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.