'Title or bust' teams for 2012
(Note: This article was published prior to Bobby Petrino being fired by Arkansas.)
That's just one of the reasons this season would seem to present the Trojans' best shot -- in a while and for a while -- at a national championship (Kevin Gemmell has more on USC in the Pac-12 blog). Being eligible once again helps, too.
While USC is perhaps the closest thing to a title-or-bust team this fall, there are others set up similarly, loaded with veteran leadership and skill that will not be around (or likely not be around, in some cases) by 2013.
Here is an (alphabetical) breakdown of a few of those teams, with indications why it would be prudent to win conference and national titles now -- and, to counter, why it might not happen for them this season.
Why now? The Razorbacks were not all that far off last season, when they lost only to Alabama and LSU. And that was with star running back Knile Davis breaking his left ankle about two weeks before the start of the season.
With Davis healthy, and quarterback Tyler Wilson deciding to return, this team is poised for a move on the Tide and Tigers. The Hogs will get both of those teams in Fayetteville in 2012, which is something they'd better take advantage of; breaking in a new QB against those SEC West powerhouses won't be easy next season.
Why not? Under perfect circumstances it'd be tough for Arkansas to overtake Bama and LSU, and the Razorbacks are losing a lot of talent at wide receiver heading into this season, but we'll cut this analysis off, right there; the larger-than-life asterisk is just too pronounced. If the head coach goes (in April, no less), he all but takes the title hopes with him. There's no telling how this will turn out, and it no doubt has to be stressful for the players, but Arkansas' 2012 success is hitched to Bobby Petrino's fate. It's an extremely tough spot for AD Jeff Long.
To see the rest of the list of "title or bust" teams for the 2012 season, become an ESPN Insider today.