We've been stuck here longer than apocalyptic traffic on the Chris Christie-blocked George Washington Bridge, but the Road to the BCS has finally reached its Dead End. Like an old ghost town, the buildings are abandoned, the streets are gray and the wrecking crew is on its way to knock down the dilapidated factories to make way for a sprawling new playoff. They're also expanding the two-lane dirt road into a four-lane highway.
However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Sparsely-attended funerals for the BCS have been held for much of the past week. However, the BCS isn’t gone. It merely faked its death off the coast of Barbados, integrated the Chick-fil-A and Cotton Bowls into its format, kept the same executive director in charge, altered its identity by adopting a new logo color scheme, new name and blended into a gang of 13. Condoleeza Rice and Tyrone Willingham provide an excellent cover.
Nevertheless, the road from the BCS and towards a better alternative to determining a national champion begins today.
Florida State is back, but they aren’t a dynasty. The only program in the nation that can still lay claim to being a college football dynasty is South Dakota State, winners of three consecutive FCS National Championships. Earlier in the season, I compared the Bison and other FBS squads to invasive mice inside the walls leaving droppings all over FBS loss columns. You have to watch your feet these days.
Elephants are inexplicably terrified by mice. What was once a myth attributed to folk tales has been confirmed through scientific means.
For the Crimson Tide, this should ring a little too close to home. Everyone looks like mice from the top story of the rankings high-rise. Well, near the top story now. Florida State has a lease on the penthouse.
College football superpowers usually have limited windows. It’s the little things that begin to nibble at dynasties. Before Pete Carroll left USC for the Seattle Seahawks, Oregon and Stanford were already beginning to encroach on their territory. Norm Chow's departure and Lane Kiffin's exit made things a little more difficult as well because of the constant transitioning.
Auburn is literally already in Bama's neighborhood, but 2013 was their power play. The Tigers keyed up the sides of Alabama’s pristine truck, smashed its windows and vandalized “This Means War Eagle” onto the hood to let everyone know they meant business.
Dynasties typically don’t vanish in a mushroom cloud. It’s a drawn out process that starts with a trickle, weakens the infrastructure over time, eventually creates new leaks and develops into a flood.
In an alternate universe, Jameis Winston is prepping for a spring battle with senior Blake Sims for Alabama’s starting quarterback position. Before they lost to Auburn, finishing as the runner-up in the Winston sweepstakes to Florida State was the toughest loss of Saban’s Crimson Tide career.
A.J. McCarron wasn’t the only irreplaceable offensive leader to leave Tuscaloosa. Coaching turnover may also begin chipping away at Alabama’s dominance.
In a surprising turn of events, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier left to take the same position at Michigan in 2013 on Wednesday night. Steve Sarkisian’s offense at Washington saw its numbers dip lower than East coast temperatures in a polar vortex. Simultaneously, McCarron and the ‘Bama offense’s passing attack immediately increased its output.
Lane Kiffin presided over the fall of Troy and is now in consideration for the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator position. Jimmy Sexton reps both Saban and Kiffin so this could be just a courtesy but Saban was really gassing Kiffin up last week after he visited a few Crimson Tide practices. Does the term Trojan Horse ring any bells. All that aside, they’re going to be tag team champions of the world the way that they deftly attack the media. Or this could be a match made in…moving on.
If Winston were a redshirt sophomore for the Crimson Tide in 2014, something tells me Nussmeier isn’t leaving to coach Michigan in 2014.
Instead, Winston’s current backup Jacob Coker may be a challenger to the Alabama starting job next spring to play out his final two years of eligibility. Because Coker will graduate in spring, he’ll be available to play immediately.
It makes sense for Coker, who hails from the same program at St. Paul's Episcopal as the outgoing ‘Bama quarterback. The world was deprived of a chance to see Cam Newton vs. Tim Tebow in college by one year, but if last season was just a national championship hiatus for Alabama, I’ll start the hype of a Coker vs. Winston national championship/semifinal now.
Meanwhile, Michigan wasn’t the only school to make ripples in the coaching community over the past 24 hours. While the rest of the nation slept, reports broke that Penn State would offer its coaching job to James Franklin. After the Redskins hired Jay Gruden, the NFL isn’t looking as likely, and the future for Franklin is coming into focus.
Franklin’s hiring would complete the rearrangement of a triad of major openings ranging from Louisville to Texas and finally Penn State.
On the opposite end of the national championship conversation spectrum is the official Please Have Several Hot Seats Watchlist for head coaches at major programs cooking most uncomfortable next season. You’ll identify them by the tan lines on their skin in mid-January.
Bo Pelini isn’t Tom Osborne, but you’ve got to wonder if Nebraska will ever be a great program again. The 24-19 win over Omaha native Mark Richt’s Bulldogs is a better look aesthetically than is subcutaneously. The Bulldogs were basically playing with an ICU offensive roster. The Cornhuskers believe they can regain their former glory, and Pelini has one more year to prove that he’s the man to do it.
The eyes of the nation will also be focused on Michigan., especially after offensive coordinator Al Borges was canned on Wednesday. The first signs of a head coach in distress were visible when Brady Hoke started exhibiting cannibalistic tendencies by sacrificing one of his coordinators to the football gods. Mack Brown made the same move by axing Manny Diaz midseason and then telling everyone that Diaz was simply getting reassigned.
At Florida, people are still askin' questions, and Will Muschamp doesn't have the answers. At least the threat of Charlie Strong no longer looms. He also fired his offensive coordinator Brent Pease. Pease made Borges look like Chip Kelly in a side-by-side comparison.
Eyes now turn to Arizona’s Anu Solomon as the freshman quarterback, the nation is anticipating the debut of. Unless supernova Class of 2014 recruit Deshaun Watson, wins the starting job at Clemson during his first nine months on campus. Watson is already on campus, so he’s got a head start in learning the system. It’s incredibly rare for a true freshman to start from the jump, but unlike Winston watching behind EJ Manuel for a year, Watson is walking into a situation without a record-setting senior quarterback under center.
Brett Hundley’s return to UCLA delays true freshman Asiantii Woulard’s ascension to the governorship of UCLA’s offense. Everett Golson will return to Notre Dame after leaving school, but he'll face a challenge from Malik Zaire.
Aside from oversharing tailback De’Anthony Thomas going pro and veteran defensive coordinator Nick Aliotta retiring, Oregon should be back in the conversation as well, unless David Shaw grabs them by the ankles again, dangles them over the top of the Pac-12 standings and duct tapes them to second place.
Oklahoma returns most of the lineup on both sides of the ball that gashed Alabama and could re-enter the Big 12 and national championship fray while Baylor just keeps restocking on offense. Texas A&M won’t be a national championship threat until they plug up the bullet-riddled holes in that defense.
It’s too early to tell where the next surprise invisible team with no headlights on to sprint out ahead of everyone will come from. However, year three of the Jim Mora era at UCLA may be a good place to start.
The 2014 season is our next stop following pit stops on Signing Day and spring practice. You might want to rent a van. The 13-member playoff committee replaces the BCS’ top-2 as the most influential entity in college football. Are we there yet?