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Five 'sleeping giants' for 2012

Utah, Michigan and Virginia are three programs on the rise. Icon SMI/US Presswire

Now that the dust is close to settling on one of the wildest late November stretches college football has ever experienced, it's only natural to look ahead. No, not at the LSU Tigers-Arkansas Razorbacks showdown or the potentially complicated final BCS calculations; instead, we're doing some early 2012 forecasting and examining the programs that are ready to make the leap from good to great.

Just who will be the next Oregon Ducks, Stanford Cardinal or Oklahoma State Cowboys? These three programs, all of which spent time in the top five of the BCS standings this season, weren't always ranked among college football's elite. The Ducks' emergence began back in 2007 when they hired a mad scientist from New Hampshire, Chip Kelly, to ratchet up their offensive tempo and production. Oklahoma State leveraged new facilities and resources to upgrade their speed and talent, while Jim Harbaugh forcefully willed a culture change on the Farm, maximizing brains with brawn.

Here are five "sleeping giants" poised to have breakthrough seasons in 2012.

Michigan Wolverines