Pro: After two years of post-season bans, an impressive end-of-the-year finish and the return of Matt Barkley and T.J. McDonald, the Trojans look like a team with the biggest chip on its shoulders. They don't leave the Los Angeles area during the entire month of November and they've got some "unfinished business."
Con: They will probably have to beat Oregon twice -- which is no small task -- and overcome some depth problems at defensive line. Former Penn State back Silas Redd's transfer resolves one unit's depth issue, but they'll have to stay healthy to avoid catastrophe. Four of their first six games are on the road.
Pro: The LSU Tigers actually get an upgrade at quarterback this year with Zach Mettenberger. That embarrassing performance in the BCS Championship game against Alabama may motivate them for a healthy dose of revenge. The Tigers' defense is just plain nasty.
Con: Les Miles' game day calls can infuriate fans; the Riverboat Gambler personality isn't as embraceable as it was early last season. The Tigers drew Florida and South Carolina from the East and their last game of the season is at Arkansas. Finally, they'll probably have to beat either Florida or South Carolina twice to get to the BCS Championship game -- the odds of that happening aren't good.
Pro: After a lackluster 2011, quarterback Landry Jones should be locked and loaded to guide his team to a BCS bowl. The backfield is loaded and Mike Stoops is back at defensive coordinator. Ball control and good defense wins championships.
Con: Several receivers (Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks) are suspended from playing in games, although they have been reinstated to the team. The Tulsa World also reported that receiver transfer Courtney Gardner won't be on campus until next January due to not completing a class on time. An emerging concern is the recent rash of injuries on the O-line.
Pro: The Florida State defense is stuffed with talent that is very experienced -- the defense should finish as one of the best units in the country. The Seminoles also return an experienced quarterback in E.J. Manuel.
Con: Cornerback/punt returner Greg Reid has been dismissed from the team so their secondary and special teams took a big hit. Florida State plays two FCS teams (Murray State and Savannah State) which downgrades their strength of schedule. The Seminoles have under-achieved for the last two years and that has elicited some caution and hesitation from me. I'm not ready to go "all in" on their preseason hype.
Pro: Head coach Nick Saban is someone you can't underestimate no matter how many starters he loses from a championship team. Alabama has seven home games in Tuscaloosa, including their annual Iron Bowl rivalry with Auburn in late November. The Crimson Tide avoided drawing Florida, Georgia and South Carolina from the East.
Con: A season-opener against Michigan (at Arlington, Texas) and road trips to Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and LSU are a little concerning, especially since both Michigan and Arkansas are in September. The defense took a huge hit and it's going to be hard to hide that giant bullseye on their backs; everyone will be playing Alabama with their "A" game.
Pro: The Ducks could conceivably lose all their starters and the team still wouldn't miss a beat. Head coach Chip Kelly is the master of substitution and hence, everyone seems to have some experience. The starting quarterback is still unknown, but either Bryan Bennett or Marcus Mariota looks good to go. Oh ... you might want to keep your eyes glued to this running back named De'Anthony Thomas.
Con: The Ducks lost to USC at Autzen last year and the Trojans have a little more incentive this year. Oregon plays at USC and the winner should claim home-field advantage for the Pac-12 Championship. The secondary needs to step up its game -- last year the Ducks' passing defense was ranked No. 88 in the nation.
Pro: Wisconsin is on a roll with two straight BCS bowl appearances and the Badgers do return Heisman candidate Montee Ball. The Badgers also seem to regularly reload on the O-line with little-to-no drop off. Finally, two powerhouses in Wisconsin's division, Ohio State and Penn State, aren't bowl-eligible and may suffer an emotional let-down.
Con: Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien is not the same caliber quarterback as Russell Wilson and he, like everyone else, is working under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The Badgers' Sept. 29 date at Nebraska is their toughest road test but let's not forget the trap following that game (Illinois).
8. South Carolina
Pro: I was on South Carolina's preseason bandwagon early last year and I'm staying on this wild ride. The Gamecocks have Connor Shaw at quarterback but their depth is a little thinner now that reserve Tanner McEvoy will be transferring to another school, per head coach Steve Spurrier. Last year the Gamecocks went 11-2 with Marcus Lattimore missing their last six games -- with him back, the passing game should open up as more eyes focus on him.
Con: The Gamecocks drew LSU and Arkansas from the West, so right away there is some concern. Arkansas beat South Carolina 44-28 last year. Last year South Carolina struggled hosting a disappointing Florida team and this year they play the Gators at the Swamp. The Gamecocks' Thursday season opener at Vanderbilt could be a much tougher contest than many pundits believe.
Pro: In year two of the Hoke regime, I expect a huge improvement on the defense. H-U-G-E. They've lost some key starters but Hoke should have everyone ready for their opener against Alabama. Quarterback Denard Robinson should be more mature and less-prone to making ill-advised throws. Fitzgerald Toussaint is one of the most underrated backs in the country.
Con: Michigan has a championship schedule but losing to Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan State or Nebraska may erase some confidence. Remember, last year the Wolverines lost to Michigan State and then two weeks later, lost to a mediocre Iowa. Their season depends on Robinson's improvement and/or Michigan not dropping one of the aforementioned games.
Pro: Head coach Frank Beamer consistently over-achieves in the regular season despite the team having a lot of hit-or-miss tendencies in the postseason. Clemson and Florida State look like the Hokies' biggest conference challengers with North Carolina as a sleeper. Logan Thomas, one of the best quarterbacks in the country, is a solid leader who will give this team confidence.
Con: Virginia Tech returns just three offensive starters. The Hokies' schedule is a lot tougher than last year's slate with road trips to Pitt, North Carolina, Clemson and Miami. Some key players (linebackers Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Bruce Taylor) are rehabbing from injuries and they may not be 100 percent healthy by the time their Labor Day date with Georgia Tech rolls around.
Pro: This year Auburn returns 15 starters and a lot more experience. Their 2012 schedule is also a little kinder -- they play both Mississippi and Mississippi State on the road as well as Vanderbilt. If they can come out of September with a 3-1 record, I like Auburn to pull off some shocking upsets.
Con: Auburn has two new coordinators in Scott Loeffler (offense) and Brian VanGorder (defense). The Tigers are moving from the spread to a pro-style offense and while that in itself isn't alarming, changing both the playbooks and coordinators is. The Tigers also drew Georgia from the East and open with Clemson in Atlanta. Finally, their last regular season game is at Alabama.
Pro: Missouri and Texas A&M are now playing in the SEC and that's good news for Longhorns fans. last year Texas lost to Missouri and hung on to beat Texas A&M by two points. Texas also lost to Oklahoma State and Baylor but both of those teams lost quarterbacks in Brandon Weeden and Robert Griffin III, respectively. Their non-conference schedule is much softer (Wyoming, New Mexico and Ole Miss) so a 10-win season is not only possible, but likely.
Con: West Virginia and TCU are new additions to the Big 12 and while they both may have some trouble adjusting to tougher league play, they'll still be very competitive. My biggest concern is head coach Mack Brown's dual quarterback system. Isn't that just another way of saying, "Neither quarterback has demonstrated why he should be the starter"?
13. Michigan State
Pro: Mark Dantonio is a heckuva coach and has brought the shine back to East Lansing. The Spartans' defense is fantastic and it returns almost intact. Yes, quarterback Kirk Cousins is gone and the receiving corps is very inexperienced but if the defense can keep them in the game, the Spartans should challenge hard for the Big Ten Championship.
Con: The offense is green and against those Big Ten defenses they may struggle to catch up if they fall behind. It's difficult to play "keep up" against an offense like Michigan's when you're forced to run the ball during a two-minute drill.
Pro: The Bulldogs got a lucky draw and miss playing Arkansas, LSU and Alabama from the West. Their schedule is favorable, they have a solid quarterback in Aaron Murray and an experienced defense. Head coach Mark Richt is feeling the pressure to win the SEC.
Con: The offensive line was very inconsistent last year and with the dismissal of running back Isaiah Crowell, the offense could sputter. The Bulldogs' annual preseason hype has been a lot like Florida State's, but the Bulldogs' tougher conference-play makes me hesitant to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Pro: Quarterback Tyler Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC and running back Knile Davis is a dangerous weapon who should contend for the Heisman Trophy.
Con: Receiver/punt return specialist Joe Adams is gone and there are key losses in the secondary, line backer and defensive line units. Oh, and no play-calling from Bobby Petrino.
Pro: The defending ACC champions return the majority of starters on both sides of the ball. Of the Tigers' four conference road games, three of them are at Boston College, Wake Forest and Duke.
Con: Sammy Watkins has been suspended for the first two games (Auburn and Ball State) and while that's only two games, a 1-1 start is not entirely out of the question.
17. Ohio State
Pro: Will the Buckeyes come out uninspired? Maybe. Will they play like they have nothing to lose? Maybe, because they really don’t have anything to lose. Quarterback Braxton Miller is still underrated and will thrive under Urban Meyer's system.
Con: The team's reactions to a new staff, new playbook and faster tempo could take an entire year for successful acclimation. The schedule has them playing at Michigan State in late October and then hosting Nebraska the following week. Starting in late October they travel to Penn State and they end their regular season by traveling to Wisconsin and hosting Michigan.
18. West Virginia
Pro: Head coach Dana Holgorsen has quarterback Geno Smith guiding a scary-good offense. Anytime you throw 70 points on a conference champion in a BCS bowl you deserve respect.
Con: There is a big difference between playing in the Big East with five non-conference games on your schedule and playing in the Big 12 with only three non-conference games on your schedule.
Pro: With West Virginia out of the picture, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Co. will have a clearer path to a Big East Championship.
Con: South Florida is one of two elephants in the room. Yahoo! reporter Charles Robinson, the other elephant, named Cardinals' defensive line coach Clint Hurtt as a participant in the Nevin Shapiro scandal at Miami.
Pro: The Cardinal will have a strong running game (Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gaffney) to help ease in new quarterback Brett Nottingham.
Con: The team's top three receivers, top two offensive linemen and quarterback Andrew Luck are all gone.
21. North Carolina
Pro: The Tar Heels' schedule is ridiculously easy: Elon, at Wake Forest, at Louisville, East Carolina, Idaho, Virginia Tech, at Miami, at Duke, NC State, Georgia Tech, at Virginia, Maryland.
Con: This is year one in the Larry Fedora regime and it starts out with a post-season ban.
Pro: Head coach Will Muschamp is in his second year so the kid gloves are now off; he has to contend for the SEC Championship or his hot seat will be scorching with all of the sick talent he has in Gainesville.
Con: Running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey are gone, the Gators have their third new offensive coordinator in three years and receivers coach Aubrey Hill has resigned. Their schedule is also a nightmare; they drew Texas A&M and LSU from the West.
23. Oklahoma State
Pro: Head coach Mike Gundy is one of the few coaches who has perfected the art of reloading and flying under the radar. The Cowboys also get a break in scheduling by getting Texas, West Virginia and TCU at home.
Con: Quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon are gone, as well as five other offensive starters.
24. Notre Dame
Pro: The Fighting Irish do have a championship schedule this year and the pressure is on for head coach Brian Kelly to get Notre Dame back in the BCS championship conversation.
Con: There is a lot of uncertainty over who will be the starting quarterback after a rough spring camp, and one of the quarterbacks, Tommy Rees, has been suspended for the team's season opener against Navy in Dublin, Ireland.
Pro: The Cornhuskers have tremendous experience in the offense as well as defense. Two of their biggest weapons, quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead, could shake up the Heisman race.
Con: Nebraska's schedule is tough; they drew Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State from the Leaders and their non-conference games include Southern Miss and at UCLA.
UCLA, Washington, Kansas State, BYU, TCU, Tennessee, Missouri, UCF, USF, Boise State, Utah and Georgia Tech.
Note: Teams currently banned from post-season play by the NCAA are included in these rankings.