begin changing the culture in 2011. In the spring, the team was noticeably more physical, taking on the personality of the coaches. Sure, Miami has lofty goals. It does every year. However, in the bigger picture, the upcoming season is more about intangible strides, like getting the young ‘Canes to buy into the system, and getting Golden & Co. more comfortable with their unfamiliar surroundings in South Florida.

23. Can anything keep Virginia Tech from an eighth consecutive 10-win season?

Thanks to Frank Beamer, defensive coordinator Bud Foster and the rest of the coaches, the Hokies have been the school you can set your watch to. Regardless of the personnel hurdles, Tech has had a knack for battling through, winning the ACC title three times in the last four years. This season has its own unique issues, such as the departure of the offensive backfield and the loss of six defensive starters. As long as this staff remains intact, you get the feeling that the Hokies will find a way to overcome on their way to conference contention.

22. Can South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia stay out of hot water for an entire year?

The Gamecocks need Garcia for all of 2011 in order to fully unlock the potential of the dynamic duo of RB Marcus Lattimore and WR Alshon Jeffery. Sure, Steve Spurrier has plenty of confidence in sophomore Connor Shaw, but his senior gives the school its best chance to contend again in the SEC. The rub is that Garcia was suspended in April for his behavior in a life skills seminar. Now, he's expected to be reinstated in August, but after five career suspensions, he hardly gives the program a sense of leadership and stability under center.

21. Will the most talented Texas A&M team in over a decade deliver?

For good reason, there's a palpable buzz in College Station this summer that hasn't existed in quite some time. It's hard to imagine, but the Aggies haven't produced a 10-win season since 1998. However, many signs point to that trend changing this fall. A&M is stacked with enough returning starters, especially on offense, to make a serious run at a Big 12 title. With QB Ryan Tannehill back to distribute the ball to WR Jeff Fuller and backs Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael, the team has enough firepower to offset weak spots of the D. With or without a championship, this will be one of the more entertaining programs in America.

The 40 Key Questions of 2011
No. 1 to 10 | No. 11 to 20 | No. 31 to 40