Below is an excerpt from the College Football America 2013 Yearbook Encyclopedia, available now. College Football America features 919 college football teams in 454 full-color pages, including every NCAA Division I FBS, FCS, Division II, Division III, NAIA and junior college program. CFA also features Canada Interuniversity Sport, club football programs, one-year postgraduate prep academies and Mexico’s college football scene. You can own the College Football America 2013 Yearbook Encyclopedia for just $5.99 as a beautiful digital PDF eBook that looks great on your kindle, your iPad or your regular computer and we recommend viewing it in Adobe Reader to enjoy the full-color capabilities. Purchase the College Football America 2013 Yearbook Encyclopedia today.
By Kendall Webb/College Football America publisher
Major College Football finally will have a playoff. After years of trying to convince us that a playoff was not the best way to crown a champion (despite the fact that every other NCAA team sport is decided by a playoff), the powers that be finally caved and gave everybody not named E. Gordon Gee what they wanted.
A college football playoff.
Actually the College Football Playoff. The same guys who gave us the undeniably flawed but nevertheless creative system of media polls, coaches polls and computer rankings that made up the BCS apparently needed a marketing firm to tell them that the college football playoff should be called, ahem, the College Football Playoff.
Maybe the pedestrian name is their way of saying “all right, fans, you win, but we’re not exactly thrilled with it.” Or it could be that major college football just doesn’t have that many geniuses sitting at the table making the crucial decisions. Hmm.
There is, however, one more year of the old, obsolete system first because the College Football Playoff (we just like saying that) does not take effect until after the 2014 season. That means one more year of looking at polls and computer rankings and any column written by Jerry Palm to help us understand it all. But at least this time, knowing our playoff is coming, we can sit back and enjoy what Gee, the recently-retired president of Ohio State University, once called the “mixed-up mystery” of the BCS.
A Southeastern Dynasty
The Southeastern Conference has produced the last seven national champions under the current system, and it’s quite possible that the streak will reach eight by the end of the 2013 season. Heck, the AFCA National Championship Trophy awarded to the champion hasn’t even left the state of Alabama in the past four years.
That’s because there’s a dynasty within the dynasty. If the SEC is collectively the best conference in the country, it’s due in no small part to the fact that the Alabama Crimson Tide have won three of those seven championships in the last four years sandwiched awkwardly around one Auburn title. And if the SEC’s dynasty continues, don’t be surprised if it’s because the Tide are placing another crystal football (albeit, more carefully this time) on their championship mantle.
We’ve got them ranked No. 1 heading into the 2013 season, and if they do win the title, it will establish a new precedent in terms of college football excellence. The current Tide run marks only the third time in history since the Associated Press poll first began crowning a national champion that a school has won three titles in a four-year span. (Nebraska accomplished the feat in 1994, 1995 and 1997 while Notre Dame pulled it off in 1946, 1947 and 1949.) No team has ever won three in a row, and the Tide has won the past two. And no team has ever won four championships in a five-year span.
Maybe we’re just drinking a tall glass of Crimson Kool-Aid, though, because certainly the Tide lost a lot of All-American and NFL-caliber talent. Eight Crimson Tide players were selected in the NFL draft including the No. 9-11 picks back-to-back-to-back in the first round in cornerback Dee Milliner and offensive linemen Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker. It’s enough to put any mortal FBS team in rebuilding mode.
But this is Tuscaloosa, where the current head coach himself is already considered immortal. Nick Saban has his own statue outside of Bryant-Denny Stadium next to a few others (including a statue of some fellow named Paul “Bear” Bryant), and even with those incredible losses, the Tide still appear to have enough talent returning to make another title run. That includes their senior leader, quarterback AJ McCarron, who led the nation in quarterback rating last year.
Sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon also returns after running for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012 in a backup role. It’s true the Tide will have to break in three new starters up front, but the newcomers have talent, and they should gel quickly under Saban’s tutelage.
Defensively, the Tide will miss Milliner’s ability as a shutdown corner, but a strong linebacking corps led by C.J. Mosley should apply enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks to help neutralize the loss. The bottom line is, for now, it’s Alabama in major college football … and then everybody else.
Challengers to the Throne
Perhaps, the greatest threat to Alabama’s reign comes, as usual, from within the SEC. And not surprisingly, it could come from within its own West division.
Last year the Crimson Tide’s only loss came within the division when SEC newcomer Texas A&M shocked the college football world by rolling into Tuscaloosa and punching the defending national champions in the mouth. Behind the Heisman Trophy-clinching performance of freshman phenom Johnny Manziel, the Aggies would jump out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter then hang on for dear life late in the fourth quarter as his counterpart McCarron almost rallied the Tide before falling short in a stunning 29-24 upset.
Fast forward to the coming season. Alabama will have an early test against Virginia Tech on August 31 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in one of the opening weekend’s most anticipated matchups, but the Tide should prevail. Meanwhile, Texas A&M, our preseason No. 6, will host Rice in a game that isn’t expected to be close.
The Tide will then take a week off while the Aggies host FCS opponent Sam Houston State on September 7 in what should be another walk in the park. Then it’s ‘game on’ — the rematch on Saturday, September 14 in College Station between the Tide and the Aggies is the most-anticipated game of the upcoming season in a contest that could feature two Top 5 teams. The winner will hold the inside track to one of the spots in the final BCS National Championship Game.
It’s not out of the question that the loser, however, could still climb back into the No. 2 spot by season’s end. Both will still have opportunities to pad their resumes in the brutal SEC West, and an All-SEC West national title game has happened before. It wouldn’t completely surprise us to see it again.
Of course, it’s also possible that any of the SEC East powers could finally break through as well. No. 4 Georgia, anyone? No? How about No. 7 Florida or No. 9 South Carolina? Suffice it to say, half of our preseason Top 10 is from the SEC, and none of them would be a complete surprise in the BCS title game. Either way, we firmly believe the SEC champion will play for the title again whether it’s Alabama or somebody else.
The Non-SEC Contenders
Outside the SEC, the No. 2 Oregon Ducks would appear to have a solid chance at a title run. Wait, you say, isn’t head coach Chip Kelly in the NFL now? Sure, Kelly is gone, but the architect of the high-flying Duck offenses of years past is still in Eugene. The program opted for continuity promoting former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich to replace Kelly who is now the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
In the Midwest, Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes were the authors of a 12-0 Cinderella story in 2012, but were, unfortunately, ineligible for a bowl. There are no restrictions this year, and you figure if Meyer can inspire his troops to an undefeated season when they were playing for nothing then you have to figure this team is hungry to make it count this time.
Clemson, meanwhile, is at No. 5 in our preseason rankings, but even we’re not sure if we buy it. Recent ACC history says they will end up being pretenders to the throne, and a stumble or two along the way wouldn’t surprise us.
Finally, that takes us to the somewhat fading Big 12 where perennial underperformer Oklahoma might play second fiddle to in-state rival and preseason No. 8 Oklahoma State this fall. An undefeated run by either seems unlikely and the Big 12 champion may finish on the outside looking in. Again.
— Kendall Webb