They'll Be Back
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In 2010, the names Auburn and Oklahoma and Ohio State and LSU are all quite familiar. But so are the names of TCU and Oregon and Boise State and Nevada. The top 25 of today has welcomed in plenty of new faces. As these new faces have entered into the mix, some other teams have slipped, and the purpose of this article is to look at some programs who are used to the top 25, but at this time are clawing to get back in it.
USC - Pete Carroll, one of the most successful coaches in USC history, is just one year removed from the sideline, but I feel the Trojans have quite a climb to get back into the national title scene. I view the hiring of Lane Kiffin as both questionable and a step backwards. We'll see how long he lasts.
Notre Dame - After dismal spells under Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis, I honestly thought Brian Kelly would come in and straighten things out. But apparently, it won't be that easy as Kelly is 7-5 in year one (beat USC on the road in season finale). The Irish will be back, but their fans are going to have to be patient.
Michigan - One of the premier programs in America, the Wolverines have had hard times since the departure of Lloyd Carr and the arrival of Rich Rodriguez. Carr and company tied for the '97 crown, and went to the Rose Bowl as recently as 2007. But, as I type this, the program is a huge mess. Rodriguez just finished year three at 7-5 and rival Ohio State spanked them (for the seventh year in a row), 37-7.
Texas - This team probably does not belong in this list. Though 2010 has been a disaster, Mack Brown is a fine, fine coach and will be back for avengence in 2011. The 'Horns arent in the top 25 now, but are the kind of team that could be ranked in the top five by week four of next season.
Florida - Just like Texas, The Gators probably do not belong in this list. They were national champs just two years ago, and won their division again in 2009. But since it is weird not to see them in the top 25, here they are. 2010 has been a down season, no doubt. But I will be very surprised if Urban Meyer doesn't have this program in the top ten again very soon.
Tennessee - Just twelve years ago, Tennessee was the national champion of the sport. And just three years ago, they were the division champions of the SEC East. But the natives in Knoxville were never happy enough with Phillip Fulmer, and two years ago the relationship came to an end. Now, after a wasted 2009 under Lane Kiffin, I like the spirit of Derek Dooley as the head man. He has them heading to a bowl after an up and down first season.
Georgia - Though Mark Richt's job is perfectly safe, there are grumblings in Athens. It has been a couple of seasons since UGA was really any good. That said, they beat rival Georgia Tech again just last week, and have a strong team lined up for 2011. UGA will be back in the top 25 quickly I would guess. But national title type back? I dont know.
Pitt - If you are in your early 30's like I am, then you probably don't remember the glory days of Pitt because you weren't born yet. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, Pitt was consistently ranked high with Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino and company. Now though, despite them getting a decent bit of love from the mother station, they just aren't an attractive program and exit the top 25 quickly each time they get in it.
Penn State - The Lions have been in and out of the top 25 this year, after starting ranked preseason. Though they had a great record just a year ago (11-2), for some reason, I feel this team is quite aways from a national title, and that is in part, sadly, to the fact that Head Coach Joe Paterno is aging. They are good, but I wonder if Paterno can ever make them number one type good again.
Miami - After another bad season, the 'Canes fired Head Coach Randy Shannon. It has now been nine years since the Hurricanes have won a national title - an eternity at the U. This program was perhaps the best in America through the 1980's and 1990's. This hire at head coach is extremely important as Miami looks to remain competitve in the state of Florida.
Clemson - Ok so maybe this is some lofty company to include the Tigers in. But still, a national title came Clemson's way in the early 1980's, and most everything is there for it to happen again. Sadly though, this team has defined average over the last 21 years. Current Head Coach Dabo Swinney is feelin' the heat with a 19-14 record in two and a half seasons, and back-to-back losses to South Carolina.
BYU - While never a true powerhouse, the Cougars did put it all together to win the 1984 crown. They also had some of the most dynamic offenses in the nation in the 1990's (1990 Heisman winner Ty Detmer). The Cougars have finished ranked each of the last three years, but were absent every year but one from 1997-2006. This year they will not finished ranked.
Washington - 1991 is the year that pops into my mind as a Husky outsider looking in. That was the year that UW tied for the national crown with Miami, and was the last time, really, that Washington has been pretty good (they won 2001 Rose Bowl). The strong recent emergence of Oregon and Boise State in the Northwest makes it trickier for this team to secure regional talent.
So there are the teams fighting to get back into the national picture. In my mind, I see some teams (Texas and Georgia) that will get back into the big-time mix sooner than others (Pitt and BYU). But still, each of these programs have been around the game for a long time, and each will find a way to contribute once again to the national discussion in coming years...
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