2012 College Football Rankings: Top 5 Kickers: Although often ridiculed and mocked for not even being athletes, there have been countless college football games decided by the foot of a kicker. In fact, an unreliable kicker can be the difference between winning and losing a national title. Just ask Bobby Bowden, who is still the poster child for losing big games on missed field goals. Even in recent years, missed field goals have kept Boise State and Oklahoma State from completing undefeated seasons, and the kicking game nearly cost Alabama a national title last year. Make fun of the short, skinny kicker if you want, but when the game is on the line, a great kicker is a luxury.

2012 College Football Rankings: Top 5 Kickers

1.      Dustin Hopkins, Florida State

He has been starting since he was a freshman, and Hopkins has improved his accuracy in all three years at Florida State. In each of the last two seasons, he has connected on 22 field goals. Hopkins also answered any questions about his leg strength last year, drilling six of his seven attempts from beyond 40 yards. His 55-yard game-winning field goal against Clemson was the cherry on top of a great year. Hopkins was a Lou Groza finalist last season, and he could win the award this year.

2.      Brett Maher, Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska seems to always have a great kicker on its roster. Maher started for the first time last year, and he was definitely impressive. He finished year with 19 field goals in 23 attempts, and only one of those misses came from inside 50 yards. Don’t mistake that stat for an indictment on his leg strength though. Maher hit three of his six attempts from beyond 50 yards last season. He can kick for power, and he is deadly accurate from close range. What more can you ask for out of a kicker?

3.      Caleb Sturgis, Florida Gators

Thanks to a mediocre Florida offense, Sturgis got a chance to showcase his value last season. He finished the year by making 22 of his 26 field goal attempts, and he didn’t miss a single kick from inside 40 yards. Sturgis was forced to cap of plenty of scoring drives from outside the red zone, as well. He hit nine of his 13 attempts from beyond 40 yards, including three of his five attempts from beyond 50 yards. The Gators are still in rebuilding mode in the loaded SEC so there is a good chance Sturgis will called upon early and often again this season.

4.      Zach Hocker, Arkansas Razorbacks

In his two years as the Razorbacks’ kicker, he has connected on 37 of his 46 field goal attempts. Last year, he hit a career-high 21 field goals, including five of his eight attempts from beyond 40 yards. Hocker also came up big in some of Arkansas’ closest games. He knocked in both field goals in a come-from-behind win against Texas A&M, and he hit all three of his attempts in a 31-28 road win against Vanderbilt, including a 50 yarder. Hocker’s foot is a valuable part of the Razorbacks’ high-powered spread attack.

5.      Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State Cowboys

There is little doubt that Sharp has the strongest leg in the country, and the fact that he pulls double duty and also serves as the punter is admirable. Last year was his first as a starter, and he was plenty accurate, connecting on 22 of his 25 field goal attempts. The only reason that he isn’t higher on the list is that most of his attempts came from close range after the Cowboys’ high-powered offense stalled out near the goal line. Sharp attempted just three field goals of more than 40 yards, hitting two, and didn’t have a single attempt from beyond 50 yards. The crucial miss against Iowa State in his toughest spot to date doesn’t help his ranking either.

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