After an absolute dismal 2014-2015 bowl season with a 2-5 record versus ranked opponents, the SEC is looking to bounce back and prove their strength once again in 2015-2016. Following last years performances in the bowls, the SEC fans looked to defend their teams, while the SEC "haters" looked to embarrass and disgrace the SEC.
Despite the hatred, trash talk, and seemingly downfall of the conference, there is one team in the SEC that remains atop the national powerhouses:
The Alabama Crimson Tide
While at the start of the season, the AP Poll had 3 SEC teams in the top 10, and 8 SEC Teams in the top 25, Alabama is now the only top 10 team from the SEC. And although many outspoken SEC haters have discussed the weak schedule of the Crimson Tide, and tried to point faults in their play, I'm hear to tell you one uncomfortable truth:
Alabama Will Win the National Championship
First, to explain the preceding statement, let's take a look at the wonderful world of statistics and numbers. Although numbers don't control the games, they do give us a pattern of who truly is the best team. In fact, there are a set of statistics that have developed a pattern that championship teams have been particulary strong in aspects of the game:
Points Per Game
Rushing Yards Per Game
Opponents Points Per Game
Opponents Rushing Yards Per Game
Opponents Completion Percentage
For now, we'll call these: The "Criterions"
Since 2005, National Champions have consistently been strong in numbers when discussing the Criterions.
For example, when Ohio State went on their Championship run last year, they were top 25 in the nation in all but 2 of them. In opponents rushing yards and opponents completion percentage, Ohio State was 33rd - Not a big discrepancy.
In the 2015 season, only Oklahoma and Alabama demonstrate strengths in all of the criterions. Oklahoma is top 25 in the nation in all of them except opponents rushing yards (36th - Not a big discrepancy). Alabama is top 25 in 5 of the 7, but are 39th and 33rd in points per game and turnover margin - Once again, not a big difference from top 25.
On the other hand, Clemson and Michigan State fail to follow the pattern of past Champions. Michigan State fails to be top 25 in 4 of the criterions, while failing to be top 75 in 3! Clemson has only a frustrating problem with the turnover margin - Clemson is 74th in the nation in turnover margin at +0.1. No team has ever been that far down in the turnover margin, and still won a Championship (Lowest: Auburn in 2010 was 33rd).
When discussing the numbers and the "criterions" for Championship teams, only Oklahoma and Alabama follow the consistent pattern.
Outside of numbers and the pure talent of the game, College Football is strongly influenced by coaching. Out of the past 10 National Champions, 6 of the winners had Urban Meyer or Nick Saban as head coaches (Well respected and revered College Coaches).
Clemson has Dabo Swinney at the helm of the coaches. He has led the Clemson Tigers to an impressive past couple of seasons. Since 2009, under Swinney, Clemson has a combined record of 70-23, and has reached 3 CFP Bowl Games (Orange Bowl twice, one Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl). Swinney took over a team that had failed to win 10 games in a season since 1990, and turned them into a national power house. The only trouble with Swinney, is that he has never reached the National Championship game.
#3 seeded Michigan State has Mark Dantonio leading the Spartans. Dantonio is a respected College Coach, who took over the Spartans in 2007. Preceding 2007, Michigan State had only won 10 games twice since 1965. Since 2007, Dantonio has created 5, 10 win seasons, and has reached 6 CPF Bowls. Like Swinney he has built a great program, but his biggest fault: He has yet to reach the National Championship
Oklahoma has had Bob Stoops as the head coach of the Sooners since 1999. Before Stoops, Oklahoma had hit the duldrums with a 10 ten year period of no 10 win seasons. However, in only Stoops second year, he led them to an undefeated season with an orange bowl victory. Since 1999, he has led 13 teams to 10+ wins in a season, and reached 12 CFP Bowl Games. Unlike Swinney and Dantonio, he has reached the National Title Game in 2003. However, his biggest failure - He has yet to win the National Title (Losing in 2003).
And now, we reach Nick Saban - the Head Coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide. It is undeniable that Saban is one of the best coaches in College Football - all one must do is look at his history. Saban inherited a great football history at Alabama, but the program had consistently failed to put together a National Championship team. However, in only his second year, Alabama was able to win the 2009 National Title Game. But, Saban didn't stop there - he went on to win back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.
As one can see, when discussing coaching, Alabama has the absolute advantage with head coach Nick Saban. Swinney, Dantonio, and Stoops are all great, but no one out of the three comes close to reaching the heights and success of Saban.
Finally, we come to discuss the sheer talent of the four teams. In other words, we are here to discuss:
We hear and receive updates all the time about teams picking up and occassionally losing important, talented recruits. When the recruiting season is over, ESPN and Yahoo go ahead and put together rankings of the most successful recruiting off-seasons. With all the time put into judging recruiting, one might ask, "Why is recruiting so important?"
It's simple: Talent wins championships, and talent comes in the form of recruiting. In fact, out of the past 10 National Champions, all 10 of the teams were top 10 in Recruiting Rankings (According to Yahoo's and ESPN's Recruiting Rankings). To be even more specfic, 9/10 of the teams were top 5 in recruiting rankings (Florida State - 6th, which is pretty dang close to top 5).
Demonstrated through history, in order to be a true Championship contender, one must put together the nation's best recruiting rankings. And out of the 4 teams left in the College Football Playoff, only one team can truly say they are one of the nations power houses in recruiting - The Alabama Crimson Tide.
Since 2010, Alabama has been #1 in recruiting rankings 4 out of the 5 years (2nd in 2015)! On the other hand, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Michigan State, come no where near to matching the recruiting of Alabama.
Clemson, since 2011, has finished 19th, 14th, 13th, and 13th in the recruiting rankings. Oklahoma has managed to finish 14th, 11th, 15th, and 15th, while Michigan State is dismal, as they finish 31st, 41st, 40th, 22nd in the past 4 years.
Clemson, Oklahoma,and Michigan State can come no where close to matching the pure talent and recruiting Alabama is able to garner into their university. And despite the uncomfortbale truth, recruiting does matter in winning championships - once again, an amazing statistic:
Out of the past 10 National Champions, 9/10 teams finished top 5 in recruiting rankings.
And now, in the 2015-2016 college football playoff, Alabama is the only team who follows that pattern.
From discussing the statistics/"criterions" of champions, comparing the level of coaches, and debating the pure talent and recruiting of the 4 colleges, one can see how Alabama is the favorite in the playoff. Alabama follows the path of past champions, has a legendary coach in Nick Saban, and has a massive advantage in terms of recruiting.
No wonder Vegas gives Alabama the best odds to win the title....
So there ya have it. When you break down the criteria and find what makes a Championship team, Alabama fits the mold more than any team.
Put in the books: Alabama Will Win the 2015-2016 National Title.
2 Legends - 30 all-star/pro-bowl selections - 6 MVP Trophies - 6 Championships. Yet despite the incredible and historic past, the road must end now. Peyton Manning - Quarterback for the Denver Broncos sits at 39 years of age, and has looked pathetic in the 2015 regular season. Kobe Bryant - Guard for the Los Angeles Lakers turned 37 this past August. Kobe, like Peyton, just seems old and out of sync. Through statstistics, a long, continuing season, and future possibilities for the Broncos and Lakers, Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant need to come to face with reality: Its the end of the road - Its time to retire.
Purely looking at their atrocious statistics, fans can understand and see the need to quit.
Since 2014, which is over 40 games, Kobe Bryant has shot his career low in field goal percentage at 36%. In 2015 alone, Kobe is shooting at 31% from the field - which is absolute last in the NBA (122nd).
Despite his horrendous shooting, Kobe still finds a way to fire up 17 field goal attempts a night. As he throws up the 17, he averages a mediocre 15 points per game. To put his point total each night into perspective - CJ Miles, of the Indiana Pacers averages 15 points, yet shoots 6 times less per game! And it's not as if Kobe makes up for his lack of scoring in sharing the ball - he currently is averaging his career low of 3 assists per game!
And, as you might guess, Kobe's player efficiency rating is dreadful at 10.2 (Compared to 24.2 in his MVP season).
Looking at Peyton Manning, his year in statistics tells a story of abominable play at the quarterbacking position.
With his completion percentage, Peyton has always been known as an accurate quarterback. Yet this year, Peyton has his career low with a 59% completion percentage - which is tied for 25th in the NFL right beside Colin Kaepernick. His TD to INT ratio is awful at 9 TDs compared to a total of 17 INTs on the season. His TD - INT ratio is shocking to say the least: 4 times in his career, Peyton has led the NFL in TDs, but in 2015, he is the sole leader in interceptions (Flacco 2nd with 12).
Of course, like Kobe, the advanced metrics don't help support Peyton's year. While Peyton has a career average of 96.5 as his passer rating, in 2015 he has accumulated a rating of 67.5 - Which is 2nd to last in the NFL (Alongside Ryan Mallet).
Recognizing the terrible statistics of Kobe and Peyton, fans must also come to realize that Peyton (39 years old) is barely halfway through the NFL season, while Kobe (37) is only one month into the regular season. Professional athletes are not made invincible to injuries - Just look to the broken parts of Derrick Rose (Who's only 27).
Kobe, another past NBA star, has had his fair share of injuries to say the least. Most people don't realize that Kobe hasn't played more than a half a season since the 2012-2013 season. In 2013, he played only 6 games, while 2014 he managed 37. The question remains: Can Kobe maintain a level of mediocre play for an entire season? It's time to face the facts - Kobe can't stay healthy for a long period of a season (Not like it matters to the Lakers win column).
Peyton, on the other hand, also has a large injury history, but has even more problems than Kobe as the season progresses. Peyton has a reputation for underperforming late in the season - mainly in the cold and windy weather.
For example, take a look at his 2014 season with the Broncos. In the first 8 games of the 2014 season, Peyton had an average QBR above 80, while throwing for 22 TDs and 3 INTs. However, as soon as November hit, Peyton started playing to his reputation of struggling in the cold. In the last 8 games of the season, Peyton averaged a 55.7 QBR with a 17-12 TD/INT ratio. In the first portion of the 2014 season, Peyton's QBR never once dropped below 75! Then, in the playoffs, Peyton and the Broncos were dominated by his past team - the Indianpolis Colts (Peyton with a QBR of 27.7 - Ouch).
How can we expect Peyton to play better later in 2015, when he couldn't do it healthy (Well - heathier) in 2014?
Finally, the owners and coaches of the Lakers and Broncos need to start encouraging the 2 past superstars to retire.
The Lakers have managed to draft two high level talents since 2014 in Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell. Randle is a monster in the post, as he averaged 15-10 at college in Kentucy. On the other side, Russell is an incredible talent at the point guard position (Averaging 19-6-5 at OSU). Why wouldn't the Lakers organization focus on building around young talent, instead of old, worn down, mediocre play from Kobe?
11 games into the 2015 season, Randle is averaging less than 10 field goal attempts per game (90th in the NBA), while Russell is averaging 10.1 (88th in the NBA). How can you expect Randle and Russell to develop into stars when Nikola Vucevic has attempted more field goals this season?
For Denver and Peyton, they don't have a big name at the quarterback position. But, they do have a potential well-rounded quarterback in Brock Osweiler.
Osweiler is a name not commonly known, but he has the potential to be a good NFL quarterback. At Arizona State, Osweiler threw for 26 TDs with a passer rating of 140.3 in his Junior Season. Not to mention, he put up those stats with a terrible offensive line, and Jamal Miles as his number one receiver (Who has yet to see the NFL playing field since going undrafted in 2012).
Taking a look at NFL quarterback's, most great quarterbacks are big for their position. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are both 6'5 and around 225 pounds, while Rodgers and Wilson have been successful at 6'0 and 200-210 pounds.
Osweiler, on the other hand, stands at 6'7 and 243 pounds! In other words, Osweiler is 2 inches taller and 5 pounds heavier than Ben Roethlisberger (One of the biggest QBs and stronger arms in the NFL).
Looking back on Osweiler's past two games (While Peyton was sitting on the bench), Brock performed pretty well against Kansas City and Chicago. Against Chicago, Osweiler had a fantastic day as he threw for 2 TDs, 0 INTs, and a 127 passer rating. In the week before against Kansas City, he performed adequately as he threw for 1 TD, 1 INT, and a passer rating of 72.6.
When comparing their numbers, Osweiler's 1st game of the season, with a 72 passer rating, would've been Peyton's 2nd highest passer rating on the season. I'm not saying Osweiler is becoming the next Tom Brady or John Elway, but he has a lot more potential to lead the Broncos deep in the post-season than Peyton Manning.
Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant are two historic and legendary athletes. I grew up watching and adoring the two as a kid, and I hate to see their careers coming to an end. But at the same time, its painful to watch once legends turn into mediocre performers. At the end of the day, Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant need to take a look in the mirror - or maybe their statistics - or their highlight reel - or a nice retirement complex - and quit their individual sports.
With only 2 weeks left in the College Football Season, the playoff race is becoming heated. People all around the country are wondering, "Will my team reach one of the top 4 elusive spots?" One of the most highly debated teams sits in the midwest - The Iowa Hawkeyes.
Led by Junior QB CJ Beathard and coach Kirk Ferentz, the Hawkeyes are currently undefeated at 11-0. With only Nebraska in their way, Iowa is searching for the Big 10 Title. With a perfect record, one might think Iowa belongs in the top 4 of the College Football Rankings.
But there's a problem - Well, actually a couple.
Let's start with the most discussed problem of the Hawkeyes; The Schedule. Iowa has played two teams ranked in the top 25 and won both games. The first of the ranked teams was Wisconsin in week 5, and the second was Northwestern in week 7.
I'll give credit where credit is due - Wisconsin has a great football program. Wisconsin has had a history of producing great NFL level talent (Russell Wilson, JJ Watt, Owen Daniels), and last year reached the Big 10 Title Game (Before getting smacked by Ohio State). But let's take a minute and reflect on the 2015 Wisconsin Badgers.
The Badgers are currently ranked #21 in the nation, stand at 8-3. Besides the Iowa loss, Wisconsin has lost to Northwestern in a hideous game, and then were smacked by Alabama in week 1. Against Bama, (Ranked #1 in recruiting in 2013 and 2014), Wisconsin was held to 268 yards, while Bama rolled with 502 total yards. Then, in the previous week, Wisconsin lost to Northwestern 13-7, as Wisconsin had 5 total turnovers. Northwestern (Ranked 68th in recruiting in 2014, with 0 five star recruits), who is well coached but without high level talent, controlled the game as they held the lead through the entire second half. As Wisconsin faced the highest level of talent (And got smacked), and then faced lower level talent (And lost), can we really consider the 2015 Badgers to be a legitmate opponent?
Heading back to Iowa's second win against a ranked opponent, they defeated Northwestern in week 7. Northwestern can be epitomized as a well-coached team, that has bottom level talent. Looking at their past three years in recruiting, Northwestern has yet to finish top 40 in recruiting rankings, while they were not able to gather one five star recruit. Unlike Wisconsin, who has JJ Watt and Russell Wilson in the NFL, Northwestern has Corey Wooton and Jimmy Hall - Wooton being the only 2010 drafee to play in a game (Recording 4 tackles so far this year!). Clearly, Northwestern has a great coaching staff, but no high level talent.
Besides their Big 10 schedule, Iowa managed to schedule the out-of-conference opponents of Iowa State, Pittsburgh, and North Texas. I'm still suprised they didnt schedule the Univeristy of Phoenix. Iowa State (3-8) has already quit on their season. If you look up "Iowa State Schedule" on Google, you'll find their 2-0 basketball schedule. Pittsburgh isn't terrible, but also weren't able to pick up a single five star recruit. Finally, North Texas is in area of Texas more known for High School football.
Iowa has yet to schedule a high level talent school on their schedule (Wisconsin at the highest - 33rd in recruiting rankings), and therefore, I give no credit to them. When they're not playing Michigan, Michigan State (22nd in recruiting), or OSU (3rd in recruting - with an actual 5 star recruit - yes Iowa, they exist), how could they not go out and schedule better out-of-conference match ups? I'm not comparing other school's out-of-conference schedule to Iowa's, but at the same time, let's all realize Iowa's schedule is "as soft as Panera Bread"- (Colin Cowherd).
My second problem with Iowa is their own talent level - AKA their recruiting standards and NFL talent. Since 2013, their recruiting rankings are: 53rd, 59th, and 58th. One might ask why recruiting rankings matter? Well, out of the past 10 National Champions, all of the teams were ranked top 10 in recruiting in the years leading up. In fact, besides Florida State in 2013, 9/10 of the teams were top 5 in recruiting rankings before winning the "Ship." With Iowa in the mid-50's in recruiting, they are just a slight bit off from top 10.
My final dispute with Iowa supporters goes back to being undefeated and 11-0. I've heard, "Iowa is 11-0 in a power 5 conference! Of course they should be top 4!"
Hm. How can you give Iowa credit for being undefeated in a power 5 conference, when they don't even play the three best teams (OSU, MSU, Michigan) in the Big 10 conference!? Then, Iowa goes out and schedules Iowa State, Pittsburgh, and Devry - I mean North Texas. If you're going to take the credit for being undefeated in a power five conference, how about scheduling the best teams in that conference?
At the end of the day, Iowa has an overrated Big 10 schedule, terrible out-of-conference schedule, no real talent in recruiting, and lack the play of the best teams in the Big 10! No matter what argument is thrown out in favor of Iowa, I just cannot see legitmate reasoning to see Iowa as one of the top 4 teams in College Football.