Fire up the hype machine for these 5 schools in 2016
People can drone on and on about Alabama and Notre Dame and Ohio State and USC every college football season, and that’s all good and well. They contend for national titles and/or appeal to national fan bases, and we hear about them all the time, good, bad or otherwise.
But every year there are a few schools that we look at and say: “This is their year.” Sadly, that talk doesn’t start in September, it starts right now.
So crank up the hype machines for these five schools, none of whom have won a national title since the turn of the century — or for some that’s ever — but have their eyes fixated on making a run in 2016.
Here they are:
- Tennessee Volunteers: We all have plenty of history on the failed hype behind the Vols, dating way back to the Peyton Manning era. We even got a little bit of it prior to 2015, but it’s off the charts now. With a QB returning (Joshua Dobbs) who’s already started 24 games, two stud running backs (Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara) and a defense full of future NFL players, 2016 is going to be the year for the Vols. They are heavy SEC East favorites and have a shot at winning the whole thing. But truth be told, despite all the hype, they need to find a way to beat their rivals. Since Phillip Fulmer was canned in 2008, the Vols are 0-7 against Florida and 0-7 against Alabama. To win the SEC, they’ll probably have to beat the Gators once and the Crimson Tide twice. Let’s see if they’re up for that challenge. Last national title: 1998.
- Michigan Wolverines: Yes, the hype machine has already been cranking in Ann Arbor ever since Jim Harbaugh agreed that a maize-and-blue sweatshirt looks great with khakis. The Wolverines went 10-3 in his first year and gave away a game against Michigan State on that fluky punt play. We’re even getting all the Harbaugh hype we can handle during recruiting season, since he’s finding it fashionable to sleep on the floor in recruit’s bedrooms now. Next year should be off the charts because Michigan should be good enough to contend for a Big Ten title. They might very well be 11-0 when they play Ohio State at the end of the season. Their three nonconference games are against Hawaii, UCF and Colorado – three teams that went a combined 7-31 in 2015 and one of the wins was Hawaii over Colorado. Harbaugh at 11-0 just might break the internet. Last national title: 1997.
- Stanford Cardinal: Three things will play into the Stanford hype machine exploding next year. First off, they were very good in 2015, winning the Pac-12 but then being left out of the four-team playoffs. Secondly, they have the most exciting player in college football, running back/returner Christian McCaffrey, back for another year in Palo Alto. All he did this year was break the all-purpose yardage record of legend Barry Sanders and set the world on fire in the Rose Bowl against Iowa. Thirdly, he’s white. That shouldn’t mean a darn thing in 2016, but it does to some people. No white running back has won the Heisman Trophy since John Cappelletti in 1973. McCaffrey also has high-profile games in September – USC and UCLA – to really get the Heisman talk rolling. Last national championship: 1940 (unofficially).
- Baylor Bears: Art Briles has been on the cusp of greatness since turning the Baylor program around quickly after his arrival in 2008. He’s had 10-win seasons four of the last five years and seemed to be in contention for a playoff spot in 2015 until all of his quarterbacks got hurt. The Bears are loaded again in 2015 and are coming off an impressive bowl rout of North Carolina. The Big 12 is up for grabs, but they’re the early favorites. They have their usual cupcake nonconference schedule (Northwestern State, SMY, Rice) and could go undefeated. No way they get left out of the playoffs again if that happens. Last national title: None.
- Clemson Tigers: Yeah, I get it. This hype machine is already cranked up and rolling after what the Tigers did this year, going undefeated and giving Alabama all they could handle in the national championship game. But trust me, it’s just beginning. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is a quote machine and the media will still be flocking to his door in 2016. He’s got his starting QB back, plus more than a dozen other starters. They’re going to be really good next year and just might go undefeated again. Ready for some more stories on how Dabo and his mom shared a bed as roommates in college? Last national title: 1981.