Hope: Lots of it. BYU finished 11-2 last year including a last-minute bowl victory over UCLA to avenge one of its defeats. Nine starters return on offense including surprise quarterback Max Hall, who transferred in from Arizona State.
Change: Only three defensive starters return which could spell trouble although there are only two underclassmen projected among the starters.
Straight Talk: The more I think about it this may be a bit high for the Cougars. They'll be tested early against Washington and UCLA before things lighten up. Their defense wasn't bad last year (3 yards/carry, 210 pass yards, 57% completions) but that could take a hit which the offense needs to make up.
Hope: Tommy Tuberville is above peers when it comes to choosing qualified coordinators (ignoring the Hugh Nall disaster). He's lost a ton of them in recent memory, and his newest test is offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. He brings in a wide-open offense As Seen On TV/Internet.
Change: The new offense moves Auburn into the modern era offensively, but is it too fancy for the hard-hitting SEC? Florida had no trouble transitioning to Urban Meyer's offense, but they've kept focus on being tough and Tim Tebow is a major piece of that artillery. Kodi Burns isn't powerfully built so the test will be how well Auburn keeps its powerful backs involved.
Straight Talk: Auburn looks a bit down this year, but they always, always beat one or two teams nobody expects them to. I don't envision a 10 win season, but they should be a gleeful spoiler in a loaded SEC this year and come out of it with 8 or 9 wins like last year.
Hope: Something better? The Colt McCoy toughness shtick got a bit old last year as he tossed 18 interceptions and was bailed out late in the year by a resurgent Jamaal Charles. In steps the very athletic John Chiles to shoulder a bit more of the quarterback burden and add a new element to the position not seen since Vince Young.
Change: Only four defensive starters are back. Will Muschamp was hired from Auburn to revive the Texas defense and give them a bit more toughness and energy.
Straight Talk: Texas is still very near in memory to that 2005 title team and I think is still sleepwalking a bit since then. They're fat and happy if you will. Between that mentality and lack of a real national star on either side of the ball to give them more of an identity, I think we're looking at another typical Texas season with 10 or so wins and a likely defeat to Oklahoma.
17: Texas Tech
Hope: That the program's crazy offense plays even better than last year and that its defense continues to have a pulse. If they can merely stop someone on occasion Texas Tech is suddenly quite dangerous. Their defense found a pulse after the termination of the DC midway through last year, and more of the same is expected.
Change: Not much other than experience. A total of 18 starters are projected to return, including the program's two best players in receiver Michael Crabtree and quarterback Graham Harrell. I can look at Crabtree's numbers last year as a redshirt freshman and I still don't believe them they're that good.
Straight Talk: This is a put up or shut up year for Texas Tech. The offense is always good, but they appeared to have turned a corner last year with Crabtree's ascent and the victory over Oklahoma. People are expecting very big things this year, including a victory over Texas and being near the top of the Big 12 South standings.
Hope: The program is experiencing a breath of fresh air with the departure of good guy but curmudgeonly Lloyd Carr. Rich Rodriguez's offenses at West Virginia were ridiculous, and achieved with modest talent. Michigan recruits better than all but a few programs, so people are putting two and two together and thinking Michigan's headed for the elite quite soon.
Change: Of course, that won't happen overnight. Michigan had to face the transfer of the likely starting quarterback and a starting linemen and others will likely depart after they realize they're not good fits once the season starts.
Straight Talk: Michigan will take its lumps early, but I think they'll be way better than expected. The Big 10 isn't particularly daunting this year and the program's excitement and positive vibes may give them a psychological edge that trumps the newness to the system. Michigan showed tremendous guys in rebounding from the home disasters against Appalachian State and Oregon last year. Credit goes to the old staff, but also to the players who kept their heads straight and went about the business of getting to a decent bowl and then taking it to Florida. I see similar gumption holding the team together this year.