The quest for the national championship is really just the Heisman Trophy race writ large, so I would be remiss if I failed to provide the proper, bigger-picture context for my views. For instance, a commentator asked me below “Why not Keith Price for the Heisman?” To which I responded that I do not think that Washington will be good enough for Price to warrant such attention. Which really means that, as good as Price is–and I think he’s very good–he’s probably not good enough to elevate his team to the level that, say, Robert Griffin III elevated his team. Which means he ain’t going to win the Heisman.
That all said, it’s time to put in my two cents on how the team race is shaping up. A lot will change between now and September. Knees will blow out, arrests will be made, tests will be flunked and recruiting classes will be added, thus ensuring that this list changes down the road. But for now, here’s how I see it:
1. USC – The Trojans have the best combination of elite talent and favorable schedule in 2012, so they nab the top spot for now. The roster features the nation’s finest collection of skill players (including what I think is the most talented receiving corps in college football history), plus four returners on the offensive line, a four-year starter and Heisman front runner at quarterback and everyone from the defensive back seven. Add in the likelihood of being favored by double digits in 11 of 12 regular season games and it all points to the kind of season that even Lane Kiffin can’t screw up. Right?
2. Georgia – The Bulldogs return perhaps the SEC’s best quarterback in Aaron Murray. They’ve got perhaps the best defensive player in linebacker Jarvis Jones. The combination of sophomore Isaiah Crowell and freshman Keith Marshall at tailback should be lethal. This is a team that hit its stride toward the end of last year. I think it will carry over into 2012 and, more importantly, there’s no early-season matchup with the likes of Boise State.
3. Clemson – To all those who think that Clemson’s Orange Bowl disaster has any bearing on how it will do in 2012, I say pshaw! Clemson’s 2011 squad was loaded with young and inexperienced talent and managed to win the ACC anyway. I don’t buy the ‘oh, it’s Clemson and Clemson always messes up’ line. The old Tiger choke squads wouldn’t have won the ACC with a first-year starting quarterback and a bevy of freshmen all over the place. Most of those players are back and saltier from the experience. Quarterback Tajh Boyd had a huge year as a sophomore and he’ll be even better as a junior. All the top rushers return. Rising sophomore Sammy Watkins is the nation’s best wide receiver. The defense returns most of its key performers. This is a team ready to move up in class and challenge for the national title.