It's a good time of year to be searching for the "it" teams that will come out of nowhere -- a la the 2010 Auburn Tigers -- to emerge as national title contenders, and there are several teams already emerging as potential breakthrough candidates ahead of the upcoming season.
To make room for newcomers at the top, however, there will have to be some teams dropping off in 2011. Which teams could be taking a dip this season? We can find them by examining several clues. For starters, teams that benefited from close wins or other forms of good luck may have had their records inflated a bit last year. Teams that had statistical profiles that weren't as strong as their records indicated are also among those more likely to suffer a decrease in win totals.
Using those ideas and focusing on several of the key statistical categories we used in our Eliminator series, we came up with one team from each BCS conference that appears to be on the verge of a drop-off in 2011:
Texas A&M Aggies (9-4 in 2010)
Speaking of "it" teams, the Aggies have been earning plenty of buzz this offseason as candidates to break through in the Big 12. While this isn't entirely unwarranted -- Ryan Tannehill's midseason insertion at QB, for example, greatly improved the team's offensive production last season -- there are warning signs for the Aggies as well.
Statistically, A&M was mediocre last season in the categories that correlate most significantly with college football success. And there are some key areas (turnover margin, 80th nationally; sacks allowed, 104th nationally) in which the team will need to show serious improvement in 2011. In addition, three of the Aggies' nine wins last season were by seven points or fewer. Add in a rather brutal schedule, and you can see why Aggies fans may want to temper their enthusiasm a bit.