6. S. CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
• Coach: Steve Spurrier (197–75–2) eighth year at school.
• Returning starters: Offense 6, defense 5.
• Top players: RB Marcus Lattimore, DE Jadeveon Clowney, DE Devin Taylor, DeVonte Holloman.
• Voids to fill: WR Alshon Jeffery, QB Stephen Garcia.
• Outlook: They’re calling it “New Carolina.” That’s the attitude of the Gamecocks after last year’s record-setting season. South Carolina finished with 11 wins, a school record, but it has the pieces in place to accomplish even more this season — even, perhaps, the unthinkable.
7. OREGON DUCKS
• Coach: Chip Kelly (34-6) fourth year at school.
Returning starters: Offense 4, defense 7.
• Top players: RB Kenjon Barner, WR De’Anthony Thomas, DE Dion Jordan.
• Voids to fill: RB LaMichael James, QB Darron Thomas, TE David Paulson.
• Key tests: Oct.6 vs. Washington, Nov.3 at USC.
• Outlook: The Ducks’ spread-option offense shouldn’t miss a beat with speedy redshirt sophomore quarterback Bryan Bennett taking over for Darron Thomas. A talented group of linebackers might be the key to Oregon holding off USC and winning its fourth straight conference title.
8. WISCONSIN BADGERS
• Coach: Bret Bielema (60-19) seventh year at school.
• Returning starters: Offense 5, defense 6.
• Top players: RB Montee Bell, RB James White, LB Mike Taylor, DE David Gilbert.
• Voids to fill: QB Russell Wilson, DE Louis Nzegwu.
• Key Tests: Sept. 29 at Nebraska, Nov.17 at Ohio State.
Outlook: The Badgers are deep at running back but replace one quarterback transfer with another. Turnover among assistant coaches (12 in the past three years) is bound to take a toll at some point.
9. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
Coach: Jimbo Fisher (19-8) third year at school.
• Returning starters: Offense 7, defense 8
• Top players: QB EJ Manuel RB Chris Thompson, DE Brandon Jenkins, DE Bjoern Werner.
• Voids to fill: CB Greg Reid, LB Nigel Bradham.
• Key tests: Sept.22 vs. Clemson, Nov.8 at Virginia Tech.
• Outlook: The Noles’ offensive line was a sieve last season. It allowed 41 sacks. Protecting quarterback EJ Manuel will be the key to FSU either playing to its potential against a light schedule or falling short of expectations.
10. W. VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
Coach: Dana Holgorsen (10-3) second year at school.
• Returning starters: Offense 8, defense 7.
• Top players: QB Geno Smith, WR Tavon Austin, SS Darwin Cook, RB Dustin Garrison.
• Voids to fill: WR Tyler Urban, WR Devon Brown.
• Key tests: Oct.6 at Texas, Nov.10 at Oklahoma State.
• Outlook: The Mountaineers have the right man to lead them into the Big 12. Quarterback Gino Smith of Miramar is one of the best passers in the country and can more than keep up with the Landry Jones’ of the world. West Virginia’s defense, on the other hand, might have an adjustment period to the new conference.