The Power Five Power Elite Is Already Ready for 2015
Now that Ohio State has put an exclamation point on the 2014 football season, it's time to take a quick look back and then peer ahead to the first week in September and the 2015 season.
The College Football Playoff is the sole reason Ohio State's on top of the college football world. If it was last year, the, ahem, all-knowing sports media and coaches who commanded BCS voting would've had Alabama playing Florida State for the title.
But the Buckeyes, led by third-string quarterback Cardale Jones and running back Ezekiel Elliott, got into the Featured Four with a resounding 59-0 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championshiop game.
Coach Urban Meyer now has three national championships from two schools -- not to mention an undefeated season at Utah in 2004 -- and he did by far his best coaching job this season after losing quarterback Braxton Miller in the pre-season and then suffering an early season loss to Virginia Tech at home.
JT Barrett, the back-up quarterback, had a great season following the loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies until he broke his ankle in the final regular season game against Michigan. Jones stepped up, and the rest is history.
Ohio State will be ranked No 1 going into next season, and with so many players returning -- with the possible exception of Miller -- they deserve to be there. The Buckeyes open the season on Mon 7 Sep on the road against, yes, Virginia Tech, the only team to defeat Meyer during the regular season in his three years as Buckeyes' coach.
Who else should we watch out for in 2015?
There are the usual suspects:
- Alabama, which opens the season in Dallas against Wisconsin;
- Oregon, which has to shake the specter of becoming the Buffalo Bills of college football;
- Florida State, which should revert to a one-ring circus again;
- Michigan State, because that's just who Sparty is these days; and
- Texas Christian, which will be on a mission.
The Horned Frogs are still upset they didn't crack the bracket this season. They already made a statement on New Years Eve in the Peach Bowl with a 42-3 blowout of an Ole Miss crew that either didn't want to be there, were there too much -- wink, wink -- or simply ran into the buzzsaw that is TCU these days.
Baylor has a case to be upset, too, after also being knocked out of the Featured Four on the final weekend.
The Bears, who defeated TCU in the regular season, saw a 41-21 fourth quarter lead evaporate and lost to Michigan State, 42-41, in the Cotton Bowl. In 2015, the Bears meet the Frogs on Thanksgiving weekend, and it could be a classic.
Of course, the fun will be in seeing who will emerge from the rest of the pack to challenge for a bracket spot. After this year's bowl season, the SEC West has a lot of 'splaining to do. Georgia should be in with a shout. USC will finally be recovered from the Reggie Bush sanctions.
Want a sleeper for your Bovada futures play? Try Arizona State. The Sun Devils will be loaded next season. Whoever survives the suddenly-rugged Pac-12 South will be ready battle-hardened for bracket play. That is, if it can get past Oregon, Stanford, or whoever wins the North in the conference title game.
Then there's Boise State, destined to be the Other Five's standard bearer again. The Broncos are one of the few in that crowd who find a way to keep up with the big brands, but it's getting tougher to do as each season passes. The landscape is changing quickly, and for the Other Five, it's not necessarily an orderly progression.