100 DAYS TILL KICKOFF
ESPN.com
Originally Published: May 21, 2012

Countdown To Kickoff: Storylines For 2012

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

There are plenty of storylines for the 2012 season. Here are 10 we can't wait to see:

1. TCU and West Virginia move to the Big 12/Texas A&M and Missouri move to the SEC.
After the latest round of conference realignment, the Big 12 welcomes the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers to its league and the SEC adds the Aggies and Tigers. Fans of all four schools might need maps to locate their new rivals.

Tyler Wilson
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesArkansas and Tyler Wilson will get another shot at beating Alabama in 2012.

2. Urban Meyer returns to coaching at Ohio State/Rich Rodriguez tries to build a winner at Arizona/Mike Leach lands at Washington State.
Some big-name coaches are returning to college football in 2012. Meyer, who guided Florida to two BCS national championships, takes over at Ohio State. Rodriguez, who was fired at Michigan, landed at Arizona, and Leach, who was fired by Texas Tech, was hired at Washington State.

3. SEC goes for seven BCS national championships in a row.
Can anyone slow the SEC? The country's pre-eminent conference won its sixth BCS national championship in a row in 2011, when Alabama defeated LSU 21-0 in January. Those two teams, along with Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina, might be BCS title contenders in 2012.

4. Bill O'Brien replaces iconic Penn State coach Joe Paterno and takes over a scandal-ridden program.
Perhaps no coach has ever inherited a more difficult job than O'Brien, who replaces Paterno, college football's all-time winningest coach. For the first time since 1966, someone other than Paterno will be leading the Nittany Lions.

5. Stanford tries to remain a top-10 program without quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Cardinal were able to survive without former coach Jim Harbaugh, who left to coach the San Francisco 49ers after the 2010 season. Can Stanford remain relevant without Luck, the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft?

6. Defending BCS national champion Alabama tries to rebuild its stingy defense.
Alabama will have to replace many of the defensive stars that helped it win its second BCS national championship in three seasons. Gone are linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, cornerbacks DeQuan Menzie and Dre Kirkpatrick, and All-American safety Mark Barron.

7. Interim coach John L. Smith takes over at Arkansas after Bobby Petrino was fired.
Arkansas might be good enough to challenge Alabama and LSU in the SEC West, but the Razorbacks will have to do it without Petrino, who was fired for lying about an affair with an employee. Smith, who coached at Michigan State and Louisville, was hired on an interim basis.

8. Florida, Florida State and Miami try to return to national prominence.
The Gators and Hurricanes will again try to return to the sport's upper echelon after struggling last season. Florida State seems the closest to getting there and will enter the season ranked in the top 10 of most preseason polls. Meanwhile, the Gators will look to rebound from a 7-6 finish in coach Will Muschamp's first season.

9. Matt Barkley returns at quarterback to lead No. 1 USC.
After two years of NCAA probation and no bowl games, the Trojans are a popular choice to finish No. 1 in 2012. Barkley, who passed up the NFL draft to return to USC for his senior season, leads what should be one of the country's most prolific passing games.

10. The long, slow death of the Big East.
Can the Big East survive without many of its marquee programs? TCU and West Virginia have already left, and Pitt and Syracuse are close to walking out the door. The Big East added new members from coast to coast, but is it too little, too late?

Game On: Top Matchups

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

The top 10 games for the 2012 season:

1. Alabama versus Michigan (Arlington, Texas), Sept. 1
Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson gets his chance against Alabama at Jerry's World. The Crimson Tide, the defending BCS national champions, have to rebuild much of their stingy defense.

2. Florida at Texas A&M, Sept. 8
The Aggies will play their first SEC game against the Gators at Kyle Field in College Station. The SEC opener also will be the first big test for new Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin, who guided Houston to a 13-1 record in 2011.

Urban Meyer
Greg Bartram/US PresswireWhat does Urban Meyer have in store for his first season at Ohio State?

3. Alabama at Arkansas, Sept. 15
Arkansas lost two games last season -- to Alabama and LSU, which played for the BCS national championship. If the Razorbacks are going to defeat the Crimson Tide this season, they'll have to do a better job of protecting quarterback Tyler Wilson.

4. Georgia at South Carolina, Oct. 6
The biggest game of the SEC East season moves from Week 2 to early October. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier has always enjoyed beating the Bulldogs, who enter the 2012 season with lofty expectations.

5. Oklahoma versus Texas (Dallas), Oct. 13
The Longhorns will try to end a two-game losing streak to Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl. OU handed the Longhorns a 55-17 whipping last season.

6. Notre Dame at Oklahoma, Oct. 27
The Fighting Irish travel to Norman to play the Sooners, nearly...

MORE NCAAF COVERAGE