Not every team can be Alabama and Clemson, the two powerhouses of college football right now. But which programs are on the rise and could give them a run for their money?
Here is a look at teams that didn’t make this year’s College Football Playoff (CFP) that have bright futures:
Blue Bloods Return
Ohio State Buckeyes
Urban Meyer re-signed as Ohio State’s head coach and retired from coaching football, leaving the coaching duties to Ryan Day. But late last week, the Big Ten champions had a gift land right in their lap.
Justin Fields, a five-star quarterback at Georgia and No. 1 high school recruit of 2018, announced that he was transferring to play for the Buckeyes. Their success will be dictated by who is under center. There is a small chance the record-setting Dwayne Haskins returns, but it appears he will head to the NFL. There could be a battle between Fields and Tate Martell. However, where the Buckeyes need work is the defense.
The Buckeyes ranked 72nd in total defense last season and it won’t help losing star defensive lineman Nick Bosa to the NFL Draft this April. But, they could see their next pass-rush star in Zach Harrison, a five-star defensive end. The recruiting class as a whole ranks 12th overall and third in the conference so far, according to 247sports.
Many people, including Georgia coaches and players, thought the Bulldogs should have made the CFP. At fifth in the rankings, they were on the outside looking in. But the 2017 SEC champions will be back in 2019 and they’ll be hungry.
If they thought that Notre Dame didn’t deserve to make the CFP, the Bulldogs will have a chance to prove it on Sept. 21 when they play host to the Fighting Irish.
Kirby Smart is one of college’s best head coaches and a great recruiter. So far, his 2019 class ranks second only to Alabama, according to 247 sports. It’ll help, too, to have Nolan Smith, a defensive end and the No.1 overall recruit in the nation to sign to your school.
Quarterback Jake Fromm should return for his junior season with his complement of running backs, too. As long as Smart is there, the future should remain bright in Athens.
This joke has been going around the internet for months. But with their Big 12 Title Game appearance and fairly dominant Sugar Bowl win over Georgia, the Longhorns appear to officially be back.
Tom Herman, in his second year at Texas, defeated arch-rival Oklahoma and made the Big 12 Championship game. And they’re only going up from here. Herman has a top-10 recruiting class right up there with the Sooners.
That’s just the beginning for this bunch.
The Longhorns have found their star at quarterback in Sam Ehlinger. He had 3,292 yards through the air, 482 on the ground, and 41 total touchdowns. The sophomore will be back for at least one more season and they’ll need him for next year’s schedule.
In Week 2, the Longhorns face the LSU Tigers at home in what will be an early, but tough test. The team will have to replace a bunch of seniors, including eight on defense. Yet, Herman has a championship pedigree with his days at Ohio State, so Texas is in good hands and is indeed back.
On The Rise
Texas A&M Aggies
In his first season as head coach, Jimbo Fisher led A&M to a 9-4 record, losing just one game at home in a nail-biter against Clemson. Kellen Mond, one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the SEC, was a surprise under center.
Running back Trayveon Williams ran for over 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns. Williams won’t be there anymore as he is heading to the NFL.
One of the Aggies’ biggest strengths was their rush defense, which ranked fourth nationally last season. The Aggies lose three of their four defensive linemen to graduation, but next year’s recruiting class is strong. Fisher has the third-best recruiting class in the country, according to 247 sports.
Georgia and Alabama have a stranglehold on the conference right now, but give Fisher more time, and the Aggies will be in the upper echelon soon.
Oregon hasn’t had double-digit wins since it competed for the national championship in 2015. But now it looks like they’re coming back, and the credit goes to head coach Mario Cristobal.
In his first full season, the Ducks defeated No. 7 Washington in overtime at home, effectively ending the Huskies’ playoff hopes. Cristobal will have his star signal caller, Justin Herbert, return for his senior season. And they’ll be accompanied by a lot of talent.
Oregon currently has the seventh-ranked recruiting class according to 247sports. The 2019 class is highlighted by defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who is one of the top incoming freshmen. Mycah Pittman and Lance Wilhoite are four-star receivers who will also be ready to play from day one.
Cristobal was an assistant head coach to Nick Saban for four seasons at Alabama where he was notorious for recruiting. In fact, he helped Alabama finish No. 1 in the 247 class rankings in each of his four seasons. If he can continue to recruit well and put together the talent, the Ducks could see themselves back in the College Football Playoff.
Alabama and Clemson have a stronghold over college football right now, but there are teams on the rise, including one in the Tide’s own division.