With the first weekend of college football drawing closer and closer, tension is building over who will win the final BCS National Title. We are very near the end of an era and all the top teams will be gunning to be the last BCS champs ever. But, it’s anyone’s guess who will walk away the winners. Will Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M follow up on what they started last year? Will Oregon continue to produce in the absence of Chip Kelly? Can Ohio State run the table again? How about Clemson’s first decent shot at a title in over 30 years? Or will Alabama continue their streak of dominance? Time will surely tell. Sometimes these preseason favorites perform. Other times they don’t at all (a la 2012 USC). And when these favorites do not perform, there is always a team on the perimeter eager to take their spot at the top. With that in mind, Fifth Quarter presents the Outside BCS Title Contenders of 2013.
1. Texas Longhorns
No team in all of college football returns more starters than Texas this season. With 19 players coming back, the Longhorns bring a lot of talent and experience back to the field. This group lost close games to West Virginia and TCU and were blown out by Oklahoma and Kansas State in 2012. Fortunately for Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State will be starting new quarterbacks. As David Ash continues to develop, the Longhorns should have a lot more success against these teams. Texas will also be moving to an up-tempo style this season. If they can make this transition smoothly, look for them to score and score a lot. Big 12 games are often all about who has the bigger, better offense. Time is running short for Mack Brown. He must produce to keep a cool seat. 2013 seems like his best shot to convince Longhorn fans to keep him.
2. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Taylor Martinez and the Nebraska Cornhuskers must be the least-talked-about 10-win team from 2012. You just don’t seem to hear a lot of new, good or bad, out of this camp. But, these guys have plenty of reasons to be talked about. With 9 starters on offense returning, Nebraska will be poised to compete for the Big 10 title and perhaps more. They lucked out by missing Wisconsin and Ohio State in crossover play this year. Of, course it takes nothing less than an undefeated record for a Big 10 team to get a title shot. But, if Ohio State can do it in Urban Meyer’s first year, then I’m sure this Nebraska team can do it too.
3. South Carolina Gamecocks
If South Carolina were a part of any other conference, they would definitely make the favorites list. But being a part of the SEC makes it a different story. They will have a harder road, and be looked at through different lenses. They have some holes to fill on the roster, but defensive monster Jadeveon Clowney and ultra tough Conner Shaw will both be back. This team has shown that they can compete with the best of the best. They still need to prove they can keep it up down the stretch. Last year, after plastering Georgia, they lost a close game at LSU and got blown out by Florida in back-to-back weeks. They won’t face a stretch like that one in 2013 and will also get Mississippi State and Arkansas in crossover. It will be tough, but most SEC teams can afford one loss in the regular season. Even if they have a loss, the Gamecocks end the season against rival Clemson, a favorite to win the ACC. This makes for the perfect opportunity to put down a possibly undefeated team and make a final case for why they deserve a shot at the title.
It is perfectly conceivable that any of these programs could find themselves competing for all the marbles in early January. They may be long shots, but if any team plays their cards right they can win it all. No one expected Notre Dame to be in the title game last year. So who’s to say that one of these teams can’t be the last BCS champs in history?