2010 Spring Preview
- No. 6
Each League's Pain In The Butt
While these teams might not be good enough to win a conference title, they come back improved enough to ruin someone else's season. Here are the teams that'll be the pains in the butt for the big boys.
ACC – Wake Forest
The defense that struggled so much last year will be far better with so many first-year starters having taken their lumps, while the receiving corps might be the best in school history. Georgia Tech and Clemson have to go on the road to face the Demon Deacons, while Florida State might not have the fire in the ACC opener after facing Oklahoma on the road and BYU at home. Could Virginia Tech be sleepy after facing Central Michigan and with Duke ahead? Even if it’s not, Wake Forest will still have the defense by the middle of the season to potentially pull off the upset.
Big East - Syracuse
With so many returning starters on defense, and with RB Delone Carter back on offense, head coach Doug Marrone’s team will almost certainly have just enough on both sides of the ball to pull off at least one upset like last year’s 31-13 whumping of Rutgers. The Orange get Pitt and Connecticut at home, with the Panthers making the trip after going to Notre Dame and the Huskies go after playing Pitt and with Cincinnati to follow. Marrone’s club will win more than one Big East game this year.
Big Ten - Indiana
The brutal late schedule could be a problem for dreams of a bowl game, especially if there isn’t a hot start, but the Hoosiers should be able to work the kinks out in time to be dangerous by the second half of the season. With a nice-looking offense, led by a talented receiving corps and RB Darius Willis to use as a workhorse, IU will almost certainly catch someone napping. Iowa faces the Hoosiers on the road after a nasty October against Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Michigan State; Wisconsin gets IU at home as an oasis after road games at Iowa and Purdue and before Michigan; Penn State and IU play in Landover, Maryland, a week after the Nittany Lions go to Ohio State.
Big 12 – Iowa State
Paul Rhoads’ second season should be extremely interesting as the Cyclones have enough fight to be thorny in a mediocre Big 12 North. With two backfield stars in QB Austen Arnaud and RB Alexander Robinson, ISU has two great playmakers on an attack with eight returning starters. The schedule is nasty, but teams like Oklahoma and Texas aren’t exactly going to be focused on the perceived lightweight. The Longhorns will see ISU as a breather after facing Texas Tech, UCLA, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. The Cyclones will be sandwiched on Oklahoma’s schedule between Texas and a trip to Missouri, they get Texas Tech at home right after the Red Raider – Longhorn showdown, and Nebraska has to go to Ames after facing Missouri.
Conference USA - UTEP
Two words: Donald Buckram. The star running back ripped up Houston last season and is just good enough to combine with QB Trevor Vittatoe to make the Miners dangerous. Head coach Mike Price doesn’t have much of a defense to count on, but the offense should be explosive enough to potentially screw up SMU late in the year and come up with three other home wins against mediocre Conference USA teams Memphis, Rice, and Tulane. Three of the road league road games against UAB, Marshall and Tulsa are winnable, while the conference opener at Houston should be a wild shootout.
MAC - Akron
Eight starters are back on defense and seven return to offense including the entire backfield. With new head coach Rob Ianello taking over, there should be a renewed sense of excitement for a program overdue to be a player in the MAC race again. The Zips will be a major factor with Northern Illinois and Western Michigan coming to town, and with two late home games against Miami University and Buffalo. Considering two of the four road games (Kent State and Ball State) are winnable (while the other two road games at Temple and Ohio should be nasty), Akron should be a sleeper.
Mountain West – San Diego State
The offense is loaded and dangerous with QB Ryan Lindley leading a veteran attack that welcomes back eight starters. Six starters return on a defense that should be better with some nice new factors in the mix. Air Force and Utah have to go south to face the Aztecs with the Falcons possible looking ahead to a road trip to TCU and the Utes certain to be unfocused after facing Notre Dame and with BYU to follow. TCU faces SDSU a week after going to Utah.
Pac 10 – Arizona State
On defense alone, the Sun Devils should be able to hang around with just about everyone in the conference, while the offense can’t help but be better even with the loss of top pass-catchers Kyle Williams and Chris McGaha and with a shaky line to work around. While the schedule is a nightmare with four road games in five dates and five in seven, there will be a nothing-to-lose attitude at USC, Cal, and Oregon State, while Oregon has to go to Tempe. ASU might struggle, but with its defense, it should be able to pull off two big wins to throw a wrench into the Pac 10 race.
SEC - Tennessee
The Vols might not be all that good in a true rebuilding mode under new head man Derek Dooley, but with many of the tough games at home, the chances will be there for a few big upsets to screw up the SEC and national title chases. Having Oregon, Florida, Alabama, and Ole Miss on the slate should mean a rough record and a struggle for a winning season, but Tennessee might be just good enough on the right day to win two of those (or win one of them against either the Gators or Tide). If the Vols can split on the road against LSU and Georgia in back-to-back games, then the SEC might be in a total upheaval.
Sun Belt - ULM
All the Sun Belt talk will be about Troy, Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas State, but if ULM can quickly patch things on the offensive line it could become a dangerous threat in the chase. QB Trey Revell is a dangerous playmaker who could win a game by himself if he gets hot, and he’ll have his chances. FAU and Troy have to come to Monroe, while the annual showdown against the Ragin’ Cajuns is also at home. Middle Tennessee gets the Warhawks a week after going to Georgia Tech and before going to Arkansas State, while the Red Wolves have to face them in between road games at Louisiana and Troy.
WAC - Hawaii
After a year off from playing in a bowl, the Warriors should be back with WR Greg Salas leading a dangerous offense that should combine with a vastly improved defense. There aren’t any major holes, but with Hawaii it’s all about the schedule and who has to make the long trip to paradise. While Boise State and Fresno State get the Warriors at home, Nevada and Idaho might slip up on a road trip each has to win.