Ten enthralling teams for '12

In Arkansas, you have a team with the potential to win the national title and it has a substitute teacher as a coach. (The Associated Press)

Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 12:12 a.m.

I'm almost hesitant to do this, but I can't help myself.

Arkansas made me do it.

The hiring of John L. Smith last month was too juicy to pass up. But I'm still a little hesitant because the college football world can change a hundred times between now and the start of the season.

So we'll just say “as of right now” these are the 10 most interesting college football teams for 2012. Doesn't mean they are the best or the worst or anything else. It just means that these are the stories we can't wait to see unfold this fall.

The powers like Alabama and LSU aren't listed even though they both have a chance to be back in the national title game. Newsworthy? Yes. Must-see TV? Sure. But we're talking about interesting here.

I eliminated Florida because we're too close to that story. And Florida State doesn't make the list because it's the same story in Tallahassee. The Seminoles will be interesting when they stop teasing and really are back.

That's a lot of explanation for a list.

But here it is. As of right now.

The 10 most interesting college football teams for 2012:

1. Arkansas: If this were a beauty pageant, Arkansas would look like, well, Jessica Dorell and every other team like the Geico lizard. Here you have a team with the potential to win the national title and it has a substitute teacher as a coach. And Smith could explode at any moment. This is going to be a classic football season in Fayetteville.

2. Stanford: The Cardinal survived the loss of Jim Harbaugh to the NFL, but now loses Andrew Luck. This is the season where we are all going to find out if Stanford is built for the long haul (23-3 over the last two seasons) or if it was just an aberration (33-60 the previous eight).

3. Arizona: Even Rich Rodriguez's closest friends will admit the Michigan experiment was a disaster. Rich Rod sat out a year and is back at it with the Wildcats. He only returns nine starters and faces Oklahoma State, Oregon and Stanford in the first half of the season.

4. Boise State: Isn't Boise State always interesting, if only to wait for it to get knocked out of title game consideration because of a missed kick? The Broncos lose the winningest quarterback in college football history.

5. Texas A&M: Out is QB Ryan Tannehill, in is Kevin Sumlin. The former Houston coach had been rumored for so many jobs and now gets his shot at the big boys. Uh, welcome to the SEC West. Now, duck.

6. North Carolina: There are players in Chapel Hill. And I think Larry Fedora can coach. Certainly, his offense will be fun to watch. And yet, you never know how a team will respond when there is no bowl at the end of the season.

7. Ohio State: Speaking of which, the same goes for the Buckeyes. And while it's usually the second year when Urban Meyer works his magic, Ohio State will be a fascinating dynamic to watch during the transition.

8. Vanderbilt: Maybe this is just me, but I have a feeling the Commodores are on the verge of being pretty good. It's not like the SEC East is overwhelming right now. Vandy's going to knock somebody off and it's going to make you call someone to tell them.

9. Southern Cal: The Trojans may have the best team in the country. And you never know what's going to come out of Lane Kiffin's mouth next. The most interesting thing about this team is watching how it handles expectations.

10. Akron: Akron may have been the worst team in America last year. In rides Terry Bowden to save the day. It may take him awhile to make the Zips respectable, but I guarantee they will be better … and interesting.

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