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College Football FAQ: A Cheat Sheet To Ready You For 2012

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College football is now happening, and it's time to get caught up real fast. Below you'll find answers to many of the most common questions about the sport's 2012 state.

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 26:  De'Anthony Thomas #6 of the Oregon Ducks runs the ball against the Oregon State Beavers during the 115th Civil War on November 26, 2011 at the Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 26: De'Anthony Thomas #6 of the Oregon Ducks runs the ball against the Oregon State Beavers during the 115th Civil War on November 26, 2011 at the Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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Hello. The college football basics are in need of discussing. In each section below, you'll find three perfectly acceptable answers to frequently asked 2012 college football questions, plus one WILD CARD answer that is probably even more way, way off than all the others.

I meant this as a quick guide, but just couldn't stop typing, so skim if you'd like!

First, who are the best teams?

Here are all sorts of top 25s and some bowl projections from us and from Sports Illustrated. As for specifics:

No. 3 LSU (Read Bill Connelly's LSU preview): Which do you value more: a quarterback or a cornerback? Despite losing Tyrann Mathieu (plus the usual molting of NFL Draft talent), the Tigers replace their years-long quarterback merry-go-round with Zach Mettenberger, who's believed to be good at the position. (No, seriously, this is all we know about him.) At worst, LSU will win via their insane pass rush, strong special teams, and power running and lose a game or two due to something wacky. At best, Mettenberger transforms the Tigers attack and mauls the SEC. Your guess?

Breeze through the 2012 Top 25 with Bill Connelly and Dan Rubenstein!

No. 2 Alabama (Read Bill Connelly's Bama preview): Add the talent Bama lost to the average college roster, and you'd probably have a conference favorite. But then look at the five-star wave Nick Saban prepared as soon as the old one passed, and bunker in for another plodding, IV-drip of a 10-win season as we wait for the world to end.

No. 5 Oregon (Read Bill Connelly's Oregon preview): The Ducks replace quarterback Darron Thomas and the best running back in school history, but might be even better in the backfield as a whole and could field the nation's sneakiest good defense, with John Boyett, Michael Clay and Taylor Hart earning preseason acclaim. And Chip Kelly is a pretty good coach, we can agree.

WILD CARD! No. 18 Ohio State (Read Bill Connelly's Ohio State preview): A good defense led by John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, a quarterback perfectly suited for Urban Meyer's offense, some interesting young weapons, and years of excellent recruiting -- I think Ohio State will look like the Big Ten's best team by the end of the year, and we shouldn't be surprised if they're getting top-five love going into 2013.

Who are the worst teams?

Probably the new ones (UMass, South Alabama, Texas-San Antonio and Texas State) and uhhh Akron.

Who are the best little guys?

In no particular order, of course: The MAC's Ohio, the WAC's Louisiana Tech, the Sun Belt's Arkansas State and Florida International, and Conference USA's Houston, Central Florida and Tulsa.

Not Boise State, which is by no means a little guy anymore. In fact ...

Who's the most overrated?

No. 1 USC (Read Bill Connelly's USC preview): The Trojans didn't have much of a defense to begin with, ranking No. 54 in yards per game last year, and that was before losing multiple contributors due to injury and whatnot over the offseason. Left tackle, the second most important position on the field for a team that wants to drop back and zing touchdowns all day, remains a concern after the departure of last year's best player, Matt Kalil. Depth all across both sides of the ball is going to remain an issue, as is (therefore) special teams due to a Penn Stately or Georgia-esque scholarship total. And you don't hear anybody calling for Penn State or Georgia to win it all this year. We also have exactly no idea how good of a big-game coach Lane Kiffin is.

Oklahoma (Read Bill Connelly's Oklahoma preview): That completely revamped receiving corps actually looks just about as mean as last year's did, inexplicably, even if it's gonna take a few weeks to come together. But ... who in the world is gonna block for Landry Jones? Two of OU's best blockers were ruled out late in the summer, and that line wasn't all that great to begin with. Think two returning starters, one of them at a new position, will hold up just fine against Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor?

Arkansas (Read Bill Connelly's Arkansas preview): I love John L. Smith. During conference media days, I kept track of how recruited I felt by each coach, how much I'd like to play for each program. Smith blew everybody else away. Tyler Wilson is fantastic, and the Hogs have talent. But, much like USC, a defense that was already not good enough lost some of its best talent. Arkansas wasn't going to win the SEC West even if Bobby Petrino had stuck around, if that makes it any better.

WILD CARD! Boise State (Read Bill Connelly's Boise State preview): Please take it as a compliment, Broncos people, that your program is capable of being overrated. Losing as many starters as any team in the country matters, especially when those departees include a legendary quarterback and six draft picks. Boise State should probably win the Mountain West and will be highly prepared for Michigan State, but this is a reloading year. Being less than incredible once every five years is okay.

What about underrated?

Tennessee (Read Bill Connelly's Tennessee preview): I more or less called Tennessee a dark horse on the Solid Verbal way back in April, but wasn't entirely confident in that claim until Stewart Mandel, Paul Myerberg and others came out in support of their chances. Feelin' good! Likin' the Vols! Then Da'Rick Rogers got kicked out. But you know what? Still feelin' good. Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter and a hopefully healthy offensive line, plus whatever you'd like to add on, equals a passing game. A Bama-fied defense, no LSU on the schedule ... tell you what, either Tennessee or likewise ably-quarterbacked N.C. State could make noise, and we'll get to find out which one right away.

No. 19 Oklahoma State (Read Bill Connelly's Oklahoma State preview): Mike Gundy lost his superveteran quarterback, lost another top-10-pick wide receiver, probably won't get to see 44 takeaways this year, has a freshman running the offense, and faces a more imposing schedule thanks to the Big 12's imports. I'm not saying this year will top last year, but OSU still has the same offense with many of the same playmakers, and its defense might be improved enough to make up for those losses. And look at that schedule: a likely 3-0 out-of-conference that would include two name opponents and three of the four toughest games at home (and the other in state).

No. 22 Kansas State (Read Bill Connelly's K-State preview): As they're only lingering around No. 25 in most rankings, I don't really think K-State is at all underrated. I think they'll go something like 6-6. They have an effective quarterback in Collin Klein, very good defenders like Arthur Brown, and a wise old fox for a coach. But despite looking like a team that would be lucky to win seven games, they'll win 10. I'll be surprised when it happens even though I'm sure it will happen. It is not possible to accurately rate Kansas State.

WILD CARD! No. 7 Florida State (Read Bill Connelly's FSU preview): Thank you for reading this far. You have now closed this browser tab and thrown your computer into a volcano. I feel like doing the same just looking at what I'm typing right now. But have we been so burned by FSU being BACK every year for the past decade that we're afraid to admit they probably are? This could be the country's best defensive line (and thus defense, potentially), and anything better than last year's infirmary of an offensive line could equal a big year for senior E.J. Manuel. And that schedule, which lost West Virginia due to realignment. I realize multiple TV guys have picked the Noles to win it all, but FSU's ranked near the bottom of the top 10 in most places, and I think they should be at worst No. 4. Nobody's read past this point, so I'm mostly just apologizing to myself here.

Wait, who's in which conference now?

This is mostly still up-to-date, other than the WAC being dead after this season, Notre Dame and Florida State maybe eying the Big 12, the Big East possibly adding Air Force and BYU and probably like 19 FCS teams rising up out of nowhere, plus the resulting fallout from all that. I said "mostly!"

And which are the good conferences this year?

The Pac-12 and SEC at the tops, and the Big 12 and SEC for depth. For sheer entertainment, we recommend the MAC, Sun Belt, Pac-12 and Big 12.

Who are the best quarterbacks?

Matt Barkley, USC: Other quarterbacks will gain more yardage, but none will do so in such great weather and really professional pro-style sets. And that footwork! Your early favorite for No. 1 draft pick honors, Heisman front-runner and most noteworthy college football tweeter ever could also be the one chosen to disrupt the SEC's championship run, if everyone stays healthy.

Geno Smith, West Virginia: "Let's see him try that 4,000-yard, Air Raid thing against Big 12 defenses!" Yes, let's. The Big 12's frantic pace, a loaded armament and a second year in Dana Holgorsen's system could make for an even more devastating year.

Tyler Wilson, Arkansas: The SEC's top passer loses three of his top four receivers and his play-caller, but could have the country's most explosive running backs duo in Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson. He also gets Alabama and LSU at home this time around.

WILD CARD! Keith Price, Washington: Guess which of last year's BCS conference sophomores finished with a higher passer rating than Barkley, Smith, Wilson, Brandon Weeden, Aaron Murray or Kirk Cousins? He's playing for a new offensive coordinator and minus Chris Polk, but could put up absurd numbers (once he makes it past LSU, Stanford, Oregon and USC within five weeks).

Okay, but are there any good non-quarterbacks?

Barrett Jones, Alabama center: Already starting 10 games at tackle and 25 at guard (and having won scads of awards along the way), Jones adds the finishing touch to his legacy as one of the most multi-talented offensive linemen ever.

Robert Woods, USC receiver: Textbook quarterback Matt Barkley's textbook possession receiver, Woods pairs with artillery-range terror Marqise Lee (and some other guys!) to make USC's offense the country's most frightening.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin running back: Montee Ball tied Barry Sanders' season touchdown record. I don't even care how many more games he got to do it in, he's on the list!

WILD CARD! De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon running backish individual: With local legend LaMichael James gone and Kenjon Barner assuming many of the normal (normal for Oregon) running back duties, it's on Thomas to turn into a liquid jet of speed once a game or so. He will.

Okay, but is anybody playing defense?

Tell you what, here's SB Nation's entire Preseason All-America Team. But yes, some people are playing defense!

Manti Te'o, Notre Dame linebacker: Should an Irish quarterback fumble away a possession immediately after obtaining it, fear not. Manti Te'o will just go start the process all over again. Also, he has already recorded six tackles this Saturday in Dublin, and nobody knows how. Something about the time zones.

Jarvis Jones, Georgia linebacker: Remember that thing about USC not having much of a defense? Man oh man, imagine if they'd been able to hang onto Jones, who transferred to UGA last year and tore the SEC East apart. Best player on potentially the country's best defense, yes?

Star Lotulelei, Utah defensive tackle: Expected to be a top-five draft pick, the 2011 Morris Trophy winner headlines a front seven that could be USC's roadblock. And how's this for a star: at Pac-12 Media Day, he got more attention than did John White, the Utes' 1,500-yard running back.

WILD CARD! Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina defensive end: The former No. 1 recruit will follow up on his eight-sack debut by lining up all throughout the front seven, even at middle linebacker. Or at least that's something Steve Spurrier would like foes to start fretting about.

Is anybody wearing stupid uniforms this year?

Ha! Like you wouldn't believe.

I want to know about exactly three new coaches, plus a wild card.

Urban Meyer, Ohio State: We kind of already talked about him, but you really should know about him. Go read this.

Mike Leach, Washington State: If you polled 1,000 college football fans on the internet as to what specific thing they're most excited about this year, Leach might just take the whole thing. Mike Leach vs. Rich Rodriguez in annual conference games -- just think how geeked you would've been about that a few years ago.

Bill O'Brien, Penn State: You know, the guy with the bombed-out roster who can't go to a bowl game for many years and is following up the winningest coach ever while trying to restore the good name of the country's most toxic program?

WILD CARD! Jim Mora, UCLA: I've been saying for years that Mora will eventually be a good college coach. Whether that happens within the next couple years is hard to say, but the Bruins are recruiting their asses off, have made solid coaching staff hires and are making all sorts of noise (much of it the not-great kind, but noise is noise) all offseason. Based on my close observations of his work from 2004 through 2006, I predict several years of big, 5-0 starts for UCLA, with regular stumbles down the stretch. But that's still an improvement, right?

What are the biggest games?

LSU at Alabama, Nov. 3: Of course.

Oregon at USC, Nov. 3: Of course.

Michigan vs. Alabama, Sept. 1: Michigan doesn't have a very great chance, but it's still maybe the two biggest programs ever, both ranked in the top 10 and colliding in a foreign land of expensive jewelry and surgical enhancements. A win by the Wolverines could alter the entire season and put the SEC on notice for once, plus make Nick Saban real mad I bet!

WILD CARD! TCU at Texas, Thanksgiving: Like last year, the Frogs will probably start slow. This time around, they're adjusting to both a new conference and the losses of a whole herd of talent. But nothing better signifies how far TCU has come than this game right here. Since clawing back from the grave their SWC brethren left them in, they've managed to replace Texas A&M as the rivalry week foe of the most moneyed program in college sports. And they're gonna give the Horns a hell of a game, too. Could even end up deciding the Big 12.

What storylines are we already sick of?

Penn State: "Penn State has a football team that will not be good, and that will probably be bad in 2013. Also, if someone commits a crime, call the police." Anything beyond this can be disregarded moving forward. Also, "culture" is for Civilization IV.

SEC superiority: You're sick of the SEC. That doesn't really change anything, and you might be even sicker of it next year.

Ban college football: Oh, you know, the usual shit. College football faked the moon landing and killed the dollar and impregnated the dinosaurs and ran up your light bill. Student-athletes or something. (Exempt from the stupidity of the rest of this debate: players should be as safe as possible, and they should be well-compensated.)

WILD CARD! The playoffs are coming: There is nothing lame about the playoffs coming, but be prepared for every TV crew to kill time by explaining to you that the playoffs are coming.



How happy should we be about that?




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