Baylor's 2012 season can be divided into two parts. After nine games, the Bears were 4-5. The team scored 113 points against West Virginia and Texas, but gave up 126 and lost both games.
Then No. 1 Kansas State came to Waco and the Bears steamrolled the Wildcats, 52-24. Baylor finished with four wins in a row, including a 49-26 trouncing of UCLA in the Holiday Bowl.
This team is full of confidence, and that should only grow in the first half of the season. Expect the Bears to enter November with no more than one loss. But if Baylor is to become an elite team, the play of the defense will have to improve. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Christian and Texas line the second half of the schedule and the Bears will have to be at their best.
Minnesota is a program on the rise. Jerry Kill guided the Golden Gophers to the postseason in his second season and given the recent history of the program, that's quite a statement.
Now the trick is to navigate through a challenging Big Ten schedule, get back to a bowl game and end a five-game postseason losing streak. Minnesota's last bowl win came in 2004, a 20-16 victory over Alabama in the Music City Bowl.
There is an opportunity to start 5-0, but then a schedule of conference heavyweights — at Michigan and Northwestern, Nebraska at home — come calling. The Golden Gophers' fate will likely come down to the last four games — at Indiana, Penn State, Wisconsin and at Michigan State.
The 2012 regular season was nothing short of spectacular for Will Muschamp's Florida Gators. Unfortunately, much of the feel-good vibe was rubbed away in a humbling 33-23 loss to Louisville and former Gator assistant Charlie Strong in the Sugar Bowl.
So where do we stand after two years under Muschamp? Officially, 18-8. The question is how will the team respond to the loss in New Orleans? Will it serve as a springboard for bigger and better things, or was it a sign of things to come for a squad that has six starters returning on offense and only four on defense.
Is Florida State back? This season is likely to provide the answer.
Jimbo Fisher, 31-10 in three seasons at Tallahassee, guided the team to the Atlantic Coast Conference title last season and a 31-10 mauling of Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. There is no shortage of momentum after a 12-2 season, but the Seminoles lost 13 starters, including seven NFL draft picks on defense.
Now if Florida State can simply reload instead of rebuild, the answer is yes, this team is back.
It's an interesting schedule, beginning with a Monday night opener (Sept. 2) at Pittsburgh. There's a huge midseason trip to Clemson (Oct. 19) and a visit from Miami (Nov. 2). And don't forget the season-ending game at Florida (Nov. 30).
Poster designed by Old Hat Creative. Click the image to enlarge. Thanks to Jason.