With 10 lucky, major prizewinners slated to participate in this season’s BCS extravaganza, it’s interesting to predict which of these programs can return to the big-money dance next year.
Of the 10 teams that squared off in the 2011-12 BCS, only four clawed their way back to the 2012-13 edition, giving us an idea of how difficult it is to make a return trip.
The following slideshow pinpoints the five teams in the BCS this season with the best chance of returning for the current format’s swan song in 2013-14.
The five teams highlighted here not only return enough talent to keep the winning express on track, but are also in a position from a conference standpoint to win their way into the BCS even if they aren’t a one-loss program.
Recruiting numbers in this presentation come via Rivals.com.
Early projections have Stanford, who is slated to play in this Tuesday’s Rose Bowl, returning 17 starters for the 2013 campaign.
This is great news for a very young offense that should do nothing but improve with a year under its belt and a stellar defense that is currently ranked No. 14 nationally in scoring.
Beyond a very healthy return rate, the reason the Cardinal are well positioned to return to the BCS for a fourth consecutive year in 2013-14 is the fact that they are in a division and conference that provides a great launchpad.
The Pac-12 isn’t easy to win and being in the North division with fellow heavyweight Oregon is no picnic, but the combination partners well with the current BCS format.
If Stanford beats Oregon, it gets a clear shot at the Rose Bowl via the conference championship game, and if it falls to the Ducks, it has the huge advantage of sitting out the league title game to grab an at-large bid.
This is precisely how Florida and Oregon made the BCS this season, and it’s also how the Cardinal punched their ticket to the Orange Bowl in 2010-11 and the Fiesta Bowl in 2011-12.
To make this rosy forecast even more favorable are recruiting numbers that continue to skyrocket for Stanford and a rushing defense (a stat that has proven to be a cornerstone for championship campaigns) that currently ranks No. 3 nationally.
Even though Florida State’s best opportunity to return to the national title game may have passed by this season, the ‘Noles will remain in the catbird seat for a return to the BCS for the foreseeable future.
The main reason for this positive outlook comes down to a combination of the current state of the ACC, FSU’s on-field success and recruiting numbers.
Really, it’s pretty simple; the Seminoles are trending upward as a football program, and with the continued influx of the best-rated talent in the conference, they will continue to be a position to win an ACC that is in a bit of a football decline.
To illustrate, next season’s Florida State team will be built on the foundation of a senior class that was originally recruited as the No. 10-ranked class of 2010, the No. 2-ranked group from 2011, the No. 6-ranked haul from 2012 and then a 2013 class that currently ranks No. 15.
Not only are these numbers far and away the best in the ACC, but they are also cumulatively among the best in the nation.
What’s of concern for the ‘Noles moving forward from a BCS return scenario is the loss of DC Mark Stoops, who has moved on to take the head job at Kentucky.
Stoops had Florida State ranked No. 7 nationally in scoring defense, No. 5 versus the run and No. 3 against the pass this season, making his replacement one of the key hires of the offseason.
Even though Oregon failed in its quest to capture its fourth consecutive Pac-12 crown in 2012, the Ducks managed to make it to the BCS for the fourth straight season.
Oregon has proven that it can consistently pump out high-caliber football teams in a major conference, and this despite the cyclical nature of personnel turnover associated with collegiate sports.
And with top 15-ranked recruiting classes at the heart of the operation, the Ducks' reign looks to be secure at least for the next three seasons.
From a conference and division standpoint, Oregon is in the exact same position as Stanford with a clear shot at the BCS via a league title and an equally viable path by sitting out of the championship game and grabbing an at-large bid.
The only factor that separates the Ducks from the other four teams on our list is a defense that doesn’t currently rank in the top 25 nationally in any major statistical category.
After a five-year hiatus from the BCS, the Irish didn’t just break back into the elite portion of the postseason in 2012, they exploded all the way to the national championship game.
And this fact, plus a projected eight returning starters to each side of the ball, makes Notre Dame impossible to leave off of our list.
The Irish’s already decent (think Top 25) recruiting numbers are exploding with a 12-0 record and a shot at all the marbles vs. Alabama.
To illustrate, Rivals.com currently has the Notre Dame class of 2013 ranked at No. 3 nationally, far and away the Irish’s best haul in years.
The other kicker for the Irish in terms of the viability of a return to the BCS in 2013-14 is the fact that they don’t have to win a conference title and they have an automatic tie-in with the BCS.
Yes, if the Irish finish No. 8 or higher in the final BCS standings, they are automatically in, giving them yet another huge advantage in terms of returning.
Since 2008, the Crimson Tide have missed the BCS festivities only once, with three appearances coming in the national championship game.
More so than any other program in the nation, it’s impossible to leave Alabama off of any list that predicts which teams will be among the best in the nation at the end of a given season.
And this is regardless of how many guys are going to return, how difficult the SEC West is or who the Tide will face from a nonconference standpoint.
Alabama has nabbed the No. 1-ranked recruiting class three of the past four years, and its current haul, the group signing in 2013, is ranked No. 1 by Rivals.com.
Though the Tide may not win it all or even capture an SEC crown every season, you can bet that as long as Nick Saban is at the helm in Tuscaloosa they have an excellent shot at the BCS.