Preview 2012 - The 40 Key Questions No. 21-30
South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore
South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore
Posted Aug 10, 2012

Richard Cirminiello answers the key questions or more in the 40 Key Questions of 2012.

Preview 2012

Key Questions - No. 21 to 30

By Richard Cirminiello & Pete Fiutak

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The 40 Key Questions of 2012 

No. 1 to 10 | No. 11 to 20 | No. 31 to 40

30. Can Nebraska's Taylor Martinez finally keep defenses guessing?

Rich: Martinez is always going to be a more effective runner than passer, but that doesn't mean he's quit trying to evolve. In fact, he spent a large chunk of his offseason attempting to improve his mechanics and his accuracy with a private instructor. If it pays off, the Huskers become instantly more dangerous in the Big Ten.
All August long, CFN and will get you ready for the season with these great features. But that's not all. Check CFN's 2012 preview page for even more coverage.
Aug. 1: Top coaches on the hot seat
Aug. 3: Meet the new coaches
Aug. 6: Teams that might surprise us
Aug. 8: Teams that might disappoint us
Aug. 10: Teams that could ruin your season
Aug. 13: Biggest unanswered questions
Aug. 15: Great programs heading nowhere
Aug. 17: Unknown programs on the rise
Aug. 20: Top Heisman Trophy candidates
Aug. 22: Best games of the regular season
Aug. 24: Toughest stadiums to play in
Aug. 27: Teams most likely to play in BCS
Aug. 29: Title game match-ups we'd love

Fiu: Here's the guesswork when it comes to T-Magic - will he hand it off to Rex Burkhead, or will he carry the mail himself? I know, I know, I know, he spent all summer trying to become another Tom Brady as a pure passer, but Nebraska's offense will revolve around the ground game again. He'll be good, but the Huskers will still finish behind Michigan State and Michigan in the Legends.

29. What can be expected from Danny O'Brien at Wisconsin?

Rich: Bret Bielema went the free agent route to land a former ACC quarterback for a second straight year. Now, O'Brien won't be Russell Wilson, but if he can tap into his 2010 rookie form, he'll be an asset to Montee Ball and the ground game. Don't yet rule out Curt Phillips, the knee-impaired senior who might finally be healthy enough to compete for the job.

Fiu: A Big Ten title. Even with Montee Ball hurting, Wisconsin is loaded at running back and should be able to pound away at will. O'Brien will get plenty of time to get his feet wet and he won't have all that much pressure on his shoulders needing to connect on third down throws and spread the ball around. The quarterback play will be fine, but the Badgers need a No. 1 target to replace Nick Toon.

28. Can Al Golden gain some traction in Miami?

Rich: Year 1 was tough for Golden and the ‘Canes. The encore doesn't look a whole lot easier. The program, picked to finish fifth in the ACC Coastal Division, is short on proven talent compared to the rest of the league, and still hasn't escaped the NCAA's microscope. Golden should get there, but patience is recommended.

Fiu: Nope. At Boston College, at Kansas State, at Georgia Tech, Notre Dame (in Chicago), North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, at Virginia and USF. How, exactly, will the Canes win more than three of those games? 7-5 is possible with a decent-looking starting 22, but it's going to be an uneven season, especially on offense. 

27. Can Marcus Lattimore recapture his old form?

Rich: There'll be no sighs of relief or exhales around Columbia until Lattimore endures his first hit or makes his first sharp cut. Still, there's genuine excitement that one of the nation's premier backs is close to 100% after suffering a devastating knee injury last October. Lattimore expects to go full bore between now and the Aug. 30 opener with Vandy.

Marcus Lattimore's effectiveness will be crucial for South Carolina's hopes.

Fiu: The NFL scouts certainly hope so. I personally think he's nuts to play another down of college football - he should take the year off to rest up and prepare for the 2013 NFL Draft - but it appears to be all systems go. He might look fine from time to time, but the coaching staff has to keep his workload to a bare minimum until the meaningful games. 

26. How far can emotion and a sense of brotherhood carry Penn State?

Rich: New head coach Bill O'Brien has done a remarkable job of keeping the Nittany Lions roster relatively intact since the NCAA hammer came down in July, losing less than a dozen players to transfers. One, though was star RB Silas Redd, the one sure-thing on an offense that's certain to sputter digesting O'Brien's complicated offense this fall.

Fiu: It won't make up for a miserable offense that won't go anywhere. Penn State will finish around 7-5 thanks to a relatively easy schedule, but who, outside of Happy Valley, gives a flying fig? Penn State football is irrelevant until it becomes eligible again to win the Big Ten title.

25. Can the passing attack save Derek Dooley's job at Tennessee?

Rich: It's Year 3 for Dooley, and this could be the end of the line for his career in Knoxville. He's won just 11 games in two seasons, putting the rocky back in "Rocky Top". Hope comes from a passing attack that's liable to take the SEC by storm. The trio of QB Tyler Bray to Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter might be as potent as any east of the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Fiu: It had better with no running game to count on. There's lots and lots of experience returning, and QB Tyler Bray and the tremendous receiving corps should light up the mediocre teams on the slate, but will seven wins be enough? 6-6 might not do it, especially if there aren't a few big wins in SEC play, but Vanderbilt won't be a pushover, NC State is hardly a given in the opener, and the Vols will be underdogs against Florida, at Georgia, at Mississippi State, Alabama, at South Carolina, and probably against Missouri.
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24. Who (if anyone) busts the BCS?

Rich: It doesn't figure to be a great year for the sport's non-AQ programs, who no longer count TCU and Utah as members, and can't bank on rebuilding Boise State to be a certain spoiler. If a mid-major improbably fills one of the 10 BCS openings, here's the likely representative from each league:
Conference USA: Houston or SMU
Independents: BYU
MAC: Ohio or Toledo
Mountain West: Boise State
Sun Belt: Arkansas State
WAC: Louisiana Tech

Fiu: No one. Boise State has a shot if it beats Michigan State in the opener, but that's it.

23. Is Brent Venables the answer for the Clemson D?

Rich: Well, that's certainly the hope. The Tigers are still smarting from its 70-33 Orange Bowl beatdown at the hands of West Virginia. The offense will light up the scoreboard, but the program's ceiling will be determined by the evolution of the D. While Clemson always has talent, each unit begins the year with question marks.

Fiu: Can't hurt, could help. However, while al the focus will be on the D, don't assume that the offense is going to be cranking out huge numbers on a regular basis. Consistency was a huge problem last year and it might be again with games against Auburn, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virgina Tech and South Carolina to deal with.

22. Can Mike Gundy keep Oklahoma State in the thick of the Big 12 chase?

Rich: The Cowboys are clearly rebuilding, especially on offense. However, it doesn't figure to be your father's rebuilding in Stillwater. This is a very different program than the one Gundy took over seven years ago, with better overall talent and facilities. Now that rookie Wes Lunt is taking over for Brandon Weeden behind center, RB Joseph Randle becomes the offensive focal point.
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Fiu: Can Wes Lunt keep Oklahoma State in the thick of the Big 12 chase? It's Oklahoma State, the offense will be fine even with just four starters returning. The defense that gets back eight starters and will be outstanding when it comes to takeaways will be the big difference. No, this won't be the national title contender it was last year, and it might finish around fourth, but it'll be in the thick of things throughout.

21. Can Virginia Tech beat Clemson, and contend for more than the ACC title?

Rich: The Hokies lost just three times in 2011. Two were to Clemson, the second one for the ACC title. Although Tech is the prohibitive favorite in the Coastal Division, beating the Tigers in Death Valley on Oct. 20 would qualify as a key psychological breakthrough; one that could keep it on the periphery of national title contenders.

Fiu: Yes, Virginia Tech can absolutely beat Clemson, but no, it won't contend for more than the ACC title. It's Virginia Tech, so you know what's coming. Double-digit wins, a good battle to be in the thick of things, and two tough losses to end any national title hopes. Someday it really will be Florida State's time to win the ACC again.

The 40 Key Questions of 2012 

No. 1 to 10 | No. 11 to 20 | No. 31 to 40