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College Football Random Thoughts From Around the Country: The Ghosts of Football Future

What does the future hold for the historically elite of College Football?

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The arrival of the first playoff to Division I (FBS) college football this season is a historic moment in the sport. From an experiment born 146 years ago to the multi-million dollar spectacle it has become today, no moment in time will be bigger than the playoff that begins on January 1, 2015.

The four teams involved draw an interesting picture of the history of the college game. On one side is two historic teams in Alabama and Ohio State. On the other side are two schools who have only found success in the last few decades.

The early years of college football were dominated by the Ivy Leagues. Around the turn of the century, Fielding H. Yost built a powerhouse at Michigan winning national championships from 1901-1904. From there, the big state schools soon left the Ivy Leaguers in the dust.

Some schools have been able to retain their gridiron success over the years. Others such as Georgia Tech have had sporadic triumphs, while others like Pitt have disappeared.

So, here we are at the end of 2014. Where do programs across the country stand in the annals of college football? If there was Mount Rushmore of college football programs, the first head would be Alabama. As difficult as it may be to admit, the next could likely be Notre Dame, followed by Southern Cal and Michigan. [Yes, I know that is open to debate but stick with me for a moment here]

Thinking of the historic teams makes me ponder the future of these programs. For the sake of argument, let's take a look at the above four plus Ohio State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas. These eight represent the top eight in all-time wins and the only programs with 70% or higher win record.

Team W L T % Claimed NCs
Michigan 915 328 36 72.9% 11
Notre Dame 881 310 42 73.2% 11
Texas 881 345 33 71.3% 4
Nebraska 874 360 40 70.2% 5
Ohio State 856 319 53 71.9% 7
Oklahoma 848 314 53 72.0% 7
Alabama 845 324 43 71.5% 15
Southern Cal 797 323 54 70.2% 11

Before you start saying "what about (such-and-such team)...?", know that FSU did not win their first crown until the 1990s. Miami was a perennial doormat until Howard Schnellenberger's teams of the 1980s. Penn State has not been doing it as long. Oregon has 0 titles. etc. etc. etc. I am trying to include only programs that have been winning pretty consistently over the last 100 years or so and fill the criteria in the chart above.

* Later this week, we will look at the SEC, so let's save that discussion for then. *

Alabama Crimson Tide

Ghost of Football Past: 15 claimed National Championships (1925, 1926, 1930, 1934, 1941, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011, 2012) from five different coaches, Bear Bryant, Houndstooth, Roll Tide.
Ghost of Football Present: Clearly one of the top programs of the past ten years if not the top of the heap.
Ghost of Football Future: I cannot see this train slowing down as long as Nick Saban is at the helm. The key to keeping it going will be in his eventual successor.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Ghost of Football Past: 11 claimed National Championships (1924, 1929, 1930, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988), Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian, Touchdown Jesus, Rudy, seven Heisman winners.
Ghost of Football Present: An embarrassing beat down in the 2012 BCSNC game was followed by 9-4 last season and 7-5 this season. Some recent controversies, embarrassments, and bad press have tarnished the shine of the Golden Dome.
Ghost of Football Future: NBC extended their contract to televise Notre Dame football games through the 2025 season. They still have the fans and for some reason can still pull in some naive recruits on name recognition alone. But it is getting harder and harder to convince kids that cold-ass South Bend is better than locations below the Mason-Dixon Line. In all honesty, I can't see them winning a championship anytime soon.

Southern Cal Trojans

Ghost of Football Past: 11 claimed National Championships (1928, 1931, 1932, 1939, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1978, 2003, 2004), six Heisman winners (not counting Reggie Bush), John McKay, Tailback U., Rose Bowl glory, hot cheerleaders in sweaters.
Ghost of Football Present: While former coach Pete Carroll hoisted the Lombardi Trophy last February, the Trojans struggled to recover from the mess he left behind. The former bastion of 5-stars with Hollywood shine has been smudged a bit but they have not fallen too far behind... yet.
Ghost of Football Future: It will take some time, but the Men of Troy can claw their way back into annual contention for a playoff spot. They have the resources and still have the luminosity to stay amongst the elite. However, it likely won't be under Steve Sarkisian. Expect their next hire to be a blockbuster.

Michigan Wolverines

Ghost of Football Past: 11 claimed National Championships (1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918, 1923, 1932, 1933, 1947, 1948, 1997), Bo Schembechler, The Big House, President Gerald Ford, seven Heisman winners.
Ghost of Football Present: Rich Rodriguez (15-22, B1G 6-18) was a colossal failure and Brady Hoke had a good first year (2011: 11-2, 6-2) while progressively getting worse (8-5, 7-6, 5-7). Big Blue has had one win against rival Ohio State in the last eleven meetings.
Ghost of Football Future: A rich tradition and a big ol' stadium is nice but it has not been helping UM lately. Unless they can land a big-time coach like Jim Harbaugh, there may be many lean years ahead for the Wolverines. And even hiring someone like Harbaugh does not guarantee a return to greatness. Furthermore, I am not sure he'd stick around too long before he returns to the NFL. I'd be surprised to see a National Championship land in Ann Arbor in Denard Robinson's lifetime.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Ghost of Football Past: 7 claimed National Championships (1942, 1954, 1957, 1961, 1968, 1970, 2002), Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel and "Tattoogate", seven Heisman winners.
Ghost of Football Present: The sheer arrogance of former coach Tressel and former school president Gordon Gee turned OSU into an easy villain. But thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, Urban Meyer was able to end his short-lived retirement and win a few games at Columbus. From 2012 through 2013, Meyer's Buckeyes bragged about a 24-game win streak but were 0-2 in post-season play last season (they were ineligible during the 2012 season). Thewy have won a lot of games the last three seasons but not many of the Ws have been too impressive.
Ghost of Football Future: The Buckeyes game against Alabama is bigger than you might think. This could be a defining moment for this program for years to come. If they get blown out, it could leave a long-lasting scar, multiplying the skeptics and doubters.

Oklahoma Sooners

Ghost of Football Past: 7 claimed National Championships (1950, 1955, 1956, 1974, 1975, 1985, 2000), Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer,  "Boomer Sooner", the loss of the Nebraska as a rival, five Heisman winners.
Ghost of Football Present: Bob Stoops brought Sooner Nation their first championship since Ronald Reagan was in office in 2000. This was followed by BCS National Championship Game losses in the 2003, 2004, and 2008 seasons. Since that time, they have had mostly respectable seasons but one could get the feeling that malaise is setting in. They have won four of the last five Red River Rivalry games against Texas.
Ghost of Football Future: This team can still compete for championships but they need some help from their stubborn conference.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Ghost of Football Past: 5 claimed National Championships (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997), Tom Osbourne, the loss of the Oklahoma as a rival.
Ghost of Football Present: The Huskers lost to Miami in 2001 season National Championship Game but have done little else since them. A questionable move to the Big Ten Conference in 2011 has not aided their image.
Ghost of Football Future: Nebraska is no longer a destination college for top ranked high school prospects. I have a hard time believing this program will see their way back to the top of the mountain any time soon.

Texas Longhorns

Ghost of Football Past: 4 claimed National Championships (1963, 1969, 1970, 2005), Darrell Royal, Vince Young's high-profile NFL flop.
Ghost of Football Present: Ever since Alabama trashed them in the 2009 BCSCG, it has been a downward spiral. They have lost four of the last five Red River Rivalry games against Texas.
Ghost of Football Future: In what could be perceived as the most unhealthily rabid fanbase, Bevo Nation expects to win every game by 59 points or more. Expectations are always unrealistically high and make for a high-pressured situation for any coach. Truth be told, what this program needs is a Nick Saban-type who can control everything and tell the rich billionaire oilmen alumni to take a hike. Charlie Strong is a good man but he is not that kind of coach. More hard times lie ahead for the Longhorns.

~~~~~

#TOOMANYBOWLS

I come from an old school of thought that only teams who have had exemplary seasons deserve to be rewarded with a bowl game. I get that most of these bowls are money-driven programming for ESPN. But I have a hard time respecting a team that goes 6-6 or 7-5 and in some occasions 8-5 (especially when one or two of the Ws come against a D-II [FCS] teams). Not everyone should get a trophy. Furthermore, I don't want to hear these schools bragging about going to a bowl game a certain number of years in a row because it means so little these days. Now get off my lawn.

New Orleans Bowl: UL Lafayette 16, Nevada 3 - not a great start to Bowl Season.
New Mexico Bowl: Utah State 21, UTEP 6 - Not much better but keep an eye on USU in the future.
Las Vegas Bowl: Utah 45, Colorado State 10 - The two Utes were just too much for our adopted Rams.
Potato Bowl: Air Force 38, Western Michigan 24 - This game had few fans show up. A total disgrace.
Camellia Bowl: Bowling Green 33, South Alabama 28 - Good try by the Jags.
Miami Beach Bowl: Memphis 55, BYU 48 (OT) - An exciting game that ended ugly.
Boca Raton Bowl: Marshall 52, Northern Illinois 23 - meh.
Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State 16 Navy 14 - 4th Qtr - Ended after my bedtime.

~~~~~

NFL.com

2015 NFL Draft

Florida now has three underclassmen declaring for the 2015 NFL Draft: junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., junior running back Matt Jones, and redshirt junior offensive linemen Tyler Moore. Jones is either a little full of himself or getting some really bad advice. There are a good dozen running back that likely get picked before him including Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, and Cameron Artis-Payne, not to mention T.J. Yeldon and Josh Robinson if they choose to leave early as well. Moore is just fooling himself.

The following underclassmen have declared their intentions to enter the 2015 NFL draft:

Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida – Duh, no brainer. This guy is a likely first round pick.
Tyler Moore, OT/G, Florida – Look for this guy to be delivering Sonic corn dogs to your car a year from now.
Matt Jones, RB, Florida – Third day pick (Rounds 4-7).
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia – The big question will be: just how hurt/durable is this guy? First round talent but a gamble on long-term health.
Jalen Collins, CB, LSU – The Tigers will hate to see him geaux but he's probably a second day pick (rounds 2-3).
Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn – Could probably use another year in college but some team will take a chance on him in early rounds.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin – He will be one of the first RBs selected
Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State – A talented guy but lotsa RB talent in front of him.
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA – This guy is a tad full of himself and really needs to stick around Westwood another year and hone his skills.
Eli Harold, DE/OLB, Virginia – Likely a third day pick but who wants to stick around UVa another year?
Gerod Holliman, S, Louisville - outside of Landon Collins, there won't be too many top-tier safeties in this draft. So, it's probably a good move.
Marcus Peters, CB, Washington – Talented but this guy is trouble. Dismissed from UW for arguing with coaches.
Durell Eskridge, S, Syracuse – Another meh prospect at safety but not a deep draft at the position.
Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State – Likely second day pick
Devin Funchess, WR/TE, Michigan – A solid NFL prospect, who was not used properly at UM.
Lorenzo Doss, CB, Tulane – WHO?
Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State – Dismissed from Ohio State AND ruled permanently ineligible by the Big Ten over drug issues.

There is a long list of players who have yet to declare including anyone from Alabama:

Landon Collins, S, Alabama - Likely Top 15 pick.
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama - First WR picked, possible top ten.
Kris Frost, LB, Auburn
Avery Young, OL, Auburn
Cassanova McKinzy, LB, Auburn
Jalen Mills, S, LSU
Danielle Hunter, DE/OLB, LSU
Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana - Nation's second leading rusher.
Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma - sat out this year after getting booted from Mizzou (pot).
Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State - solid.
Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State - stock has dropped but MSU loses a TON of talent.
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State - Just go already.
D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
Shane Ray, DE, Missouri - First or second rounder.
Leonard Williams, DL, USC - Solid pick.
Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas - Fits the NFL RB mold. [UPDATE: Williams has announced he will return for another season in Fayetteville]

~~~~~

Extra Points

  • A situation is developing in Oxford. No, it's not Hugh Freeze's $1 Million+ raise, although that is newsworthy. It is the future of quarterback for the Rebel Black Bear Ackbars. As you probably know, Bad Bo Wallace and Good Bo Wallace have run out of eligibility. So, Freeze goes out and signs former Clemson and juco QB Chad Kelly. If you don't recall, Kelly was thrown out of the Tigers' spring game and escorted out of the stadium by CU police. He was later booted from the team. This past weekend, the 20-year old Buffalo native gets into a fight with some bouncers at a club late into the AM. The bar employees probably would've let it go but Kelly threatens "I'm going to go to my car and get my AK-47 and spray this place," according to a report. The police were called and Kelly takes swings and kicks at the cops. He has seven charges to his name. According to people who know him, Kelly thinks he is above everyone being the nephew of Bills great Jim Kelly. The point here is that the guy is not a good person and Ole Miss has a GREAT need at quarterback. It will be interesting to see what Freeze does.
  • Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd was cited for underage consumption of alcohol. He will not miss the Vols' bowl game with Iowa on January 2.
  • Former 4-star WR Shaq Roland has quit the Gamecocks football team. His rocky career at South Carolina ends after 3 years. He was the team's third leading receiver (26-356, 4 TD) in 2014.
  • The money getting thrown at coaches these days is mind-boggling and FSU is no exception after locking down Jimbo Fisher through the 2022 season with a pay rate believed to be at well over $5 million annually.
    HELP WANTED
  • Barry Odom returns to Mizzou as the new defensive coordinator after a three-year stint at Memphis in the same role. Odom played for the Mizz from 1996-99 and then served nine years (2003-11) as part of Gary Pinkel’s staff in various jobs, including director of recruiting and director of football operations. Memphis finished the season tenth in the nation in points given up with a 19.5 average per game.
  • Longtime Mark Richt offensive coordinator Mike Bobo succeeds Jim McElwain as the head coach of Colorado State. UGA fans will have to find someone new to blame for Bulldogs losses. Bobo is reportedly taking former Bama o-lineman and UGA offensive line coach Will Friend along with him as OC. These two men have been two of Richt's best recruiters in recent years.
  • In a strange twist of fate, McElwain's new OC at Florida will be Michigan’s Doug Nussmeier who succeeded him as OC at Alabama after the 2011 season. Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will serve as DC for the Gators.
  • The merry-go-round continues as Paul Chryst leaves Pitt for his alma mater Wisconsin. The former Badgers QB served as OC in Madison from 2005–2011.
  • Kevin Sumlin has been given carte blanche to find someone to fix Texas A&M's painfully woeful defense. So far, he has reportedly contacted LSU's John Chavis and possibly UGA's Jeremy Pruitt.
  • Michigan continues their relentless pursuit for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines might be up a certain creek without a paddle if he finally gets around to turning them down. Tick...tick...tick...

  • ~~~~~

    Black_white_tv_salesman_medium

    Wednesday, December 24, 2014
    Bahamas Bowl, Nassau, Bahamas Western Kentucky (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (7-5) 11am / Noon - ESPNESPN
    Hawaii Bowl, Honolulu, Hawaii Fresno State (6-7) vs. Rice (7-5) 7pm / 8pm - ESPNESPN

    Friday, December 26, 2014
    Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dallas, TX Illinois (6-6) vs. Louisiana Tech (8-5) Noon 1pm - ESPNESPN
    Ice Bowl, Detroit, Mich. Rutgers (7-5) vs. North Carolina (6-6) 3:30pm / 4:30pm - ESPNESPN
    St. Petersburg Bowl, St. Petersburg, Fla. NC State (7-5) vs. UCF (9-3) 7pm / 8pm - ESPNESPN

    Saturday, December 27, 2014
    Military Bowl, Annapolis, Md. Virginia Tech (6-6) vs. Cincinnati (9-3) Noon / 1pm - ESPNESPN
    Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas Duke (9-3) vs. Arizona State (9-3) 1pm / 2pm – CBS
    Independence Bowl, Shreveport, La. Miami (Fla.) (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6) 3pm / 4pm – ABCABC
    Pinstripe Bowl, Bronx, N.Y. Boston College (7-5) vs. Penn State (6-6) 3:30pm / 4:30pm - ESPNESPN
    Holiday Bowl, San Diego, Calif. Nebraska (9-3) vs. Southern Cal (8-4) 7pm / 8pm - ESPNESPN

    Monday, December 29, 2014
    Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn. West Virginia (7-5) vs. Texas A&M (7-5) 1pm / 2pm - ESPNESPN
    Athletic Wear Bowl, Orlando, Fla. Clemson (9-3) vs. Oklahoma (8-4) 4:30pm / 5:30pm - ESPNESPN
    Texas Bowl, Houston, TX Texas (6-6) vs. Arkansas (6-6) 8pm / 9pm - ESPNESPN

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014
    Music City Bowl, Nashville, Tenn. Notre Dame (7-5) vs. LSU (8-4) 2pm / 3pm - ESPNESPN
    Department Store Bowl, Charlotte, N.C. Louisville (9-3) vs. Georgia (9-3) 5:45pm / 6:45pm - ESPNESPN
    After My Bedtime Bowl, Santa Clara, CA Maryland (7-5) vs. Stanford (7-5) 9pm / 10pm - ESPNESPN

    Nothing else really worth mentioning, except...

    alabama christmas house 2

    MERRY CHRISTMAS, Y'ALL!

    SUGAR BOWL

    Alabama vs. Ohio State 7:30pm CT / 8:30pm ET - ESPNESPNBrad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, Holly "Death" Rowe

    SuperDome, New Orleans, LA

    #ALABAMA

    ROLL TIDE!