Conference realignment isn't a new phenomenon and Athlon Sports will prove it to you.
College football expansion has taken over the hearts and minds of college football junkies everywhere.
The sky is falling, rivalries are dead and the future of college football is in great peril. I am here to tell you that this just simply isn’t the case. Conference realignment has been taking place for more than a century and it won’t stop anytime soon. Teams have been switching leagues, conferences have been created out of thin air and college football has powered through all the criticism and into the playoff era.
We restructure the college sports landscape by drafting new four new conferences
Welcome to the 2012 NCAA (National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities) conference realignment draft.
Our esteemed conference commissioners -- Mitch Light, Braden Gall, Steven Lassan and David Fox -- will put an end to the conference realignment madness, which stretched into yet another summer this year, with the first (and hopefully, only) conference alignment draft.
How did the Athlon Sports preseason All-Pac-12 team rank as high school prospects?
The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at all-conference teams from across the nation. But where did all these tremendous all-league performers come from and how did they get where they are today? Some showed up on campus as five-star uber-recruits and others defied all odds as walk-ons. Athlon analyzes how the 2012 preseason All-Pac-12 team ranked as recruits.
Matt Barkley has USC in position to contend for the national title.
The obstacles were well-documented. USC would be crippled for multiple seasons by NCAA penalties — after all, it had happened before. De’Anthony Thomas’ recruiting defection to Oregon was a program crusher. Lane Kiffin was an overrated coach. For all of the above reasons, impending doom was predicted for the Trojans for seasons to come.
McNeal provided a much-needed spark to the USC rushing attack last season. After recording 24 carries through the first five games, McNeal closed out the year with five 100-yard performances over the final seven games. He rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the overtime loss to Stanford, while posting 124 yards and a score on 12 attempts in the 50-0 rout over UCLA. McNeal is only 5-foot-7, so the Trojans can’t depend on him for 250-275 carries. Depth at running back is thin, which makes keeping McNeal healthy for the full season a priority for coach Lane Kiffin.
Dion Bailey garnered most of the attention in the USC linebacking corps last season, but Pullard shouldn’t be overlooked. He started all 12 games last season, recording 81 stops and two fumble recoveries. Pullard finished the year on a high note, making 14 tackles in the win over Oregon and nine in the blowout victory over UCLA. He earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors last season, but should be a lock for first or second-team accolades in 2012.
Getting more speed on defense was a priority going into 2011 for coordinator Monte Kiffin, which prompted the move of Bailey from safety to linebacker. So far, that move has been a huge success. Bailey is one of the Pac-12’s rising stars and should contend for All-American honors this year. He recorded 81 stops and started 11 games as a redshirt freshman last season, while also earning Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year honors.
With Nick Perry’s departure to the NFL, Horton and Devon Kennard will be in charge of leading the USC pass rush in 2012. Horton earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors last year after recording 22 tackles and four sacks. He has 22 career starts, while also registering 11.5 tackles for a loss. The Trojans have used an effective rotation up front in previous years, but with depth a concern, Horton will be asked to play more in 2012.
Robert Woods shattered the USC record book for most catches in a season, but Lee’s 2011 campaign should not be overlooked. As a true freshman last year, Lee caught 73 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also averaged 28.5 yards per kickoff return on 10 attempts. Lee closed out 2011 on a tear, catching at least eight passes in each of his final four games, while recording 187 yards against Oregon and 224 versus UCLA. The sophomore is an Athlon Sports third-team All-American for 2012.
With Matt Kalil departing for the NFL, Holmes will be expected to be the offensive line’s top performer and leader in 2012. In his first season at center last year, Holmes started all 12 games and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors. He is expected to be one of the leading candidates for the Rimington Award and is an Athlon Sports second-team All-American for 2012.
Playing cornerback in an offensive-minded conference is never easy. However, Robey has emerged as one of college football’s top covermen after starting the last two seasons, and will help to lead a much-improved USC secondary in 2012. Over his two-year career with the Trojans, Robey has tallied 111 tackles and six interceptions. He earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors last season and is expected to be one of the top cornerbacks in college football.
McDonald had a chance to enter the NFL Draft, but decided to return to Los Angeles for another run at the national championship, while hoping to improve his draft stock into the first round. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound safety has earned all-conference honors in each of the last two seasons and was one of the 15 finalists for the Thorpe Award in 2011. McDonald recorded 67 tackles and three interceptions last season, and was named the Thorpe Award’s Player of the Week for his performance against Arizona. The senior is aggressive and packs a punch with each hit. However, McDonald matches his aggressiveness and big hits with steady play in coverage.
The Barkley-to-Woods combination was deadly and virtually unstoppable last season. Woods finished with 111 receptions (a USC single-season record) for 1,292 yards and 15 scores. He caught 17 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns in the opener against Minnesota, 12 receptions for 113 yards and two scores against UCLA and nabbed 12 balls for 119 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame. In addition to being an All-American receiver, Woods is one of college football’s top return men, averaging 24.8 yards per kickoff return over the last two years. The junior is an Athlon Sports first-team All-American for 2012.
Barkley turned down millions and a spot among the top 10 selections in the 2012 NFL Draft to make a run at the national title. The Trojans are off NCAA probation and eligible for their first bowl game in two seasons. With USC poised to finish among the top five teams in the nation, Barkley will be one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman and is Athlon’s first-team All-American quarterback for 2012. Barkley earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season, throwing for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns. He has thrown for 80 scores in his career and has completed 64.2 percent of his throws over the last three years.
USC claimed its first national championship in 25 years when it bested Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl thanks to an MVP-performance from Heisman winner Matt Leinart. The junior threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns and caught a 15-yard touchdown pass as USC staked its claim to the AP championship after being passed over for the BCS title game by Oklahoma and LSU.
Heisman Trophy winner Charles White ran for a Rose Bowl record 247 yards and scored the game-winning one-yard touchdown in USC's 17-16 win over Ohio State. White carried six times for 71 yards on the game-winning drive and enabled the Trojans to finish the season 11-0-1.
In a matchup of undefeated teams, USC evisorated Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl to win its second straight AP national championship. Matt Leinart threw five touchdowns passes on the night and USC raced out to a 38-10 halftime lead while OU unraveled with four first-half turnovers. The win was USC's 22nd straight and improved the Trojans to 36-3 over a three-year period.
USC trailed Notre Dame 24-0 late in the first half, then exploded for 55 points in a 17-minute span to rout the Irish 55-24. Anthony Davis scored four touchdowns, Pat Haden threw three and linebacker Charles Phillips returned an interception for a touchdown during the blitz. USC beat Ohio State in the Rose Bowl 18-17 and claimed the national championship.
O.J. Simpson's electrifying 64-yard touchdown run lifted No. 4 USC past No. 1 UCLA 21-20 in one of the most memorable college football games ever played. Simpson ran for 177 yards and two touchdowns, outplaying Heisman-winning UCLA quarterback Gary Beban, who threw for 301 yards. USC won the national championship, and Simpson won the Heisman Trophy the next season.
Bell was the first Trojan Pacific Conference Player of the Year in 1976. He helped USC to the 1974 UPI National Championship. Bell finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1975 after leading the nation in rushing with 1,875 yards — good for third-best all-time in USC history and still the conference's top single-season rushing mark. He followed that up with a 1,433-yard season in 1976 and finished second in the Heisman balloting behing Pitt's Tony Dorsett. He is fourth all-time in school history with 3,689 yards and was elected to the NCAA Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
Anthony Munoz was the prototypical offensive lineman who showed that big men could be agile as well as dominating. A two-time All-American while at USC, Munoz was also talented enough to have pitched for the Trojan’s national championship baseball team in 1978. Knee injuries proved to be a problem for Munoz while at USC, but they did not keep him from having a stellar NFL career, starting 164 of 168 games at the next level.
Lott, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002, is arguably the greatest safety to ever play the game. And he is certainly one of the toughest — considering the "cut it off" story. At USC, the three-year starter led the Trojans to a share of the 1978 National Championship. Lott played in two Rose Bowls and was a consensus All-American in 1980.
Davis' legend was no more apparent than against Notre Dame in 1974. After the Trojans had trailed 24-0 at one point, Davis returned the second half kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. Three more Davis TDs later and the 55-24 comeback had been realized — and his legacy cemented. Davis finished second behind Archie Griffin in the Heisman Trophy voting that season. He is third all-time in school history in rushing with 3,724 yards.
Bush was one of the most electrifying players to ever step on a college football field. He earned the 2005 Heisman Trophy with 1,740 yards rushing and a Pac-10 record 2,890 all-purpose yards — including a conference-record 513 yards in a memorable performance against Fresno State. He finsihed his career with 3,169 yards rushing, good for seventh-best in school history. He won two Pac-10 Player of the Year awards and the 2005 Doak Walker as well. He finished with 6,617 career all-purpose yards. He was a key member of back-to-back National Championship teams in 2003 and 2004 before falling just short of a three-peat against Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
Yary actually started out and excelled as a defensive tackle, earning Pac-8 Defensive Lineman of the Year as a sophomore. Despite his stellar play on defense, coach John McKay asked Yary to switch to the offensive line as a junior. In 1966, Yary’s first year on the offensive line, he was voted a consensus All-American. In his second season along the O-line, Yary topped himself, becoming the first Trojan to win to Outland Trophy. He was also a unanimous All-America selection again while leading the Trojans to the 1967 National Championship.
Leinart became USC's first junior to the win the Heisman Trophy when he did so in 2004 while leading the Trojans to their — and his — second National Championship in a row. He completed 65.3% of his passes for 3,322 yards and 33 touchdowns with only six INTs that season. The three-time All-American was 37-2 as the starter and ranks second all-time on USC's career completions, passing yards and total offense charts. His 99 passing touchdowns are not only a school record but also a Pac-12 record. He owns 16 school records and led his team to three straight national title games.
Simpson became the school's second-ever winner of the Heisman Trophy in 1968 when he captured the coveted award by the most one-sided margin in history. During the regular season in '68, Simpson set an NCAA single-season rushing record with 1,709 (since broken). A two-time All-American, Simpson equaled or broke 19 NCAA, conference and school records. Simpson also topped the 2,000-yard mark in the NFL and at one point held the single-season rushing record in both the NCAA and NFL. His 3,423 yards (in only two seasons) rank him fifth all-time in USC history.
White, a four-year letterman at USC, finished his career as the NCAA's second-leading rusher of all-time with 5,598 regular-season yards. Including bowl games, White finished with a conference-record 6,245 yards rushing. A two-year consensus All-American, White set or equaled 22 NCAA, conference, USC and Rose Bowl records. He topped the 100-yard mark 31 times in his career. He is the Trojans' all-time leading rusher and carried the ball (1,147) more times than any USC player in history. That number is also a conference record. He became the third USC Heisman Trophy winner in 1979 when he rushed for 2,050 yards on 332 carries, scoring 19 times. White finished his career as the Trojans' all-time leading touchdown scorer with 53 and is currently No. 2 in rushing TDs (49, LenDale White, 52).
Allen was college football's first 2,000-yard rusher when he posted an absurd 2,427 yards in 1981. He became USC's fourth Heisman Trophy winner that year, setting 14 new NCAA records and tying two others, including most rushing yards in a season and the highest per-game average (212.9 ypg), most 200-yard games in a career (11), most 200-yard games in a season (8) and most 200-yard game in a row (5). He scored 23 total TDs that season. Allen, USC's No. 2 rusher of all time with 4,810 yards, also led the team in receptions in 1980 (30) and 1981 (31). He finished his career with 46 total TDs scored.