Preview 2010 ... Turning 40
The Key Questions For 1-10
The 40 Key Questions
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10. Can Urban Meyer get through the season without having a major meltdown?
He's in, he's out, and he's taking on anyone, from the media to agents, who messes with his quest to have complete control over the Florida program. Following the shortest sabbatical in the history of college football, Meyer is back on the sidelines and seemingly in a better place, but will it last once the season begins? He didn't become one of the sport's premier coaches by being touchy-feely or carefree in his approach to the game or the surroundings. Particularly as the Gators move on from the Tim Tebow era and John Brantley gets assaulted by fans and the media, you can bank on Meyer become less tolerant and more combustible as the season progresses.
9. If Florida allows an opening in the SEC East, can Georgia rebound from 2009 and take advantage?
Since wearing the SEC crown in 2005, the Dawgs have been, by their lofty standings, just slightly above average. Over the last four seasons, Georgia has lost 14 times, including last year's 8-5 disappointment. And since embarrassing the rival Gators in 2007, it's lost in Jacksonville by a combined score of 90-27. As good as head coach Mark Richt has been, he sorely needs a 10-win season in order to squelch chatter that his best days in Athens are in the rear view mirror. He has enough talent to get it done, provided two big concerns can be addressed—injuries, especially up front, and youth under center. The Bulldogs are giving the ball to Aaron Murray, who has a high ceiling, but is still just a redshirt freshman.
8. Can a healthy Oklahoma get back on the rails?
After going 8-5, the worst season since Bob Stoops' debut in 1999, the Sooners are determined to regain their old form, namely double-digit wins and a BCS bowl game. Injuries, like the one to QB Sam Bradford, were a huge factor in the school's mediocrity. Talent never is, which is why it feels it can rebound quickly from the disappointment of 2009, especially as Texas faces a future without QB Colt McCoy. For Oklahoma, winning a seventh Big 12 title under Stoops might depend on the development of QB Landry Jones, who was up-and-down a year ago, but did pick a ton of unexpected experience. Elsewhere, the team is championship-caliber, with RB DeMarco Murray and WR Ryan Broyles sparking the offense and DE Jeremy Beal, LB Travis Lewis, and S Quinton Carter making a run at All-American honors.
7. Now that USC has gotten the stick, can it self-motivate without a carrot?
Thanks to some stiff NCAA penalties, the Trojans will spend the next two seasons playing without any possibility of winning a title or playing in the postseason. That's a stark contrast for a school that had grown accustomed to Pac-10 titles and BCS bowl games prior to last year. First-year head coach Lane Kiffin's objective? Well, not only must he replace Pete Carroll, but he'll try to keep a bunch of teens and young adults from taking their eye off the ball under some very trying circumstances. While few doubt that USC still has as much raw talent and depth as anyone in the league, it's going to be fascinating to see how hard the kids play on a week-to-week basis now that the landscape has changed so dramatically.
6. Is Terrelle Pryor on the tarmac and preparing for lift-off?
If it's true that you're only as good as your last game, Pryor might be ready to explode into the dominant, blue-chip player he was expected to be coming out of high school. He was instrumental in Ohio State's 26-17 Rose Bowl win over Oregon, running for 72 yards and completing 23-of-37 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. He's coming around as a passer and his triangle numbers are second to none at the position in the country. If he continues to mature in his junior year, the Buckeyes could have their eighth Heisman winner and second as a dual-threat quarterback in the last five years.
5. Can Iowa or Wisconsin end Ohio State's Big Ten dominance?
Everyone knows the heavily-favored Buckeyes are the alpha dogs of the Big Ten, winning no less than a share of the conference title the last five years. The Hawkeyes and the Badgers, though, will present a substantial challenge to Ohio State's supremacy and quest for the BCS title game in Arizona. The latter, led by 250-pound RB John Clay and one of the nation's best lines, can manhandle opponents with the running game. The former has one of the best defenses around and a star-studded defensive line. Both have seniors behind center. And both will host the Bucks. In other words, don't assume anything about the Big Ten race just yet.
4. What should we expect from Notre Dame in Brian Kelly's first season?
For the first time since Lou Holtz was hired in 1986, the Irish has landed someone with a history of consistent success at this level. He brings an air of confidence and a no-nonsense demeanor that shouldn't be confused with the arrogance of predecessor Charlie Weis. He also has a proven track record with offensive personnel, specifically quarterbacks, which is promising news for the next in line, Dayne Crist. If you spend enough time around Kelly, you get the felling that he's going to get Notre Dame back to where it belongs, namely contending for BCS bowl invites. Don't, however, expect an about-face from a program still saddled by the same defensive questions that haunted the last regime.
3. Can Boise State make history and actually play for a national championship?
Why not? Purists hate the notion, but the Broncos might have the clearest path to Glendale than any serious contender. Who else can point to just two landmines—Virginia Tech and Oregon State in September—between itself and a perfect season? Boise State gets almost everyone back, including ace QB Kellen Moore, from a team that capped a 14-0 campaign with a win in the Fiesta Bowl. Plus, having gone 49-4 and won a pair of BCS bowl games in the last four seasons, this program is no longer a fad to pollsters and fans of the sport across the country.
2. Does ‘Bama have what it takes to repeat?
It's beginning to seem that as long as Nick Saban is employed by the university, the Tide is going to be in the hunt for no worse than SEC supremacy. Of course, this year's team also welcomes back starting QB Greg McElroy, Heisman-winning RB Mark Ingram, and top receiver Julio Jones. Now, there are going to be some legitimate concerns, especially on a defense that must replace nine starters. However, there's elite talent waiting in the wings and a certain swagger that comes with 26 victories over the last two seasons. Alabama remains the team to beat, but is going to be a bit more vulnerable than a year ago.
1. Will off-field distractions subside long enough to allow the games to take center stage?
Since the end of the last regular season, there have been an unusual number of headlines shining a light on some of the more unsavory aspects of the game. From agents and heavy-handed coaches to realignment and NCAA investigations, there's a palpable feeling across the country that the games can't start soon enough. At least for the next few months, here's hoping that the players who are eligible can be the focal point and the ancillary stories and sidebars can go on hiatus until at least after the BCS title game in Glendale on Jan. 10.
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