It's only the second year of Will Muschamp's reign as Florida's head football coach, and already, the environment in Gainesville, Fla., is markedly uncomfortable. The Swamp might be where the Gators live, but if Muschamp can't radically improve his team this fall, it will also be where the Gators struggle.

The Washington Huskies might have concluded their most recent season in humiliating fashion – at least on one side of the ball – but they might be better for it. A team that had no problems scoring points last year made a bona fide attempt to shore up its defense in the offseason. As a result, Washington is beginning to convey the sense that it is once again ready to compete for conference and national championships. A team that was once a legitimate powerhouse in college football could be on the verge of ascending to the mountaintop yet again.

The Mountaineers are descending to the South Central Plains this season, but as a result of stepping down from the mountain, the West Virginia football program is moving to a higher elevation in terms of quality.

The Texas Christian Horned Frogs will begin the 2012 college football season in an historically unique place. The Frogs can say that they've been a member of three conferences in the past two years, yet they'll be competing in just their second conference over that period of time.

At many Football Bowl Subdivision programs, a nine-win season would be a reason to be thankful and excited. At the University of Nebraska, it is viewed as a genuine disappointment. These are the standards that form a natural part of the landscape for the coaches and players who carry the banner for the Cornhuskers. In 2012, a somewhat nervous Big Red Nation is eagerly awaiting the day that its football team can rise to the top of the Big Ten Conference, earning a spot in the league's championship game in Indianapolis.


This year, the Virginia Tech Hokies are trying to tend to business, chiefly, the task of gaining a little bit of revenge in one matchup while preserving their superiority in another. The Hokies have an external goal this season to win back the ACC championship, but if they take care of two specific tasks – beating the Clemson Tigers and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets – they should be able to arrive at that ultimate endpoint.

Regular Season Win Total: 8.5

It was a magical 2011 for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. While Baylor produced a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and Kansas State stunned a nation of fans and pundits by finishing second in the conference, Oklahoma State – after years of lingering in the shadows away from the prime-time stage – captured its first Big 12 title. The Cowboys, under head coach Mike Gundy, rose to the top tier of the sport by going 12-1 and winning the Fiesta Bowl in an overtime thriller over Stanford.

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