Aesthetics don't matter much to Nick Saban, but they don't have to. Sabanball will continue to churn out ridiculous win totals and defensive numbers in 2012, and the offense will likely thrive, too, whether you notice or not.
In 2011, Les Miles fielded his most Milesian team, right down to its limitations. In 2012, a new secondary attempts to hold the fort while a new quarterback tries to show that the Tigers can throw the ball when they absolutely have to this time around.
Typically, Missouri surges with a second-year starting quarterback in tow. But typically, Missouri doesn't join the SEC in a quarterback's second year either. Gary Pinkel, James Franklin and company have a lot of questions to answer as they make the move.
Heading into 2012, the sheer quantity of Auburn's four- and five-star signees is the largest reason for optimism, but if you believe more in proven production, the Tigers might still be a year away from returning to the big-time.
A senior-heavy depth chart and a manageable home (and non-conference) schedule provide Mississippi State with a serious opportunity in 2012: mainstream success for a niche artist. (As long as "mainstream success" doesn't include a division crown, anyway.)
Derek Dooley inherited quite a mess when he was elected head coach of Tennessee in 2010. But to earn another term in this election year, his oft-flaky, oft-injured Vols will need to manufacture some good luck and improve as much as their experience level suggests they should.
A darkhorse is a team that is both quite flawed (potentially fatally so) and loaded with potential. A year after a combination of bad luck and clammy hands turned a Top 20 team into a massive disappointment, you might want to reserve a seat in the front car of the "Texas A&M As Darkhorse" bandwagon, just in case. (And this comes from someone who told you to leap off the A&M bandwagon as quickly as possible last year.)
Ole Miss does nothing halfway. They only do spectacular turnaround, strong highs, and dizzying lows. With history as our guide, then, it seems new head coach Hugh Freeze will either engineer yet another amazing reversal of fortune or somehow take the Rebels even lower than they were in 2011.
In just one season, James Franklin transformed Vanderbilt from a near-laughing stock to a mean, smart, physical football team capable of beating just about anybody. Can the Commodores surge again in 2012, or will they simply be hoping to consolidate their 2011 gains?