Who Can Win It All in 2006?

A few weeks back, I posted on the relationship between recruiting rankings and championship teams going back several years. With that in mind, its time to take a look at who’s poised for a championship season in 2006.

In 2005, Texas and USC were the clear favorites start to finish. They had the three most important ingredients: talent, a reliable QB, and strong defense to go along with a manageable schedule. In USC’s case, their defense was at least strong relative to their opponents.

This year things are not so clear-cut. No team stands out as an obvious choice for the national title, especially once you factor in the schedule. What we do know is that talent matters. While the most talented team doesn’t always win it all, those without top-notch talent, never do. Last year for example, every conference champion was ranked in the top 3 in their conference based on 5 year recruiting rankings. Texas and USC were both #1 while Florida State and Ohio State (co-champ) were #2. Georgia and Penn State were both #3 with fellow SEC championship game participant LSU #2. The other #1’s were Michigan and Tennessee who both had disappointing seasons.

This year, based on talent alone, USC, UGA, OU, FSU, Miami, Florida, LSU, Texas, Michigan, Tennessee, Auburn, Ohio State, Texas A&M, South Carolina (believe it or not), and Notre Dame are the most talented teams on paper. It’s highly likely that these teams will win the BCS conferences, and two of them will compete for the national title.

Still, QB and defense have to be taken into account. From a QB standpoint, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, LSU, Florida, and Auburn are in the best shape. OU would have been in that group as well prior to the Bomar scandal. Florida State, South Carolina, and Miami also return quality signal callers. USC, Texas, UGA, Texas A&M, and Tennessee all have major questions at QB.

On defense, Texas likely returns the most quality players. LSU will reload with some outstanding talent. Michigan appears to have a great group returning and should improve in ’06. Ohio State loses almost everyone, but will still be at least decent on defense with the talent they’ve stockpiled. Auburn also has some holes to fill, but they have an outstanding secondary, and seem to always play solid D. USC probably has the best linebackers in the country, but is void of experienced quality defensive backs. Notre Dame returns nearly everyone from a very bad defense. The rest of the teams have talent, but must all replace some quality players.

Overall, the best combinations of talent, QB, and defense are LSU, FSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Auburn, and Florida. Texas, USC, OU, and Georgia all lack proven QB’s, and all play losable games early (Ohio State, Arkansas, Oregon, and South Carolina).

Not only does A&M lack a proven QB, they’ve also greatly under performed under Franchione. Tennessee, in addition to losing many key players, has lost a lot of its luster lately and would require a major turnaround to compete for a championship.

On paper, South Carolina has recruited well the last few years, but attrition has affected the talent level in Columbia, especially on defense. Notre Dame clearly has the tools on offense, but it’s defense that will likely keep a championship out of reach for the Irish.

In the ACC, Florida State should be the runaway favorite to win the conference and is in a strong position to return the national title race. Their toughest conference game is against a Miami team in disarray, and out of conference, Florida still must find its identity on offense. Miami should still be a solid team and good enough to win their division, especially with a Vick less Va Tech team. Georgia Tech seems like a wildcard here with Reggie Ball, Calvin Johnson, and an adequate defense, but the Yellow Jackets lack the overall team talent to contend for a title.

The SEC will be wide open this year, especially in the East. Talent favorite Georgia doesn’t have the QB to win it all, and Florida must decide if it’s Leak’s offense or Meyer’s offense. Barring injury, true frosh, fan favorite Tebow will not be a factor for the Gators at QB. As in 2005, Tennessee has the talent to win it all, but something has happened to that program. Perhaps Cutcliff can turn the offense around, but Vol nation is having problems. Steve Spurrier did a phenomenal job last year with talent that was a little better than most people realized. In year two, he’ll have the offense humming, but the defense will have problems. In the historical parity division of college football, LSU and Auburn have set themselves apart over the last five years and will continue to do so this year. LSU on paper likely has the best team in the country, but road trips to Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas will be very difficult. Throw in the SEC championship game, and it’s a tough road for the Tigers. Auburn loses a lot on defense, but Tuberville hasn’t had a bad defense since he’s stepped on the plains. These are the two best teams not just in the West but also in the entire SEC. Alabama and Arkansas will be solid, but neither will compete for a title.

Despite the huge drop off from last year, USC is still far and away the most talented team in the Pac 10. However, with no established starter at QB, the loss of Bush, who won more than one for the Trojans over the last two years, and a weak secondary, the Pac 10 could be wide open this year. Cal, Arizona State, Oregon, and UCLA all have solid (top 30) talent. Arizona State especially seems to have all the pieces in place to make a run. For USC, if J.D. Booty can get healthy he has the potential to break the Evangel High School (Josh Booty, Phillip Deas, Brent Thompson, and Brock Berlin) curse.

In the Big 12, the loss of Bomar really shakes things up; otherwise OU would have been the clear favorite here. Solid playmakers and a strong defense look promising for UT, but uncertainty at QB is not a good thing for the Longhorns. Vince Young was great because of his talent not because of development from the coaches. McCoy will struggle as a frosh. Who knows if A&M can get out of its funk, but I’ve always questioned Franchione’s character and would love to see him get a Texas sized boot out of College Station.

The conference the South seems to care least about should be as predictable as usual. The winner of the Michigan/Ohio State game will win the conference. Penn State was too much the Michael Robinson show last year, and despite a solid talent base, the Nittney Lions aren’t likely to win it all next year.

FSU doesn’t have the overall best talent, but they probably have the best combination of talent and a favorable path to the title game. On the other hand, if Ohio State’s defense matures quickly, they would be the front-runner. With USC’s questions, the Pac 10 doesn’t have a legitimate contender this year; however, that could make it possible for a surprise team to go undefeated and sneak into the Fiesta Bowl. LSU, Auburn, and Florida would each likely walk through either the Pac 10 or Big 12 this year, but with those three teams playing each other plus a stronger mid conference, it will be tough for the SEC to talk national title in 2006. Its hard to bet against the Big 12 because the lack of competition has landed a Big 12 team in the title game five of the BCS’s eight years; however, my guess is the Fiesta Bowl will be FSU versus the winner of the OSU/Michigan game.

'06 Football Football Recruiting General NCS Football

12 Responses to Who Can Win It All in 2006?

  1. choppack1 08/09/2006 at 6:05 PM #

    Good thoughts – it’s totally wide open this year. If ever WVa or Louisville is going win a championship – this is the year. The reason – the big boys are all challenged in way or the other. If one can go undefeated and the other has just one loss (the Ville’s loss to South Florida last year did lots to hurt the cred of them as contenders) – they can end up in a championship game vs. an Ohio State/FSU/Michigan/Tejas/USC/Auburn/Florida..

    In other words – if this was 2004, I’d be harboring pipe dreams that if we ran the table, we’d play in the National championship game based on the lack of a “high profile consensus #1. I say that now, but come 9-2-06 at 5:59 those hopes and dreams will be in the back of my mind.

  2. bTHEredterror 08/09/2006 at 8:41 PM #

    A&M’s not as hard up at QB as it seems. Stephen McGee the kid they will start this year, is a scrapper. I watched him play against Texas, and he got flat blasted on an option keeper. I mean a real power shot. He jumped up shook off the cobwebs, went to the huddle and ran the next one in from 12 yards. He’s got a stable of young backs and receivers to work with, and I think Fran (no argumenst he’s a self serving SOB) will coach well from the hot seat. Obviously their defense has to improve, but Torbush is gone and a host of defenders are back, for better or worse. K-State and Colorado are replaced with KU and Mizzou on the Big 12 schedule, and the OOC is a yawner. They end tough (with the Horns, Sooners and Huskers) but two are at home, where the 12th man is good for at least a touchdown.

  3. Slader4881 08/09/2006 at 10:44 PM #

    I really feel this is the year FSU is back in the hunt. The D will always be speedy and solid and the key is the O-line. If they can give Weatherford time and open some holes for Smith and Booker it could be back to the glory days for the Noles.

    Potential with Holes:

    OSU – they will be in the hunt, but the lack of experiance on D really bothers me. Plus can you really trust Troy Smith for a whole season?

    ND – the schedule is insane as usual, but the D will hold this team back. Quinn and Co. will score a ton but can they stop anyone?

    WVU and Louisville – one should be undefeated, but will it matter the BCS will probably hold the Big East against them.


    Clemson – give me a break how did this band wagon start? Give them a new QB and they are a trendy pick? I like the talent, but they are too young in key areas. Plus Tommy will mess up some where along the line.

    South Carolina – this team is not ready, a year or 2 and Steve will have them chasing the SEC title. Too young and not enough of his players.

    GT – Chan Gailey is horrible and Reggie Ball holds this team back from anything. There will be flashes and they will give ND a battle early, but way to up and down


    Michigan – Strong come back from a rough year. If they can stay healthy and get the D stronger this team will be tough.

    Texas – new QB but all the same talent. If they pick a the right starter this could snow ball into a good year.

    ASU – tons of O, but lacking in D. If they can stop anyone this year the Pac-10 could be theirs.

    Just my thoughts……

  4. vtpackfan 08/10/2006 at 8:56 AM #

    I like LSU to take SEC. Louisville. Florida State; and while I agree that I would’nt trust a Reggie Ball team week in and week out, I would not want to play GT in or to get into the ACC tiltle game. Notre Dame will be there in the end, but after an early season set back. There is no clear cut choice as a team or two “to beat”. Thats why I’m looking for a dark horse, or in this case bird, to come out of the shadows and play in the big game. Iowa Hawkeyes. Their toughest road game is in the “big house” Oct. 21. They get OSU in Iowa City and they just finished a huge renovation to stadium. 16 starters back, including almost all OL, QB Tate, and a very good RB. The Hawkeye D is always solid and this is Frentzs’ third year as head coach.

  5. vtpackfan 08/10/2006 at 9:06 AM #

    I do know football is played west of the Mississippi. I just think its crap this year. If Peterson goes down or is hobbled with injuries then the Sooners are laters. Can Nebraska climb another rung towards their once god like status. Texas will probably to fast and physical and take Big 12, but I thinlk it may be the case where they get to a News Years Bowl that they can dominate and help vault them into 2007. USC, ASU, Cal and Stanford, yipee! Lets play “what if”. Rivalry weekend, Cal vs. Stanford for all the marbles in the Pac 10, the clock is running down and there is a broken takle at the 50, the 45, the 30….WATCH OUT FOR TUBA PLAYER!!!

  6. Jeff 08/10/2006 at 12:03 PM #

    This is an AWESOME entry by TigerFan.

    I contend that the question of “Who can win it all” is not necessarily answered by “who is the most talented”.

    With so much expected parity in the country this season, I expect “scheduling” to also play a major role in “who can win it all”.

    Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised to Louisville or West Virginia competing for the National Championship.

  7. highstick 08/10/2006 at 3:23 PM #

    This post might have some credibility if they didn’t think South Carolina played in Columbus! Sounds like a typical drive by media analysis.


    Sounds like a typical drive by media analysis…

    …said the guy that doesn’t offer any analysis or thoughts.

  8. bTHEredterror 08/10/2006 at 8:12 PM #

    Iowa ain’t a bad pcik, they have played at a high level under Ferentz. Louisville and WVU both have weak schedules, but they did last year, too. WVU’s style of play presents problems fro opponents and I would expect them to go instead of the Cards. In most years where there is no clear cut favorite, and likely to be one or less unbeaten at season’s end, bet SEC. LSU would be the best bet.

  9. highstick 08/12/2006 at 1:51 PM #

    This post might have some credibility if they didn’t think South Carolina played in Columbus! Sounds like a typical drive by media analysis.


    Sounds like a typical drive by media analysis…

    …said the guy that doesn’t offer any analysis or thoughts.

    Well, at least I got the geography corrected in your post. I didn’t want to get lost going to a game this fall! I’ll be glad to give you some analysis after watching a couple of South Carolina games. There are too many missing pieces to the puzzle for Spurrier to fill this year to do much analysis yet. There’s been a little laziness on the part of some of the players not working out on their own and Spurrier has taken notice. They have to make a strong effort to overcome some of the physical weaknesses and losses to the draft. Ko Simpson made a bad mistake declaring for the draft and he was the leading tackler last year.


  1. I live for this… » Blog Archive » I thought I’d share - 08/09/2006

    EV64zH Great article post.Thanks Again. Will read on…

  2. The ACC Basketblog - 08/10/2006

    The Daily Roundup: Who can win it all in 2006

    “Our friends over at StateFansNation are on a roll. Besides some very interesting pieces on Offensive Lines and thoughts from David Glenn, there is this interesting …….”

  3. StateFans Nation » Blog Archive » Strength of Schedule is in the Eye of the Beholder - 07/11/2007

    […] Why is top 15 relevant? It is a somewhat arbitrary rank, but national title contenders don’t lose to teams outside the top 15. The six teams SFN pegged as national title contenders in 2006 were a combined 43-1 against teams not in the top 15 in SFN’s preseason rankings. The only upset was #16 Arkansas over Auburn. […]

Leave a Reply