Florida, Michigan and Nebraska – three of the traditional power schools in college football’s landscape of the last 40 hours – each fired their coach and are looking for a replacement who can get them into the playoff for the national championship.
Each program is steeped in tradition, but also is trying to return to more glorious times when competing for a national title was not only realistic, but expected.
As each program’s athletic director moves to make the decisive hire, Scout’s team of national recruiting analysts shared their thoughts on where each program ranks not in prestige or history, but which is best situated to push its way into the playoff.
Greg Biggins, West
FirstFlorida, Michigan and Nebraska are three heavy weight programs with tremendous tradition and a nationwide brand to sell.
I think all three are very attractive jobs but in terms of what school, with the right hire of course, has the best shot to consistently compete for final fours, for me it's probably Florida. There is no better talent base to recruit from anywhere in the country than Florida and even if they're splitting talent with in-state rivals Miami and Florida State, you still don't have to leave your own state to recruit and that's huge.
The SEC conference is extremely competitive and tough to get through undefeated but the prestige of the conference is so revered, a one loss SEC team will get the benefit of the doubt over a one loss team from anywhere else.
SecondMichigan probably has a little more talent to recruit from in-state and can also go into neighboring Ohio, which is always very strong. Academically, few schools are as respected as Michigan, another huge recruiting selling point.
Michigan and Nebraska are similar in that they have great administrative support and money is no object in terms of finding the right guy, paying for top assistants and upgrading facilities when needed. They also have incredibly rabid fan bases, sell out every game and have historically been very strong getting their players to the NFL. Each school owns multiple national titles and Heisman Trophy winners and it's tough to find many schools who can sell the prestige and tradition as these two.
ThirdNebraska needs to recruit more nationally but has shown they can get players from as far West as California, in to Texas as well as the South. Academically they can also boast a great tradition of producing academic all-americans and are one of the nation's leaders in the category.
Brian Dohn, East
FirstIt was close and I thought about putting Nebraska first, but the talent pool in Florida's backyard, and the fact the perception is the SEC championship game winner is thought to be the cream of the crop in college football, gives the Gators built-in advantages other programs do not have. Yes, winning in the SEC is hard, but there is so much talent in Florida, and so many kids want to play in the SEC, it gives Florida a leg up before the race starts.
SecondNebraska has a national name to recruit with, but more importantly, it is not in the same division as Ohio State and Michigan State. If the new coach hires the right staff, connections in Texas, Florida and southern California make it a bit easier for the Cornhuskers to recruit. Also, Nebraska rolls out of bed in late August and wins nine games. It has been that way since man walked on the moon, so the base is permanent.
ThirdAll three are wonderful, established programs on college football's big-time canvas, but Michigan has a lot more to deal with now that it did 10 years ago. Michigan State is now very good, Urban Meyer is at Ohio State and to be frank, he doesn't lose many games, and it has been a while since the Wolverines have been elite. Michigan fell back a little bit, but the bigger thing is other programs caught up to the Wolverines.
Brandon Huffman, West
FirstWin the SEC, make the playoffs. It’s that simple. You’re sitting one of the best recruiting bases in the country. You have history and tradition and players that want to come. So win your division, win your conference, and you’re in.
SecondBeat Ohio State and there is a good chance you’re winning the division. Win the Big Ten, and you’re in. You have history and tradition and a good recruiting footprint, and a national name. Brady Hoke went to a BCS bowl his first year. Michigan isn’t that far removed from success.
ThirdThe Huskers don’t have the easiest time recruiting because of their location and their dearth of elite recruits. They really have to stretch to recruit. And it has been so long since they’ve had success like they did in the 1990’s, that the perception is it is way down, so there is no guarantee that even winning the division is attainable. But again, win the Big Ten, you’re in.
Jamie Newberg, Florida
FirstSimply, of the three, it's surrounded by the most talent. The Gators may have the toughest path through the SEC but the new staff in Gainesville will have the best recruiting base to pull from and it's not even close. Having said that it won't be an easy fix as this offensive roster is depleted.
SecondAfter thinking about it, I almost made Nebraska No. 1 because they are the closest in terms of wins and consistency. But the Cornhuskers need more athletes and play makers to ever get by Meyer and Ohio State to reach playoffs.
ThirdDynamics have changed. Meyer is at Ohio State. Franklin will recruit very well at Penn State. Michigan State is certainly a power program now and they are ascending and, of course, you have Notre Dame. Not a great and deep pool in terms of talent in the region. It certainly can be done. This is Michigan we are talking about. I just think of the three, it will be the hardest.
Greg Powers, Midlands
FirstComing through the SEC with one loss almost seems to be a guarantee to get you a shot at the playoff. And in some years a two loss team may sneak in, and with that scenario in place it could be easier for a school from that conference in some years, even though the competition is stiff. Florida also should have the most home-grown talent available to build a championship caliber team.
SecondI will make them number one right now as it just may be easier for them to get to a possible playoff the quickest. They have a 9-3 football team with a core of player coming back that could compete for a Big 10 championship next season. Win your conference and you have a better shot to get in... I think.
ThirdCould be a sleeping giant, as there are some good young players on the roster right now. But they have struggled to win after a couple of roster overhauls as the school has played the coaching shuffle. Stability and a solid core need to be built up again before they get in the national championship hunt.
Chad Simmons, Southeast
FirstI see Florida as the best job to get to the big dance in college football right now out of the three. For one, it is in the SEC, and they will have tough games on their schedule year in and year out. Not to mention, they play FSU every year. Another reason is Florida is in the SEC East, and that side of the conference is down at this time. If Florida wins that division, then they are playing in the SEC title game where the winner of that will usually get strong consideration for a playoff spot. All three jobs are very appealing for multiple reasons, but Florida is the one that has an immediate recruiting base, it won two national titles not too long ago, it is in a perfect spot to turn around in a hurry, and if you win in the SEC, you will have the opportunity to play for a championship.
SecondThe Cornhuskers are on the better side when talking divisions right now. Wisconsin is the one, really the only one they are chasing right now. They are not too far behind.
SecondThe Wolverines have taken a couple steps back in recent years. The talent is not what most expect it to be, and Michigan State is the best team in that state right now. Michigan is a ways away from competing in the NCAA playoff.
Allen Trieu, Midwest
FirstThe Huskers were 9-3 this year. Plus, they were competitive with Michigan State and Minnesota. They were not that far away from challenging for a spot in the conference title game. You lose some key pieces but quarterback Tommy Armstrong is only a sophomore and you have highly recruited guys behind him, so I think Nebraska is currently in the best position of the three to make a quick move.
SecondBrady Hoke leaves the next regime a roster full of former top recruits. While the jury is still out on some of them, you have a former All-American quarterback in Shane Morris waiting in the wings, and he will be competing with another one in Wilton Speight, and another in Alex Malzone coming in. Then, you have former blue-chippers like Jabrill Peppers and Ty Isaac, who sat out this year, but will be eligible next year. There are some holes to fill and key positions where there are question marks, but despite what some may say, I believe there is talent on the Michigan roster.
ThirdLike Michigan, the Gators have plenty of former blue-chip recruits on their roster. That includes quarterback Jeff Driskel. Whoever inherits the Florida job will have the most experienced quarterback. Plus, he will have former top recruits Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor returning at running back and leading receiver Demarcus Robinson back. The reason Florida is last on the list, though, is because in terms of getting to the playoffs, the SEC schedule is more difficult than the two listed above.