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CFB Teams with Something to Prove
by: Jim Feist
Frustration and failure can prove excellent motivating factors in sports. We see quality teams get beaten badly all the time, then bounce back the next game with a terrific performance with an easy win. This can also take place with teams that are off disappointing seasons. Two years ago the NY Giants failed to make the playoffs, but last season rolled all the way to another Super Bowl title.
Two years ago Notre Dame had a new coach, a tough schedule and a ton of injuries. Despite this, the Irish rallied around each other and excelled, ending the season on a 4-0 SU/ATS run, including wins as a dog over USC and Miami. When channeled properly, frustration can be focused into positive energy. Here are some college football teams that may have something to prove in 2012.
Florida Gators: The Gators started 4-0 under first-year Coach Will Muschamp until injuries decimated the offense while they lost four in a row. They have a new offensive coordinator with Charlie Weis leaving, but will still run a pro-style attack, while the defense returns all 11 starters to a unit that allowed 20.3 ppg. The offense adds former Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease to call plays. QBs Jacoby Brissett and sophomore Jeff Driskel are raw but talented and they are surrounded by incredible speed with senior RB Mike Gillislee and junior WR Andre Debose (432 yards), who averaged an astonishing 27 yards per catch! The defensive line is loaded with speed and talent and should be a dominating unit. Florida is 43-9 SU, 25-21-1 ATS at home in the Swamp the last seven years.
Illinois: The Illini had an unfulfilling bowl win last season, 20-14, over UCLA. They started the season 6-0, then endured a six-game skid that cost Ron Zook his job. QB Nathan Scheelhaas (13 Tds, 8 INTs) returns but the team will have a new offensive look with Todd Beckman as coach, who ran dazzling offenses at Toledo. New defensive coordinator Tim Banks should make things interesting with his five defensive back system, and does the special teams have anything to prove? Illinois was dead last in the nation in kickoff returns, 118th in punt returns, and 80th in punting. Illinois is just 13-7 SU/7-13 ATS its last 16 games as a home favorite.
Kansas: Some teams click on all cylinders. Last season Kansas packed it on all cylinders, losing their final 10 games, including losses of 47-17, 59-21, 43-0 and a 61-7 no-show loss at Texas A&M as a +31 dog in their last road game. The attitude will be gone as new Coach Charlie Weis is a fiery, in-your-face leader. He has already suspended junior running back James Sims (team leading 727 yards rushing) for the first three games of the 2012 season for a violation of team rules. Weis brings in his pro-style offense along with former Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist, who transferred. His play will be crucial to an offense that ranked 106th in the country last season, averaging only 326.83 yards per game.
Washington State: The Cougars did a lot of things right on offense but couldn’t win many games, losing 7 of their final 8. Now they bring in a controversial head coach who has done nothing but win: 50-year-old Mike Leach. Leach was 84-43 at Texas Tech, leading the Red Raiders to 10 bowl appearances in 10 seasons. He was fired in 2009 amid allegations he mistreated a player who had a concussion. At Texas Tech, his offense led the nation in passing six times and three times accumulated the most total yards. He inherits a good offense with QB Jeff Tuel and 6-4 junior WR Marquess Wilson (1,388 yards), one that was 9th in the nation in passing yards (322 per game) and 29.8 ppg. But they couldn’t stop anybody, allowing 31.8 points per contest. Leach’s defenses at Texas Tech were actually very good, despite all the attention on the potent pass-happy offense.
Arizona State: Todd Graham takes over running a version of the spread offense he ran at Tulsa and Pitt. It is the second time he has left a program after just one season, burning Rice in the same manner after the 2006 season to move to Tulsa. He has to find a new QB after Brock Osweiler jumped early to the NFL, but still has RB Cameron Marshall (1,050 yards) on an offense that was 10th in the nation in passing with 316.7 yards per game, along with 33.2 points. They were the ultimate tease, however, blowing close games while finishing 0-5 SU/ATS. At Tulsa, Graham's 4-year tenure produced three seasons of at least 10 wins, two CUSA West division titles and a tie for a third. His 6-year career record is 49-29 (.628).
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