Coaches love to say it’s tougher to stay on top than it is to get there. Fans of Vanderbilt, Iowa State or Duke football might disagree, but there is no doubt maintaining a high level of success is difficult.
These six teams coming off big seasons will be hard-pressed to repeat their feats in 2012. You’ll notice a trend.
OKLAHOMA STATE — The Cowboys quite simply had the best season in the history of the program, going 12-1 with a Big 12 title, No. 3 final ranking and a resounding victory against rival Oklahoma. A firm foundation has been laid by coach Mike Gundy, but this is a retooling year. It starts at quarterback, where freshman Wes Lunt takes over for departed first-round NFL draft pick Brandon Weeden. FORECAST: 8-4 regular season.
STANFORD — Andrew Luck is gone. His replacement, either Brett Nottingham or Josh Nunes, by all accounts has a chance to be a fine quarterback. And the team around whichever one gets the job is very good. But neither is Luck, and very few quarterbacks have ever been that good. FORECAST: 8-4.
BAYLOR — See above, but replace Andrew Luck with Robert Griffin III, and Brett Nottingham and Josh Nunes with Nick Florence. FORECAST: 6-6.
KANSAS STATE — The Wildcats were maybe the most surprising team in the country last season. Picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12, Bill Snyder’s crew went 10-3 and played in the Cotton Bowl. QB Collin Klein enters this season with Heisman Trophy buzz, but K-State won seven games by seven points or less and it’s tough to repeat that kind of good fortune in a difficult conference. FORECAST: 7-5.
BOISE STATE — The Broncos have to replace as much talent, as many key players, as any team in the country, starting with robotically efficient QB Kellen Moore. They have seven returning starters — total. That’s it! Boise State hasn’t won less than 10 games in season since going 9-4 in 2005, the last season under coach Dan Hawkins, and has won at least 12 games five times in six seasons under Chris Petersen. If there ever was a year when Boise State will take a step back, this is it. FORECAST: 9-3.
GEORGIA — The Bulldogs bounced back nicely from a couple of mediocre seasons by going 10-4 and reaching the Southeastern Conference title game. It took some of the mounting pressure off coach Mark Richt, and Georgia appears primed for another big season, with a loaded defense by All-American pass rusher Jarvis Jones and a potential All-American quarterback in Aaron Murray. The schedule even sets up well again. Georgia misses Alabama, LSU and Arkansas out of the West, and plays three nonconference patsies. But ‘Dawgs beware. The East should be better this year with Florida and Tennessee primed to step forward and Missouri joining. Speaking of Mizzou, Georgia goes to Columbia, Mo., in Week 2 and will likely be without some key defenders because of suspensions as it goes against the Tigers’ potent offense. FORECAST: 8-4.
Extra point: Houston, replacing both coach (Kevin Sumlin) and record-setting quarterback (Case Keenum), won’t be going 13-1 again, and Temple will have a tough time winning nine again as Steve Addazio takes a rebuilding team into the Big East.