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January 12, 2011

College Football Report - 2011 Teams on the Rise and Decline:

It’s way too early to throw together a 2011 Top 25 like we see everywhere at the end of each season. It’s not too early to look at the teams in college football who are on the rise, and those who are on the decline, however. Below are four teams who should find themselves rising among the polls next year, followed by four teams who’ll sink, or continue to sink, from their 2010 campaigns:

Looking Up in 2011

Michigan State Spartans:

2010: 11-2 (7-1)

Starters Returning: Offense (7) – Defense (6)

Players Returning: Kirk Cousins, QB, Edwin Baker, RB, Le’Veon Bell, RB, Keshawn Martin, WR, BJ Cunningham, WR, Joel Foreman, G, Trenton Robinson, S, Jerel Worthy, DT

Young Gun to Watch: Max Bullough – Sophomore - LB

Players Lost: Greg Jones, LB, Eric Gordon, LB, Chris L. Rucker, CB, Charlie Gantt, TE, Mark Dell, WR, DJ Young, OT

The Schedule (notables): @ Notre Dame, @ Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, @ Nebraska

The Outlook: The Spartans are a team on the rise, as long as they don’t have to play Alabama every week. Thanks much in part to Big Ten Coach of the Year Mark Dantonio, MSU is playing with a new attitude and bringing in the right players. The running game should be even more exciting to watch next season with a deep and now experienced backfield, led by Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell. On the defensive side of the ball, Jones and Gordon will be hard to replace, but sophomores Max Bullough and William Gholston will become household names next season.

Oklahoma Sooners:

2010: 12-2 (6-2)

Starters Returning: Offense (9) – Defense (8)

Players Returning: Landry Jones, QB, Ryan Broyles, WR, Travis Lewis, LB, Kenny Stills, WR, Jamell Fleming, S, Tom Wort, LB, Frank Alexander, DE, Tony Jefferson, DB, Stephen Good, G

Young Gun to Watch: Roy Finch – Sophomore - RB

Players Lost: DeMarco Murray, RB, Eric Mensik, G, Quinton Carter, S, Jeremy Beal, DE, Jonathan Nelson, CB

The Schedule (notables): @ Florida State, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Texas, @ OK State

The Outlook: Next season, like any other for Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, it’s National Title or bust. Things are looking up for the Sooners in 2011, though. With quarterback Landry Jones leading the way, with a cast of wideouts that can dominate a game, the offense will be electric. The defense also got a boast having linebacker Travis Lewis announce he was returning. Lewis was an All-Big 12 selection this season. The good thing about the Sooners schedule is no Nebraska and no Big 12 title game. Home games against Tech and A&M helps, too.

LSU Tigers:

2010: 11-2 (6-2)

Starters Returning: Offense (9) – Defense (6)

Players Returning: Jordon Jefferson, QB, Russell Shepard, WR, Rueben Randle, WR, Alex Hurst, OT, Ryan Baker, LB, Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Morris Claiborne, CB

Young Gun to Watch: Spencer Ware – Sophomore - RB

Players Lost: Patrick Peterson, CB, Kelvin Sheppard, LB, Drake Nevis, DT, Terrance Toliver, WR, Joseph Barksdale, OT

The Schedule (notables): Oregon, @ Miss. State, @ West Virginia, Florida, Auburn, @ Alabama

The Outlook: The schedule is tough and there are a few notable defensive players, who’ll be missing next season, but LSU is one of those programs that doesn’t rebuild, they reload. The offensive chamber is still fully loaded with a talented backfield back, along with playmakers Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle. The defense has a lot of young talent, led by defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who dominated in a true freshman season. Linebacker Ryan Baker is an above average player, as well. Baker was often overshadowed by the rest of the Tigers defensive stars, however.

Washington Huskies:

2010: 7-6 (5-4)

Starters Returning: Offense (8) – Defense (7)

Players Returning: Chris Polk, RB, Jermaine Kearse, WR, Cort Dennison, LB, Devin Aguilar, WR, Nathan Fellner, S, Alameda Ta’Amu, DT, Quinton Richardson, CB, Desmond Trufant, CB

Young Gun to Watch: Kasen Williams – True Freshman – WR

Players Lost: Jake Locker, QB, Mason Foster, LB, Victor Aiyewa, LB, Nate Williams, S

The Schedule (notables): Hawaii, @ Nebraska @ Utah, @ Stanford, Arizona, Oregon, USC

The Outlook: Nobody can argue about the direction the Washington program is heading in. This is the same team that went 0-12 the year before Head Coach Steve Sarkisian took over just two years ago. Winning their last four games of the year, including a bowl win over Nebraska, was impressive. The loss of Jake Locker will hurt, but quarterbacks Keith Price and Nick Montana will be ready to take over. Losing linebacker Mason Foster on defense should hurt as well, but having Alameda Ta’Amu (350, pounds) and Semisi Tokolahi (340) on the defensive front, will help the next linebacker. The defensive backfield should be one of the best in the country, and shouldn’t miss a beat without Williams, as safety Sean Parker will become a star.

Honorable Mention: Notre Dame, BYU, Florida State, Baylor, South Carolina, Tennessee, UCF, USC, Florida, Maimi (FL), Syracuse, Nortwestern

Looking Down in 2011

Virginia Tech Hokies:

2010: 11-3 (8-0)

Starters Returning: Offense (7) – Defense (7)

Players Returning: Jarrett Boykin, WR, Jaymes Brooks, G, Barquell Rivers, LB, Jayron Hosley, CB, Lyndell Gibson, LB, Bruce Taylor, J.R. Collins, DE, Danny Coale, WR

Players Lost: Tyrod Taylor, QB, Ryan Williams, RB, Darren Evans, RB, Davon Morgan, S, Rashad Carmichael, CB, Steven Friday, DE, John Graves, Beau Warren, C

The Schedule (notables): App. State @ East Carolina, @ Marshall (ACC schedules not released)

Main Problem: Offensive experience

The Outlook: It’s hard to go against a Frank Beamer coached team, but when looking at next seasons Virginia Tech team, it reminds me a lot of what West Virginia was this season. The Mountaineers weren’t bad, but they had a lot of young talent that didn’t necessarily produce. Tyrod Taylor is going to be a tough one to replace. Taylor started for three years in Hokie land and he was a good one. Both Ryan Williams and Darren Evans declared early for the NFL Draft, as well. The defense should be real good again, but a few key players will need to be replaced. The lack of quarterback depth should hurt the Hokies, though, as sophomore backup Logan Thomas, was recruited by many as a tight end.

Oregon Ducks:

2010: 12-1 (9-0)

Starters Returning: Offense (6) – Defense (4)

Players Returning: Darron Thomas, QB, LaMichael James, RB, Kenjon Barner, RB, Mark Asper, G, Cliff Harris, CB, John Boyett, S, Eddie Pleasant, S, David Paulson, TE

Players Lost: Jeff Maehl, WR, DJ Davis, WR, Kenny Rowe, DE, Brandon Bair, DT, Casey Matthews, LB, Bo Thran, OT, Jordan Holmes, C, CE Kaiser, OT, Spencer Paysinger, LB, Talmadge Jackson, CB

The Schedule (notables): LSU, Nevada, @ Arizona, @ Washington, @ Stanford, USC, Oregon State

Main Problem: Only four starters returning on defense, three offensive linemen lost.

The Outlook: The 2010 PAC-10 champs are going to still be a good team. They’re still going to play at a frantic pace and be in a lot of games, thanks much in part to Chip Kelly. It’s hard to look at the 2011 depth chart and not notice all the new faces, though. It starts with the offensive line, where the Ducks were the three best – Thran, Holmes, and Kaiser – will need to be replaced. The defense will also go through a major overhaul, with just four starters returning. The loss of Casey Matthews and Brandon Bair will hurt the defense the most. A lot of the secondary’s picks this season came from pressure by Bair and Kenny Rowe disrupting the pocket. A nine win season, especially with the Ducks schedule, seems like the conclusion.

Ohio State Buckeyes:

2010: 12-1, (7-1)

Starters Returning: Offense (7) – Defense (4)

Players Returning: Terrelle Pryor*, QB, Dan Herron*, RB, DeVier Posey*, WR, Jake Stoneburner, TE, Nathan Williams, DE, John Simon, DT, Mike Adams*, OT (*Suspended first five games)

Players Lost: Cameron Heyward, DE, Brian Rolle, LB, Ross Homan, LB, Chimdi Chekwa, CB, Devon Torrence, CB, Jermale Hines, S, Justin Boren, G, Bryant Browning, G, Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Dexter Larimore, DT

The Schedule (notables): @ Miami, Colorado, Michigan State, @ Nebraska, Wisconsin, @ Michigan

Main Problem: Player suspensions, replacing defensive talent.

The Outlook: The defensive losses are one thing; Cam Heyward, Brian Rolle, Ross Homan and Chimdi Chekwa were a special group that stretched from the defensive line to the secondary. The bigger defeat will come in the first five games of the season, and beyond. The five game suspensions, starting with quarterback Terrelle Pryor will be imposed during games against Miami, Colorado and Michigan State. Joe Bauserman is sparingly used quarterback and it should be interesting to see if Bauserman gets first team reps in next season’s summer camp, or if Tressel will opt to go with Pryor. Either way, the suspended five should be rusty when they return at midseason, while everyone else is in midseason form. The first game back by the way, a road trip to Nebraska. Don’t expect the NCAA to go easy on the five either, with a lighter sentence. They weren’t easy on Georgia wideout A.J. Green, who served nearly the same suspension.

Georgia Bulldogs:

2010: 6-7 (3-5)

Starters Returning: Offense (7) – Defense (6)

Players Returning: Washaun Ealey, RB, Aaron Murray, QB, Tavarres King, WR, Trinton Sturdivant, OT, Bacarri Rambo, S, DeAngelo Tyson, DT, Christian Robinson, LB

Players Lost: A.J. Green, WR, Justin Houston, LB, Akeem Dent, LB, Brandon Boykin, CB, Kris Durham, WR, Clint Boling, G, Darryl Gamble, LB

The Schedule (notables): Boise State, South Carolina, Miss. State, @ Tennessee, Florida, Auburn

Main Problem: Talent not panning out, replacing defensive stars.

The Outlook: Georgia fans are really hoping things won’t get any worse than the 2010 season, as a 6-7 season at Georgia is like a winless season anywhere else. Fans were calling for the firing of Head Coach Mark Richt after the fourth game of the year. That’s a little premature. The problem at Georgia right now, is a lot of young talent got on the field, and didn’t really pan out. The offense is going to need to find someone to throw the ball to now that A.J. Green has declared. The offense was downright awful when Green was serving his early season suspension. The linebacking corps also takes quite a big hit next season with Justin Houston declaring for the draft. Houston, along with Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble, were the Bulldogs lone playmakers on defense this season. Seven wins may be reasonable next year.

Honorable Mention: West Virginia, Navy, Iowa, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, TCU, Illinois, Auburn, Clemson

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