Returning starters in 2012

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
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Do you believe in the primacy of returning starters for determining preseason pecking order? Well, if so, you'll enjoy this effort from College Football Matrix, which has broken down returning starers by conference for all FBS teams.

While measuring returning starters is an inexact science -- the common way is at least five starts the previous season -- the list is revealing. And it suggests that the SEC and Big 12, the two best conferences in 2011, will again thrive in 2012.

Big 12 teams average 17 returning starters, tops in the nation. The SEC averages 16.7. The Pac-12 is last among AQ conferences with just 13.8.

The Big 12, big on offense, has the most coming back on offense: 7.9. And the SEC, big on defense, has 7.6 coming back on defense.

The good news is nine of 12 Pac-12 quarterbacks are coming back, including USC's Matt Barkley, though that number falls to eight if Arizona State's Brock Osweiler opts to enter the NFL draft a year early.

Be forewarned: There is some imprecision on this list. It says Colorado's quarterback is returning; Tyler Hansen is not. And it lists Washington State as having just seven returning starters; by my count, the Cougars welcome back 18. So that was a miscalculation. I went through every Pac-12 team, and you could quibble the numbers a handful of times, so the numbers aren't absolute.

Here's my tally (* means quarterback coming back). It averages out to 14.8 starters returning for the conference. Keep in mind it doesn't including returning starters who were hurt this season, such as Arizona State linebacker Brandon Magee, and does include players who still might announce for the NFL draft, such as Osweiler, Oregon running back LaMichael James.

Arizona (12)
Offense: 6
Defense: 6
specialists: 0

Arizona State (11*)
Offense: 5
Defense: 4
specialists: 2

California (11*)
Offense: 6
Defense: 5
specialists: 0

Colorado (13)
Offense: 4
Defense: 7
specialists: 2

Oregon (16*)
Offense: 7
Defense: 7
specialists: 2

Oregon State (17*)
Offense: 8
Defense: 8
specialists: 1

Stanford (12)
Offense: 5
Defense: 6
specialists: 1

UCLA (16*)
Offense: 8
Defense: 7
specialists: 1

USC (19*)
Offense: 9
Defense: 8
specialists: 2

Utah (18*)
Offense: 9
Defense: 7
specialists: 2

Washington (14*)
Offense: 7
Defense: 7
specialists: 0

Washington State (18*)
Offense: 8
Defense: 9
specialists: 1

Ted Miller | email

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