National Title Contenders – 2016
National Title Contenders – 2015-16
The First Word of 2015
The core. The heart. The beginning. This is where this CFBMatrix journey all started 10 years ago. I have always enjoyed solving what was perceived to be complex questions with simple answers. The question I started with was talent and it’s ability to define the BCS National Championship game. In the last few years there have been many people trying to copy the simplicity and draw like conclusions.
Using the formula to look back, it has missed one team in the National title game. In the 10 years since the first pool was published, every winner and loser of the national title game has come from this annual group of 9 to 12 teams that share 5 numbers. This century, including Ohio State and Oregon this year, who I called a ‘strong bet’ for the title game and Oregon, ‘the last one in’, 27 of the last 28 and every National Champion since 2002 has come from this little pool of teams. One simple formula, one simple answer.
“Dave came on our show last year (2013) and went through his National Title list. No Oregon. No A&M. No South Carolina. No Stanford. But he had Auburn and Florida State. He even said the Iron Bowl would be one of the best games in CFB in 2014. We all thought he was crazy. Yes. He. Is.” Ryan Fowler, Host – The Game – Tide 99.1 in Tuscaloosa
The first college football playoff season has passed, and I was, once again, fortunate to find not only both National Title Game competitors in the pre-season pool, but all four teams that made the playoff were listed. That won’t happen every year, but it was fun, nevertheless.
While many feel the 4 team playoff will benefit the less programs, I feel this limits their ability to make a run to a title. A national title took just 11 wins less than 2 decades ago, this year it could be 15. Every game played increases the odds of a loss, and of injury. The teams with lesser depth and lesser talent no have tougher odds, in my opinion, of winning the title.
Note to self: Never play the Field on a NCG bet.
The 4 Favorites
In past years, I pooled together the top 10 teams to win it all in a single group. However, I have been utilizing my work on scoring efficiencies for both offenses and defenses. In the last 10 years, teams that won the national title were top 20 the previous season in offensive/defensive scoring efficiency totals with the exception of the wild years of 2010 and 2013 for Auburn. Every team in the ‘pool’ was in the top 40 of total scoring efficiency in 2014 except Texas, South Carolina and UCLA.
- Alabama – The no. 1 recruiter of the last four years with true composite classes of no.1 , no. 1, no. 1 and no. 2. They do lose their starting QB and starting RB and 168 of 307 starts from last year’s team. Elite recruiters reload. At Georgia, at A&M and at Auburn is brutal. They are going to earn a playoff berth, if they get their, more than anyone in college football.
- Florida – A new head coach tells me to fade this pick by the CBFMatrix NCG Pool. That being said, the Gators have top 10 recruiting classes in three of the last four years. The cupboard IS NOT bare. They lose 7 starters but only 86 total starts from 2014. I do not expect them to contend this year, but they will be a big time trouble maker. Top 20 team in 2014 in total scoring efficiency.
- Ohio State – With their last four classes going no. 3, no. 2, no. 3 and no. 6, this team is still loaded. They lose only 8 starters and less than one third of the total starts made in 2014. One early entry to the NFL and this team is loaded for a back to back run at the national title. They also have the biggest gap in the FBS for team talent versus the rest of their conference and schedule.
- Georgia – The best recruiter this century NOT to win a national title. They average better than a top ten class every year but lose 10 starters including the QB, 2 OLS and 2 DLs. The talent is there, but the experience is a concern. A solid schedule with Alabama and South Carolina at home, Florida in Jacksonville and road tests at Tennessee and Auburn.
Of these four teams, I lean to the talent and coaching at Ohio State and Alabama. McElwain is new to the program and Richt has never been a top Coach Effect guy at his recruiting level. The Bulldogs loss of experience with a tough first half schedule is an additional concern.
The 6 Other NC Contenders
- Florida State – They have two games. At Clemson and at Florida, both in the second half of the season. While no one would admit to it, I feel the letdown in performance they gave to the playoff committee against Oregon will not give them the benefit of the doubt in case of a tie-breaker. They trail only Ohio State in talent level gap between themselves and the rest of their conference.
- LSU – Top 5 recruiter of the last four years, lost their DC to Texas A&M and have a brutal schedule. It might be the toughest in college football and that is a bad thing for trying to win a national title. LSU is close to their best four year run of recruiting, since the period prior to their last national title. Toughest schedule and new DC is a lot to overcome but their metric match the last 14 champs.
- Notre Dame – When Coach Kelly was at Cincinnati, his CFBMatrix Coach Effect numbers were through the roof. I felt when he was hired at Notre Dame that it was a sure fire home run. He made the one great run to the national title game from this pool that year, but the rest of the seasons have under performed the talent and schedules, especially at home. For me, Notre Dame is a team that could make the playoffs, but not win a game. I do not trust the Coach Effect. They have a very solid schedule but lack a 13th game and conference championship. To get in, they need an undefeated season or some luck at 11-1.
- Auburn – Most people do not realize that Auburn has been a recruiting power all century, averaging a true composite class ranking of 11.77, the same as Alabama. 1-1 in the last ten years in national title games, Auburn has been a roller coaster. A dangerous roller coaster. With the addition of Muschamp, it is amazing to think their defense could become stronger than their offense. The Iron Bowl is at home as is the huge divisional cross over game with Georgia.
- Texas A&M – The Aggies are the most unusual situation in the NCG Pool modeling since I stumbled across it a decade ago. 87% of all division winner are top three recruiters over the previous fours years. Every national title winner and loser is a top three recruiter in their division as well. Texas A&M is a national top ten recruiter over the last four years, like all national champs, but is no. 4 in their division for recruiting average! That is crazy. I am leaving them on the list as the critical piece of a national title is elite talent, which they have in hand. They have a new DC and get Alabama, Auburn and South Carolina at home.
- USC – The Trojans are the best recruiter of this century averaging a 5.5 ranked class every year for 15 years. Even during the sanctions their classes, although limited in numbers, were ranked between no. 9 and no. 13. With the nation’s no. 1 class this year, they now have four straight top 15 classes and two of those are top 10s. The down side to date is Coach Sarkesian. Every year, for the last six seasons, he has under performed the talent and schedule expectations by at least one game. Simply put, this is a 12 win team with an 11 win coach. Nevertheless, they have a higher talent level than every team that is on their schedule, even if the get to the PAC-12 championship game. There were seven teams like that in 2014 and four of them were in the playoffs.
Pretenders – Make it but not Win it
Some teams have the metrics that match the losers of all the National Title Games, but not enough to be in the group to consider them competing to win it all. What they lack is a high enough level of talent and recruiting.
- Oklahoma – Coach Stoops is coming of his worst coaching effect effort, ever. He brought in a new offensive coordinator in an effort to find an offense. This has been a problem for seven years as the Sooners pace of play has been very inconsistent and scoring efficiency has been poor. Riley’s numbers at East Carolina were average and that won’t be good enough in Norman. They could win the conference and squeak in to the playoffs in the no. 4 spot at 11-1.
- Texas – Their talent is on par, or slightly ahead of Oklahoma, but with the massive attrition in 2014 and a couple of weaker than usual recruiting classes, the Longhorns or in this lower tier of competing for the title game but not winning it. While their talent metrics put them here, they are, in my opinion, a year or two away from moving up into the group of ten.
Last Two In
- UCLA – The Bruins are the last team in on their recruiting, but I would much rather have the coaches of the last two teams out in this pool. UCLA has a ton of talent, but Coach Mora, like Sarkesian, has been under performing with result for his tenure. They get a ton of experience back in Westwood and their talent stratification is at an all time high for this century.
- Clemson – Ninth easiest schedule and 2nd best ACC recruiter. Tow game schedule for the Tigers. Get by Notre Dame and FSU and they are in the 4 team dance. Swinney negative coach effect for his career. Lot of NFL graded talent for #17 recruiter. Like Oregon of the recent years, talented but not quite talented enough.
Last 2 out
These are the teams right on the edge of the lowest ranked teams to make a national title game in the last ten years. They might be a dark horse to get to the playoffs, but not to win a playoff game.
- Oregon – The Ducks last top 10 class just came off the books as eight guys that may be drafted into the NFL are gone. With recruiting flattening out in the high teens, the Ducks no longer have the talent profile of a national title game loser. They did to start 2014, but it is time to reload. They are still the class of the North and the most consistent offense in the football the last seven years. Their schedule is very tough for their talent and projects to 8-4.
- South Carolina – They have pulled four straight classes between no. 16 and no. 18 and have never been in the CFBMatrix NC contenders pool. Never. Their talent has just never been there to make the run. They could be some much more in my opinion, as they have one of the lowest average distance traveled per recruit of any power 5 team. Toughest schedule in college football projects to 7-5.
Other Notables on the Edge of Championship Talent: Tennessee (subpar coaching), Miam (subpar coaching), Mississippi (elite D), Michigan (dark horse with Harbaugh)
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