LITTLE ROCK — Never too early to look at the next college football season, some high-profile programs will disappoint.
A combined 78-6 during the 2012 regular season, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, and Texas A&M have quarterbacks with eligibility remaining and nothing gets fans revved up more than a successful quarterback returning for another year. Arkansas fans can relate.
At least five of the teams will miss the BCS title game on Jan. 6, 2014 and most likely to be on the outside is A&M with quarterback Johnny Manziel.
For starters, it is virtually impossible for The Associated Press Player of the Year to duplicate the numbers he posted as a freshman. Granted, not many teams have defensive personnel equal to LSU, but opponents will attempt to do what the Tigers did and make him throw the football by surrounding him rather than rushing full bore.
In a 24-19 loss to LSU, Manziel threw 56 times. Only in 59-point games against Louisiana Tech and Missouri did he throw as many as 40 passes.
More importantly, Manziel’s supporting cast will be diminished. Offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and defensive end Damontre Moore could be among the first five picks in the NFL draft and Jake Matthews, All-SEC at the other offensive tackle, is also draft eligible.
Next most likely to miss the title game is Notre Dame, a participant next month in Miami vs. Alabama. The Fighting Irish forecast evolves around the departure of linebacker Manti Te’o.
Among players with more than 85 tackles, he supposedly missed only two. More than that, he inspired.
Prior to the Oklahoma game, Te’o asked coach Brian Kelly if he could talk to No. 5, sophomore quarterback Everett Golson. The coach did not ask what was said, “But Everett got up with a big smile on his face … I think it set him at ease.”
You can’t simply plug in somebody who will do the same. On top of that, Notre Dame’s offensive line includes two seniors and two graduate students.
That leaves three SEC teams, Oregon, and Ohio State and the Ducks and Buckeyes have dead aim on perfect because they are in the Pac-12 and the Big Ten. Oregon’s non-conference schedule includes Nicholls State, Nevada, and Tennessee. On Ohio State’s schedule are Buffalo, San Diego State, California, and Florida A&M.
Although Ohio State loses a half-dozen defensive starters, quarterback Braxton Miller runs Urban Meyer’s offense with the expertise to get the Buckeyes past any conference opponent and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has even more help than Miller.
At this point, I don’t think any of the SEC teams will finish 13-0. The SEC had five unanimous All-Americans this year and, for only the second time, two of them were offensive linemen from the same team — center Barrett Jones and guard Chance Warmack of Alabama, both seniors.
Georgia’s outlook is tied to decisions by quarterback Aaron Murray and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. Maybe influenced by what happened to Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Murray has toyed with entering the NFL draft. Supposedly a top five pick, Jones talks about his love for college football on one hand and wanting to help his mother financially on the other hand.
Florida must replace running back Mike Gillislee and although quarterback Jeff Driskel was efficient, he has not proven he can carry the load like Alabama’s A.J. McCarron or Murray. In addition, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger will be better next October against the Gators than he was in a 14-6 loss this year.
Georgia also has LSU in 2013.
Tiresome as it may be, Alabama has the easiest path, going against Kentucky and Tennessee from the Eastern Division.
This may come down to be odd team out, once-beaten Alabama or unbeatens Oregon and Ohio State. That debate would be an appropriate way to usher out the BCS.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.