College Football Playoffs Enter Second Season

 

College Football PlayoffsAfter 15 years of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), college football’s title system that started in 1998, 2014 saw the new college football playoff format that did not use computer rankings or polls to select the participants. Rather, a 13-member committee selects and seeds the teams. The playoff system is the first time the top-level NCAA football championship has been determined by a bracket competition and still using the historic Bowl Games. The new format is a Plus-One system, an idea which became popular as an alternative to the BCS after the 2003 and 2004 seasons ended in controversy.

The Ohio State Buckeyes, coached by former Florida Gator championship coach, Urban Meyer, won the first edition of the College Football Playoff, defeating Oregon in the 2015 Championship Game in Dallas, Texas, 42-20. Florida State and Alabama were the other two semi-finalists in the first Final Four. The 2016 College Football Playoff Championship will be in Phoenix, Arizona, and Tampa won the bid to host 2017’s championship game. On Thursday, September 3, the first 2015-2016 college football weekend kicks off and all four of last year’s playoff teams will be in action highlighted by a nationally televised Monday night matchup on September 7, 2015, between the defending national champions, Ohio State Buckeyes, visiting the ACC’s Virginia Tech Hokies.

 

How They Rank

Here’s my summer Top 10 Foss’ Power Rankings with only one Florida team represented as the FSU Seminoles are listed at #8 in the country. Following Ohio State, TCU is second, followed by USC and Alabama. I do have the Miami Hurricanes ranked about #20. The rest of my Top 10 national rankings look like this:

  1. Ohio State
  2. TCU
  3. USC
  4. Alabama
  5. Baylor
  6. Georgia
  7. Stanford
  8. Florida State
  9. Michigan State
  10. LSU

Let’s take a look at observations and outlooks for the other Florida college football schools in the Division One top 128.

 

Miami Hurricanes

Few coaches in America occupy a hotter seat than Al Golden, who is 28–22 entering his fifth season. The Hurricanes lost four straight to finish 6–7 This was UM’s third losing season in the last 35 years. He recruited well through a lengthy NCAA investigation, but fans howl that the program keeps sailing further and further from the glory years. An All –ACC rookie of the year QB in Brad Kaaya will be a bright spot for the Canes resurgence.

This year’s team is young after losing a host of NFL-caliber talent and has to battle a brutal October stretch that includes Florida State (in Tallahassee) and Clemson. The Canes haven’t played for the ACC title since joining the conference in 2004, and it doesn’t look like this will be the year.

The ‘U’ stands for ‘Underwhelming’ now, and if Golden doesn’t produce results this season, he might be looking for work elsewhere.

 

Florida Gators

Will Muschamp’s failure to identify an offensive coordinator or quarterback doomed him, leaving new coach Jim McElwain, out of the Mountain West Division, with a program that won just 11 games the past two seasons. The 53-year-old immediately set out to upgrade Florida’s offensive talent and address lagging facilities. Faced with a massive rebuild, McElwain will need time to field an SEC East contender at a school where championships were once the standard.

 

Central Florida’s Knights

George O’Leary followed up his Fiesta Bowl victory with another nine wins for UCF in 2014. His Knights return just 10 starters on a team that consistently contends in the American Athletic Conference. Those thinking UCF takes a step back just because of a few key departures should be careful of O’Leary’s always tough Knights. Despite losing key players who helped the program clinch a share of its second consecutive American title in 2014, Coach George O’Leary emphasizes that it’s a reload, not a rebuild. It’s hard to argue with O’Leary, who has averaged 9.4 wins over the past five seasons. Though there are question marks at certain positions, there’s an expectation that UCF has the talent to again be a contender for the conference title.

 

South Florida Bulls

It has the look of a produce-or-else season for Willie Taggart, who is 6–18 with the Bulls and must avoid the program’s fifth straight season without a bowl appearance. Taggart fired three assistant coaches immediately after last season including both coordinators. He changed the offensive style of play, shocking observers who said Taggart was too stubborn.

Running back Marlon Mack is a wonderful weapon. There are some building blocks on defense. But the schedule is formidable, and the Bulls must make a big jump to reach the postseason. The offense may be picking up the pace, but Taggart is running out of time.

 

FAU Owls

There are some things to get excited about at FAU for second-year coach Charlie Partridge. His offense has an identity and it should give them a chance to compete in most games in Conference USA. Quarterback Jaquez Johnson also returns for his senior campaign. But the Owls will have to overcome significant losses on defense if FAU wants to reach a bowl game.

Losing the team’s three best defensive players and the offense’s top big-play threat will make improvement difficult for FAU in 2015. The Owls’ running game is strong enough that they should be able to play with Conference USA opponents and expect to win at home. That would keep bowl hopes on the table, but Partridge will need to have his young squad ready to impress out of the gate. FAU will host the University of Miami in early September for the first time in Boca Raton.

 

FIU

The Panthers only won four times last year, and Ron Turner’s squad is picked fifth in the East Division of Conference USA. But FIU has a young quarterback and 14 starters back for a team that was better in the final few weeks of the season. Can Turner continue the improvement and get FIU to a bowl game?

Next month, I’ll preview the 2015 NFL season and take a look at the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars in detail.

 

Carl Foster is the host/founder of “The Good Sports Magazine Show” now in it’s10th season, airing worldwide every Friday LIVE from 12 noon to 1pm exclusively on www.GraceNetRadio.com.

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