College Football 2012 Preview
By Tim Bearden in News on Sep 2, 2012 8:00PM
It's America's favorite time of year—it's time to dust off the hibachi, paint your face and ramp up for football season. College football is underway and the local squads are looking good and are introducing new faces.
Let's start with the Illini. After last season the entire athletic program got an overhaul. The AD was out after both the football and basketball teams fizzled like wet dynamite. The football program started 6-0 and looked like they could have been headed to one of the best seasons in recent memory, but dropped six in a row to finish at 6-6, which something no other team in college football has done.
The entire dismantling of the season fell on one person's shoulders, Ron Zook. He was fired as head coach and now Tim Beckman has taken the reigns. Nathan Scheelhaase is back at quarterback, but left Saturday's game with an ankle injury. Scheelhaase led the team last season to an undefeated start, but it seemed the coaching style didn't change enough to keep it up. Under Beckman this team could flourish. They beat Western Michigan 24-7 in the opener; last year they barely squeaked out the win 23-20. It's looking like change is good for the Illini, but it's too early to tell. Expect the Illini to be better, but still not a national title contender this season.
The Irish showed the world on Saturday they are ready for business. They opened against Navy in Ireland and gave the world a reason not to fear the aquatic part of the military in sports. But it's Navy—they're a program that's improving, but it doesn't prove they're a team to beat, but one to definitely keep an eye on this season.
Brian Kelly enters his third season as head coach and is ready to get the two losses back from the end of last season. The Irish are also bringing up former fourth string quarterback Everett Golson to the starting role. He debuted in Ireland by going 15-for-22 in pass attempts and allowing running backs Theo Riddick and George Atkinson carry the team on the ground. It's looking good now, but the true test will be against Michigan State, Michigan (who has QB Denard Robinson looking for a Heisman this season), and Oklahoma.
The Irish aren't the only team with a new quarterback this season. Northern Illinois welcomes Jordan Lynch behind center. Chandler Harnish lead the team to a conference victory last season and it looks like the sophomore is looking to repeat that. He rushed for 150 yards on Saturday and the Huskies narrowly lost to the Iowa Hawkeyes. Lynch broke free for a 73-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to keep the lead at nine, though he was stuffed by the defense most of the half.
Lynch is only a sophomore and is just beginning in the role for the Huskies as a starter. He may have been quieted by Iowa, but he's likely going to be loud and productive all season. There just might be back-to-back conference wins in Northern's future, but if it doesn't happen this season, there's plenty more to be had with Lynch.
Northwestern is looking at a strong year for the Big Ten. They, along with Illinois and Wisconsin, are bringing some experience to the conference. They did lose some ground at the QB position after Dan Persa left the squad. Persa threw for 2,300 yards last season with 17 touchdowns. Though the Wildcats ended last season with a losing record and struggled in the conference, their depth this season makes them dangerous.
Kain Colter comes up as a starter to fill Persa's shoes at QB. Colter started the first three games last year in Persa's absence. He brings with him experience at quarterback, wide receiver and running back. He's a triple threat in the Big Ten all Wildcats fans will be watching this season. The Wildcats should be looking to win their first bowl game since 1948, and have a strong chance to accomplish that goal, if they can survive the conference this season with a winning record.
As we gear up for this exciting season in college football, the teams are just as ready to produce and prove their worth. The big questions this season: Will the Illini finally have a team that doesn't fall apart in the second half of the season? Will Northwestern actually win a bowl game? And can Notre Dame lift above the scrutiny following a decisive win to begin the season? It's still too early to tell, but it's going to be an exciting season to watch these questions get answered.