The SEC’s biggest sleeping giants
Which teams are currently sleeping giants and could really start to dominate in the next few years during the College Football Playoff era?
College football is a cyclical game. You’re up one season and down the next, and many teams experience downturns in cycles for multiple seasons. College football is all about the head coach, while the NFL is all about the quarterback, and knowing several teams have premier head coaches, it gives them the best opportunity for success.
So, which SEC teams are currently the biggest sleeping giants in the SEC? Remember, we’re talking about future potential, not necessarily 2014 potential. Here is the top three:
1. Texas A&M Aggies
Why: Texas A&M is in a great position to take over the state of Texas. While the Longhorns are wading through rough waters, the Aggies can become a behemoth the next few years, thanks in part to the backing of the SEC brand. Now that Kevin Sumlin is selling one of the richest programs in the country, along with unbelievable facilities and the game’s top conference, it’s very justifiable to say the Aggies are the next big SEC monster. Texas is a talent-rich state, and Sumlin is positioning A&M’s brand to reap the rewards of the absolute perfect timing of entering the SEC. As long as Sumlin’s there, the offense will be putting up silly numbers, but now that he’s starting to reel in elite defensive prospects, it will help the Aggies put a championship program together.
Biggest threats: Playing in the SEC West is the biggest threat to holding the Aggies back. Playing LSU, Auburn and Alabama every year is brutal, and more parity is happening annually. That’s a bigger potential roadblock than the University of Texas being a perennial power.
2. Georgia Bulldogs
Why: As you look around the NFL, you’ll notice the Georgia Bulldogs are a top three SEC represented program. Putting players in the NFL never has been the problem. The Bulldogs have the most players in the NFL top 100 than any other conference program. Yet, through the BCS era, UGA was the only big-time program not to win the BCS Championship. Georgia has enough curb appeal to be an annual playoff player, but the Dawgs never could quite put it together during the BCS era. That could change at any time. While Georgia isn’t exactly in Tennessee’s situation, UGA was one of the most underachieving programs over the last several years. The state of Georgia will always have premier talent, and the Bulldogs’ program will always be one of the sexiest in the country.
Biggest threats: The biggest threat to Georgia never living up to its incredible potential has to be the head coach. I’m not saying Mark Richt will never win a championship, but everything is in place for the Bulldogs to seemingly dominate the SEC year-in and year-out. Yes, parity dominates the SEC East right now, but while Florida’s down, the East is there for the taking.
3. Tennessee Volunteers
Why: Perhaps Tennessee is just in a deep slumber. How can a program with such rich history, tradition and an incredible fan base be in this situation right now? Since 2008, Tennessee is a combined 33-41 (.446). The Vols went from Phil Fulmer to Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley, two of the worst hires during the BCS era. But things are changing with Butch Jones, and Jones has the program on the rise. Though another tough season may lie ahead, the Vols will be competing for the SEC East in the next two or three years. The Vols’ program has all the ingredients and everything a coach needs to again become a perennial power.
Biggest threats: Recruiting is everything to Tennessee. Without a talent-rich state like Florida or Georgia, the Vols have to go out of state and land premier prospects. Now, when big-time talents like Jalen Hurd or Josh Malone are in-state prospects, the program has to land them. They did. But primarily, when Tennessee was the it brand in college football, they were cherry picking prospects from everywhere in the country, especially California. Assuming Jones makes Tennessee a national brand again – and he’s well on his way – recruiting will be fine and the program should awake from its hibernation.