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Top Five Most Talented College Football Teams in 2012Posted on July 4, 2012 at 08:21 AM.
If predicting a champion was as easy as reading an arbitrary rating, the sports world would be a boring place. Thankfully though, games aren't played on paper -- they're played inside of television sets.
Even though analysts and the average viewer know that unforeseen circumstances can alter the tide of a game, we still refuse to back down from an opportunity to flash ratings and talk numbers. And since everyone else is doing it, I can't pass up the opportunity either.
Farther down the road I plan to unveil a more comprehensive predictive model for the 2012 college football season, but today I want to focus on one aspect -- talent.
But first of all, how do you come up with a rating for talent?
For me it's about two key areas. The recruit rating of a player out of high school, and any recognition received by All-Conference, All-American, or postseason awards. I assign a point rating to each tier of recruit rating and award recognition and compile it into a spreadsheet formula. Once the gears have stopped turning I feel I have a pretty solid subjective model that represents the most talented teams in the country for 2012.
For comparison, my 2011 most talented teams and final records were: Alabama (13-1), Oklahoma (10-3), Oregon (12-2), Ohio State (6-7), and Boise State (12-1).
Here are my top five most talented college football teams for the 2012 season:
Honorable Mention: (Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Nebraska, Ohio State)
5. Notre Dame Fighting IrishIf the Fighting Irish fall short of expectations this year they might want to direct all questions to the athletic director. A schedule that is hands-down the toughest in the country could be their undoing. If the Irish struggle, however, it won't be for a lack of talented players. Of all the starters on offense, the lowest rated Phil Steele recruit is center Braxton Cave -- the #39 center coming out of high school. All college football teams should be so lucky to have such a "problem".
It's hard to pick one guy on offense that stands out with raw talent, but tight end Tyler Eifert is a big name to watch as a returning All-American. Defensively, the Irish are led by all-world linebacker Manti Te'o -- the top rated linebacker recruit out of high school and 2nd team All-American in 2011.
4. Georgia BulldogsIt's hard to stand out in the SEC among a myriad of talented teams, but Georgia gives it a solid push. The Dawgs are packed with former highly touted high school players -- among them three returning All-Americans and the reigning first team All-SEC quarterback.
Aaron Murray is certainly the face of the team on offense, and as arguably the best quarterback in the best conference it's understandable why. The Bulldogs are a serious national championship contender in 2012 and may only have LSU in their way for a chance at a title. The defensive side of the ball, however, is where Georgia really shines this year. As much as you enjoyed Alabama's national championship defense last year, start drafting your love letters for Georgia's in 2012.
3. Texas LonghornsThe Longhorns are likely a shocker to be this high on any list after a couple of average seasons. While the wins may not have been there in 2011, you'd be crazy to think that talented players stop accepting scholarships to play for Texas.
Recruiting is certainly where the Longhorns shine in the ratings of most talented teams this year. It's tough to accumulate many awards or all-conference attention with a sub-par record, but Texas is led by some stellar players including Josh Cochran -- a returning 2nd team All-American. While the offense has plenty of skill, the defense is my second-rated unit in the entire country. Defensive end Alex Okafor is a returning first-team All-American and sophomore defensive back Quandre Diggs is the reigning Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
2. USC TrojansIn case you missed it, USC is my favorite to win the 2012 BCS national championship. To build such a resume the Trojans have brought some serious talent and combined it with key returners and a schedule where the Trojans will be favored in every game.
Offensively, quarterback Matt Barkley leads the way. He's the future top pick in the 2013 NFL draft and the front-runner for the Heisman at the end of this year. The only thing left unanswered is which SEC team wants a piece of him and the Trojans for a shot at the national championship. If it wasn't scary enough to try and stop Barkley, receiver Robert Woods is a physical freak that gives teams nightmares.
USC is littered with as much talent on the defensive side as well, and return amazing players such as linebacker Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey, as well as Nickell Robey and T.J. McDonald in the secondary. The big question remains to be the untested front-four, but the collection of recruiting talent never leaves the Trojans wanting more.
1. LSU TigersA season that saw the Tigers finish an undefeated regular season with a tough loss against Alabama in the national championship was no flash in the pan for the Tigers. LSU has experience in big games and has the talented recruits to back it up.
The Tigers are loaded with top-rated skill on the offensive side and may finally have the quarterback they need to take down the nation's top-rated defenses. LSU returns all-conference players in the backfield and on the line, but the guy who again must come through in a big way is #4JC (Phil Steele rating) Zach Mettenberger.
To win the SEC it's not enough to have big-time talent on offense. Therefore, it's no surprise that the Tigers are my #1 rated team in regard to overall talent, while also carrying the torch for the country's best collection of defensive players.
Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu received All-American attention, won the Bednarik, and grabbed Heisman votes in 2011, but teams will likely avoid him at all costs this season. It won't be easy finding others to pick on, however, as All-Conference and All-American players are peppered throughout the defensive line and linebacker corps -- along with the secondary.
We'll let the teams decide on the field who the true keepers of ability and skill are, but in 2012 the Tigers of LSU are my choice as the kings of talent.
What teams do you think have the most talent in the country for 2012?
Justin Mikels is a staff writer for Operation Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @long_snapper.
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