What does it mean to shock an opponent? How about a division?
The dictionary defines a shock as "a sudden and violent blow or impact." In 2012, one team from each of the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences will have such an effect on its division.
In the west, USC is everyone's favorite to win the Pac-12 and the preseason favorite to win the BCS Championship. However, there is enough talent in Eugene, Oregon to seriously bring down USC's chances.
November 3 at the Coliseum, the Ducks and Trojans will compete for what in essence is a preview of the Pac-12 Championship. Each will most likely enter undefeated, but USC will undoubtedly be favored.
For Oregon, one night in November could be enough of a chance to shock its divisional rival. Doing so would completely change the landscape of the conference, as well as the BCS shakedown.
Led by sophomore De'Anthony Thomas, the Ducks possess the offensive explosiveness to outdo Matt Barkley and the similarly high flying Trojans. Yet, because USC will be higher in the rankings, Oregon's win will have a strong and sudden impact on college football standings.
West Virginia is going to take over the Big 12 in its first year as a member of the conference. Behind star QB Geno Smith, the Mountaineers will run through most of their schedule and be in position to contend for a divisional championship at the end of the season.
Moving to a new division can present many new challenges. In West Virginia's case, the move offers the chance to make a severe and immediate impact.
Against divisional opponents the likes of Oklahoma and Texas, West Virginia will need to score in bunches to be successful.
Coach Dana Holgorsen will help Smith command a high-flying offensive attack; the Mountaineers will put it to their opponents in 2012.
West Virginia's matchup to watch this season is its November 17 bout with the Sooners in Morgantown, WV.
At that point, the Mountaineers success should come as less of a shock to those who observe throughout the season.
Heading into the 2012 season, all of the Big Ten hype has surrounded Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, Ohio State and Urban Meyer, Michigan and Alabama. Or if you prefer, all of the Big Ten hype has stayed clear of the Michigan State Spartans.
In 2012, the Spartans are not to be overlooked. Despite losing QB Kirk Cousins to the 2012 NFL Draft, Michigan State will be a strong candidate to return to the Big Ten Championship.
Tough games on the schedule include hosting Boise State, hosting Ohio State, playing at Michigan and playing at Wisconsin. If the Spartans win two of the four games, they stand in good position to earn a berth to the Big Ten finale on December 1.
The Spartans will shock their conference with defense. Returning starters like DE William Gholston and LB Denicos Allen will lead the Spartans in enough close game victories to be in contention when all the cards fall.
At the end of the season, Michigan State will step out of the dramatic shadow cast by fellow Big Ten rivals and emerge as the true muscle of its conference.
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