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CFB Barometer: Looking Ahead to 2012

Jesse Siegel

Jesse Siegel

Siegel covers college football, college basketball and minor league baseball for RotoWire. He was named College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

The LSU Tigers stayed perfect with a 42-10 thrashing of the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC championship. Here's where an interesting argument arises regarding the ever-unpopular BCS; let's say LSU loses a nailbiter to Alabama in the BCS championship. Each team then has one loss to the other, and that's it. Should Alabama be the champions simply because they beat LSU later in the season, in the title game? LSU was clearly the best team during the regular season. Should the Tigers have been awarded at least a share of the crown due to being the only unblemished squad during the 2011 season? A possible nightmare scenario awaits for those in favor of the BCS, while at least a "plus-one" playoff system should garner more support in the interim.

With only the bowl games remaining, though, it's time to look forward at potential studs and duds for the 2012 Fantasy College Football Season. As always, many thanks to you, the readers, for your ideas, input and support during the year. Happy Bowling Season!

UPGRADES

Sterling Griffin, WR, South Florida -
Just a sophomore, Griffin led the Bulls in receiving with 43 catches for 530 yards and three touchdowns - despite missing four contests with a broken ankle. Junior Quarterback B.J. Daniels is nowhere close to NFL ready, so he should come back for his senior season after throwing for a career-high 2,604 yards and a career-low seven interceptions for the Bulls this season. With Darrell Scott and Demetris Murray also expected back to anchor the running game, big things are expected from Griffin and the USF offense.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama -
Heisman candidate Trent Richardson likely will go the route of Mark Ingram and jet to the pros following his junior season. That would leave Lacy, just a sophomore, as the featured back for an Alabama squad that should return its starting quarterback and the majority of a standout offensive line. Although he received just 84 carries this year, Lacy averaged 7.5 yards per rush en route to 631 yards and seven scores on the ground. If Richardson is indeed out of the picture, then Lacy could be the third tailback in succession with Heisman aspirations for the Tide.

Kenny Hillard, RB, LSU -
The Tigers have a plethora of young backs, all of whom are freshman and sophomores. Sophomores Michael Ford and Spencer Ware saw their carries decrease as the season progressed, though, and Alfred Blue remains more of a burner than a featured rusher. That leaves Hillard, the 5-foot-10, 240, beastly freshman who scored nine touchdowns in his last six games. Hillard amassed 233 yards on the ground in his last three contests. With quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee departing after this season, the Tigers likely will lean even more heavily on their running game in 2012.

Casey Pachall, QB, TCU -
All Pachall did in replacing current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is complete 67.8-percent of his throws for 24 touchdowns for the Horned Frogs. Just a sophomore, Pachall tossed just six interceptions in the process. Pachall should also get back his top three wideouts, along with his top two running backs. With a complete, experienced offense at his disposal, Pachall will look to improve on a 10-2 season for Texas Christian.

CHECK STATUS

Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State -
Randle had a superb sophomore campaign largely in the shadows of the Brandon Weeden-to-Justin Blackmon connection. Randle rushed for 1,193 yards and 23 touchdowns, averaging 6.0 yards per rush. Quarterback Weeden is a senior, though, and wideout Blackmon is a sure-fire first-round NFL pick. It's not that Randle doesn't have the talent to repeat this season's performance, it's that he will draw much more attention without All-American options under center and on the outside. Randle should still be a standout running back in 2012, but he might not duplicate this success as the featured player in the Cowboys offense.

Marqise Lee, WR, USC -
Lee had a sensational freshman season as the tag-team partner of sophomore Robert Woods. A big-play threat, Lee hauled in 73 passes for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns this year. Lee will be well-known to his competition in 2012 and might not have the benefit of Matt Barkley under center. If Barkley decides to go pro, the Trojans could be back to square one at quarterback. No quarterback on the USC roster besides Barkley attempted a pass this season. Although Lee is ultra-talented, it might be wise to temper your expectations with a brand new gunslinger under center.

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State -
Miller's prospects are exciting with Urban Meyer as head coach for OSU. We could see the installation of a Tim Tebow-like offense for the Buckeyes, which would not only play to Miller's strengths as a runner, but also to Meyer's strengths as a playcaller. However, one never knows how a new coaching staff and style will take to its players, and vice versa. Miller could be the next Terrelle Pryor on the field, but whether Meyer gives him the keys to the offense fresh out of the gate remains to be seen. There could be some sort of feeling-out period in Columbus first.

Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford -
Taylor won't have Andrew Luck to lean on if the quarterback bolts for the NFL as expected this April. A premiere student both on and off the field, Taylor will not have the luxury of an NFL-caliber arm under center, as he has had during his two 1,000-yard rushing seasons. With teams keyed on Taylor and not as concerned with the passing game, it will be interesting to see if Taylor can maintain his success of averaging more than five yards per carry, as he has done in every season of his college career for the Cardinal.

DOWNGRADES

Tino Sunseri, QB, Pittsburgh -
Coach Todd Graham's high-powered offense was supposed to vault Sunseri into fantasy stardom. Instead, Sunseri struggled for most of the 2011 season. As a junior, Sunseri completed just 63.9-percent of his passes for 2,433 yards, numbers that were actually down from his sophomore campaign in a more pro-style offense. Ditto for the 10 touchdowns. With a career-high 10 interceptions and an absurd 55 sacks taken, Sunseri's grasp of the spread offense was clearly lacking this season. It remains to be seen whether he can right the ship in his final season at Pitt.

Charles Sims, RB, Houston -
Just about every skill player for the Cougars graduates except for Sims, who led Houston with 782 yards rushing and was fourth on the squad with 545 yards receiving. The sophomore had 13 total touchdowns to boot. However, without Case Keenum, Patrick Edwards, Tyron Carrier, Justin Johnson, Michael Hayes and Bryce Beall, Sims might end up feeling a bit lonely once spring practice rolls around. With Kevin Sumlin also a hot commodity in the coaching realm, much uncertainty exists with the future of the Houston program. Although Sims should receive the lion's share of the offensive touches regardless of the offensive system, he won't have the firepower around him to lean on in 2012.

Matthew McGloin, QB, Penn State -
With so much uncertainty still surrounding the Penn State football program, one can only speculate what a new coaching staff will bring. Although the likelihood of a school like Penn State adopting a high-flying, spread attack is slim-to-zero, McGloin had limited success under center for the Nittany Lions in 2011. He completed just 54.1-percent of his throws, tossing eight touchdowns compared to five interceptions. Although Rob Bolden was no better, his athleticism makes him a more attractive option for a new coaching staff. Even still, the Penn State passing game loses its top target in Derek Moye to graduation. Penn State should remain a run-first, defense-driven squad, leaving McGloin with little appeal.

Andre Debose, WR, Florida -
Debose was supposed to be the next Percy Harvin when he arrived at Florida. Although he led the Gators in receiving yards with 423 this season, the home-run threat caught just 15 passes while carrying the ball just once on the year. Perhaps a change under center will do him some good, as John Brantley's checkered career comes to an end, and the Gators likely will go with youth in Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel under center. However, UF will lose a potent running game in seniors Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, leaving many questions for the Gators on the offensive side of the ball. It could be boom or bust for Debose, who possesses world-class speed and quickness but has not seen the touches his first two years in Gainesville.