College Football: Power Five Breakout Teams (part two)

Part one of this series can be found here.

The Pac-12 is full of risers and fallers over the years. Oregon was once the class of the Pac-12 playing in the 2014 National Championship game than in 2016 fired their head coach Mark Helfrich. Colorado was one of the worst teams in the country as of 2012; four years later Colorado played in the Pac-12 championship game. USC has been a mess since Pete Carol left for the NFL. Lane Kiffin was fired off a bus, Steve Sarkisian was left go for excessive drinking, Clay Helton has since righted the ship, restoring USC to their traditional winning ways. Last season USC returned and won the Rose bowl for the first time since the Pete Carol era. Stanford has been the rock of consistently within the Pac-12 since Head Coach David Shaw took over in 2011. Shaw has led Stanford to three Rose Bowls since 2014; The Cardinals won the Rose bowl in 2012 and 2015. Washington made the leap last year from a .500 team to a playoff contender under head coach Chris Peterson.  Arizona, Arizona State, Californa, Washington State and Oregan State have all been middle of the road teams. My breakout team for the Pac-12 conference for the 2017 season is the UCLA Bruins. UCLA sits in the heart of recruiting country in LA, and Jim Mora has taken full advantage sending twenty players to the NFL since 2014. UCLA arguably returns the best quarterback in the nation in Josh Rosen. Rosen and the Bruins both suffered a couple of setback years which can be accredited to 1. Rosen being a freshmen and 2. Jim Mora switching from a spread approach to an offense to a more pro-style offense. Mora and the Bruins are going back to a more spread type offense and should enjoy a breakout season.

Heisman hopeful Nick Chubb

The SEC has been a one-man show since Nick Saban became the head coach at the University of Alabama. Alabama has won the SEC five times since 2007. The Crimson Tide have won four National Championships in Saban’s tenure at Alabama. What Saban is doing at Alabama rivals Bud Wilkerson run at Oklahoma in the 50’s, and Bear Bryants run at Alabama in the 70’s. If Saban can win another National Championship he will be the greatest college football head coach in the history of the sport. It is harder to consistently win in today’s game than ever before. With schools limited to 85 scholarship players, coaches have to consistently be right about their evaluation of eighteen-year-olds and envision what they will become in four to five years. Saban recruiting prowess is well documented as the Crimson Tide just wrapped up seven straight years of having the best recruiting class. I could write an entire article about how Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all time and how Alabama is the greatest college football program in the history of the game. (I had one until they lost the National Championship). The rest of the SEC West are teams that can potentially compete for the divisional title. LSU has as much talent as anyone in the conference but has failed to recruit and develop a quarterback, Auburn has been a very solid team under Gus Malzahn winning 12, 8, 7, 8 games in a span of four years. If Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi State, or Mississippi won eight-plus games next season would anyone be surprised? That is how absurdly deep the SEC West is. The SEC East, on the other hand, is much weaker than the West. The last time an eastern team won the SEC was Florida in 2008. Florida has won the East in back to back years despite an offense that only averaged 24 points per game (107th in the country) in 2016 and 22 points per game in 2015 (100th in the country), Tennessee has been on every sportswriter’s breakout team list the past few seasons and have fallen short. The breakout team for 2017 in the SEC is the Georgia Bulldogs.

It is harder to consistently win in today’s game then ever before. With schools limited to 85 scholarship players, coaches have to consistently be right about their evaluation of eighteen year olds and envision what they will become in four to five years. Saban recruiting prowess is well documented as the Crimson Tide just wrapped up seven straight years of having the best recruiting class. I could write an entire article about how Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all time and how Alabama is the greatest college football program in the history of the game. (I had one until they lost the National Championship). The rest of the SEC West are teams that can potentially compete for the divisional title. LSU has as much talent as anyone in the conference but have failed to recruit and develop a quarterback, Auburn has been a very solid team under Gus Malzahn winning 12, 8, 7, 8 games in a span of four years. If Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi State, or Mississippi won eight plus games next season would anyone be surprised? That is how absurdly deep the SEC West is. The SEC East on the other hand is much weaker than the West. The last time an eastern team won the SEC was Florida in 2008. Florida has won the East in back to back years despite an offense that only averaged 24 points per game (107th in the country) in 2016 and 22 points per game in 2015 (100th in the country), Tennessee has been on every sportswriters breakout team list the past few seasons and have fell short. The breakout team for 2017 in the SEC is the Georgia Bulldogs.

The rest of the SEC West are teams that can potentially compete for the divisional title. LSU has as much talent as anyone in the conference but have failed to recruit and develp a quarterback, Auburn has been a very solid team under Gus Malzahan winning 12, 8, 7, 8 games in a span of four years. If Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi State, or Mississippi won eight plus games next season would anyone be surprised? That is how absurdly deep the SEC West is. The SEC East on the other hand is much weaker than the West. The last time an eastern team won the SEC was Florida in 2008. Florida has won the East in back to back years despite an offense that only averaged 24 points per game (107th in the country) in 2016 and 22 points per game in 2015 (100th in the country), Tennessee has been on every sportswriters breakout team list the past few seasons and have fell short. The breakout team for 2017 in the SEC is the Georgia Bulldogs.

Picking Georgia may be cheating as the Bulldogs are rich in winning tradition, All-Americans and NFL Talent, but the Bulldogs are primed to bounce back from an uncharacteristic 8-5 season and compete for the SEC championship in 2017. Georgia is loaded with talent and has the best quarterback (Jacob Eason) and running back (Nick Chubb) tandem in the country coupled with the maturation of underclassmen to upperclassmen on the offensive line the Bulldogs will have the best offense in the SEC in 2017. Kirby Smart has recruited well in his only season in Athens finishing with the eighth overall class. Georgia has the talent and experience to not only compete for the SEC East but for their first berth in the College Football Playoff.

 

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Tom Hardy

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