What the Top 25 should look like
I was thinking the other day about college football and fans' relationships to their own team. In my experience, CFB fans are among the most delusional in the country. It seems every fan base thinks their program is either underachieving or wildly overachieving.
Some fans seem to think that just because their program has peformed well in the past (cough, Nebraska, cough) that they are entitled to success in the present and future. Others, meanwhile, dismiss inexplicible mediocrity (Texas, from the days of my youth, Notre Dame, UCLA, etc.) and make excuses for their programs' less-than-elite status. Some fans don't appreciate what they have (Kansas State, Arkansas), and others have unrealistic expectations depite the advantages they have (Ohio State).
To counter some of the hyperbole I can not escape during CFB season, I have put together my own list the top 25 CFB programs in the best position to do well. This has very little to do with past performances, although history and legacy are important to a program's upward mobiity.
This is what the Top 25 would look like, IMO, is every program was run equally well. Thinking about this gave me respect for the Kansas States, Boise States, Northwesterns and TCUs of the world and made me wag my finger in shame at the recent plights in Westwood, Seattle, Champaign and South Bend.
Not only are they in a prime recruiting locale, but they also have the advantage of being one of only two or three NATIONAL recruiting powers. The Trojans have one of the wealthiest alumni bases, perfect sunny L.A. weather and women and have program approaching their stature within 1500 miles.
They are the major state school (with no real competition) in Americaís best football state. The Longhorns hold such an iron fist over the league in which they play, they single-handedly saved the conference after nearly single-handedly destroying it. The Longhorn Network, and ESPNís partnership, will provide Longhorn athletes with a level of exposure never before seen at the collegiate level.
The state of Florida isnít quite the state of Texas, and the Gators donít hold a hammerlock over the state like the Horns do, but they are still privileged to be the No. 1 school in a football-rich state. The success the Gators had under Spurrier and Urban should not be seen as abberations.
4. Ohio State
Ohio is a great football state, and the Buckeyes have no serious opposition within their own borders. With a history of success and the largest alumni base in the country, the Buckeyes should dominate the Big Ten on a year-in, year-out basis.
5. Penn State
Present issues excluded, Penn State has one of the most advantageous setups in all of college football. Like OSU, they are the undisputed power in a massive, football-mad state. They also have better connections and easier access to elite players in the Northeast than any other major power.
Unlike the programs ranked above them, the Wolverines have to recruit outside their borders to be elite, but that is hardly an excuse. They are the most aggressively marketed university in the entire country. The school feels more private than public, and their hoydy-toydy arrogance is very attractive to many recruits. It also doesnít hurt the UM has been playing football longer than most schools, allowing them to build a richer legacy.
7. Florida State
The Noles have been quiet for a while, but they are on their way back, because they are finally not being managed by a dinosaur. The No. 2 school in Florida with easy access to Georgia and Alabama should never struggle as long as they did.
LSU has one of the best atmospheres in college football and a great recent track record of success. Like most states in the south, Louisiana is very fertile grounds for recruiting, and the Tigers have no major in-state competition.
Oklahoma has the weakest recruiting base of any program in the top 10, but their history and proximity to Texas make them a power to be reckon with. It also helps that, outside of Texas and Oklahoma, there really hasnít been a power program in the Big XII in a long time.
Bama has one of the richest legacies in college football history. The long list of college and NFL greats donning the halls of their football complex and the religious atmosphere around the program makes Bama one of the most exciting programs in the country to be a part of.
11. Notre Dame
Still one of the most recognizable brand names in NCAA. National recruiting. History. Terrible weather. Very conservative.
Great weather. Beautiful campus. Rivalry with USC. Should be able to pull in 20 4-stars a year.
Huge backing from Nike. Great facilities. Progressive-minded area and university. Few regional competitors.
Southern university with rich history. A number of great rivalries. Plays in the nationís premier conference.
Tremendous history and tradition. Great lineage of NFL stars. Not located in a prime recruiting area.
16. Texas A&M
No. 2 school in best state in country. Unique, visceral traditions. VERY conservative.
Youíd think theyíd be higher. Great location. Beaches. Beautiful women. The U legacy. Lousy fan support. Lackluster interest from administration and alumni.
Religious devotion to football. Greatest in-state rivalry in NCAA. Will probably always be little brother.
Access to Chicago and St. Louis. Have been able to extend recruiting reach into DC/Virginia area.
Fanatical fan base. Good, not elite talent nearby. School is located in the boonies and can be very hard to adjust to. Very conservative.
Great local recruiting base. History of all-time greats. Competes in winnable conference.
Only historical power in Northwest. Beautiful campus in great city. People ride freaking yachts to games.
Located in talent-rich, densely-populated area. Degrees from school are impressive, but academic restrictions are not excessively prohibitive. College sports will never be as important in Bay area.
Really good talent in state. School is one of the most historic and prestigious in the country. Big-time party school. Apathetic fan base.
25. West Virginia
Consistent track record. Within striking distance of Ohio and Pennsylvania recruits. Passionate fans.
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