At the moment Oregon has secured the top spot in the BCS rankings. Yet twenty years ago the Ducks were a bottom feeder program, a doormat for the USC's of the world as they marched on to national championships.
If looking for a team to describe as a traditional power, Alabama would certainly be a good choice. With 13 claimed national titles and 26 conference titles, Alabama has enjoyed tremendous success over the decades.At the moment, Alabama is ranked at number 5 in the BCS standings. Not a bad rank, but three or four spots behind where Alabama wants to be. Still being inside the top give nationally is something to be proud of.
What is most interesting is not Alabama's position, but the teams ranked in the first four spots ahead of the Crimson Tide. In the context of the history of college football, one might expect to find Florida, Georgia, Texas, Miami, Notre Dame, Penn State, USC, or Michigan ahead of them, but you can't find any of those teams anywhere in the rankings. Or perhaps one might expect to find Ohio St. or Florida St., but neither of those teams are even placed among the Top Ten. Even Alabama's loss was not against a traditional power, but instead to upstart South Carolina.
Instead of traditional powers, the top four places are occupied by a crop of builders and giant killers. This article examines these programs and what has brought them to such high levels of success.
First place goes to Oregon, a team that has enjoyed a great amount of success in recent years, but has always lived in the shadow of the juggernaut that goes by the initials USC.
In 1995, Coach Mike Bellotti started to transform the Ducks from traditional bottom feeders into a quality team. He could never fully complete the process, however, and in 2009 he resigned so that Chip Kelly could take over.
Kelly has pushed the Ducks over the hump that had held them back, and under his direction the offense has become the most explosive in the country that averages an astounding 55 points per game.
Monte Kiffin, often regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in the game, couldn't even keep the Ducks to fifty points.
Running back James has so far been nothing short of phenomenal, trailing only #2 Auburn's Cam Newton in Heisman consideration.
Oregon will face some challenges, but unless some figures out hows to stall their incredible offense, this team is National Championship bound.
Auburn has enjoyed many years of success, and if there is any team ahead of Bama that can argue for Blue Blood Status, it is the Tigers. Their win percentage is a respectful .63, and while Auburn claims only one national title, others can legitimately claim another 7 more for the Tigers.
Under Coach Tuberville, the Tigers were always good but hardly great. Yes, Tuberville did get robbed of a national championship in 2004, and the Tigers were a good team in several other seasons, but they never quite reached that level of overwhelming success.
This year, the Tigers already hold big victories over Arkansas, LSU, and South Carolina. Given their recent years of success, Gene Chizik's work is not a miracle by any means, however it is certainly a surprise. Having started the season at a respectable ranking of 22, the Tigers currently at number two in BCS rankings and if they win out the season they are sure to find themselves playing for a National Championship.
Add to the fact that Cam Newton is the current Heisman front runner, Gene Chizik is well one way of turning a traditionally good team into an elite team.
Weighing in at number three TCU is coached by giant killer Gary Patterson. TCU sports a .75 win record in the MWC, a conference which has been stronger then some AQ conferences in recent years.
A 2005 victory over Oklahoma is perhaps their best to date, however you no longer see Big 12 schools rushing out to schedule the Horned Frogs for filler games.
Furthermore, TCU holds numerous victories over top 15 ranked MWC foes. Patterson is frequently connected to big coaching jobs, but thus far he has been content to build TCU into a national power.
Right now TCU is the highest ranked program residing in Texas and the success is starting to pay off on the recruiting trail. While in years past the school has had to rely on player development, they are now landing some of the most coveted prospects in the nation and Texas. The Horned Frogs are stepping out from under the shadow of the Longhorns and have solidified themselves as one of the best teams in the country in recent years.
Last year, only the Boise Broncos were able to keep the Horned Frogs from having a perfect season.
If there is a giant killer in the land, its Peterson. He holds an incredible .93 win percentage. Who cares if its in the WAC? Every year big time teams loss to small time programs.
In his four years as Head Coach, he has won two BCS bowls. He has beaten numerous ranked teams, including #10 Oklahoma, #4 TCU, #6 Va Tech, #12 Oregon, and another #14 Oregon team. More importantly for the Broncos, he has turned down other, “bigger,” job offers, realizing that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
Traditionally, teams like Boise are supposed to be stepping stones for coaches. Come in, have a big season, then move on to another school where you either become a legend or get fired. More and more, coaches like Peterson are choosing to stay put and become home town heroes.
Recruits are now taking a closer look at playing on the blue grass. While Peterson has traditionally had to mold two star recruits into contenders, more and more 3 and even occasionally 4 star recruits are heading to smaller schools like Boise. Increased recruiting will result in increased depth which will remove the one criticism that has continually haunted the Broncos, that they lack the depth to run through a SEC or PAC-10 conference.
And on the outside looking in? Alabama. The blue blood of blue bloods must now wait patiently, hoping that one of the four teams ahead of them drop a game. Alabama will have a shot to knock off Auburn, Oregon still has to face some tough foes, such as Arizona, and TCU must face off against number six Utah.
Speaking of Utah, that was the team that had a perfect season a few years ago but was denied a chance at a national championship. Instead, they crushed the Crimson Tide, 31-17 in the 2007 Sugar Bowl. Barring a huge upset, number four Boise State will cruise to an unbeaten season. The big question for Alabama is if they can jump over either Boise State or TCU if neither of those teams drop a game. TCU may cement its lead with a big win over Utah, however Boise has no other highly ranked teams on its schedule.
Point is, football is no longer a sport for a handful of elite schools. Each year new powers rise, even if only momentarily, and each year challenges from outside of the Big Six conferences regularly embarrass their supposedly superior foes.
The NFL is now filled with players from schools no one has ever hear of, and more frequently highly ranked recruits are choosing to go off the beaten path and selecting lesser known schools. As of right now, it is most of the traditional powers that are standing on the outside looking in.
Could you imagine if an analyst ten years ago had picked the current top four teams in the pre-season? He would have been laughed out of the room. This season Both TCU and Boise State started off in the top ten teams, while Oregon and Auburn had to work their way in. A bit of a flip in rolls, given that normally non AQ teams normally have to claw their way to the top.
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