Stanford has avoided a setback after losing Andrew Luck following the 2011 season (earning a win at the Vizio Rose Bowl), and should stay strong this year. Star running back Tyler Gaffney will power a potent offense behind a rock solid O-line, and Stanford should be able to run up scores pretty consistently. Throw in the fact that Stanford’s best opponent – Oregon – will be a home game, and there’s a real chance the Cardinal could go undefeated. They’ll be tested at Oregon State on October 26, and at USC on November 16.
2. South Carolina
The Gamecocks are entering the season with a good bit of buzz, but most of it revolves around Heisman hopeful DE Jadeveon Clowney, rather than BCS title aspirations. To put things in perspective, South Carolina is listed at Betfair with 25/1 odds to win the title – just tied for 11th best odds. Nevertheless, this team has the talent to beat the best of them, and if it gets past a September 7 test at Georgia, South Carolina could be primed for a real run.
Staying in South Carolina, Clemson is becoming a popular dark horse pick for a BCS title. QB Tajh Boyd is on the Heisman shortlist, and the team will replace star WR DeAndre Hopkins with the very capable Sammy Watkins. That said, this team will need a very consistent effort to compete for a BCS title game – its toughest tests are in Week 1 against Georgia and in the final game of the season at South Carolina.
4. Texas A&M
The news surrounding this team is about Johnny Manziel’s off-field issues (which recently drove the NCAA to stop selling player jerseys!). But the fact remains that this team is stacked with offensive firepower. Manziel may be a bit of a tabloid magnet, but he remains the defending Heisman winner, and will give the Aggies a chance to win.
If you’re looking for a real longshot that’s still a possibility, the Wolverines are your team. The team is still being rebuilt, and the schedule isn’t easy – but until the last game against Ohio State, no game looks unreasonably difficult. If this team manages to start hot, one could see them gaining steam leading up to that much anticipated showdown.