Florida is college football's last first-time national champion. Who's next?
A day after Clemson celebrated the second national championship in school history earlier this month in Tampa, Louisville's Mark Ennis posted this tweet:
We haven't had a first time national champion in college football since Florida in 1996. Who would you guess is most likely to be the next?— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) January 10, 2017
Interesting stat. Intriguing question. Let's explore.
Because apparently any team can claim a national title - even ones that happened decades ago - we're only counting AP (or BCS/CFP) championships for the purposes of this discussion, so pre-1936 championships don't count. If any members of the 1926 Stanford team are upset by this, so be it.
My top picks would be...
1. Wisconsin. Since 2006, only Ohio State, Oklahoma and Alabama have more 10-win seasons than the Badgers. Wisconsin keeps doing it despite mediocre recruiting rankings and quarterback play; I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing here.
2. Stanford. How good is the Cardinal right now? Stanford had a down 2016 season...and still finished 10-3. The fact that three five-star recruits are coming with another top-20 recruiting class speaks highly to the future here.
3. Washington. The Huskies probably weren't going to win this year, even if quarterback Jake Browning had been healthy for the Peach Bowl. But coach Chris Petersen has a tradition-rich program headed in the right direction, with a top-20 recruiting class on the way.
4. Oregon. This season (and offseason) notwithstanding. The Ducks have ridiculous facilities and a strong recent history that resonates with recruits. Plus new coach Willie Taggart has a track record of rebuilding programs and taking them higher than they've ever been, right?
5. Louisville. The Cardinals have been hanging with the ACC's heavyweights throughout the Bobby Petrino era. The recruiting classes haven't been deep enough yet, but perhaps Lamar Jackson's Heisman Trophy season changes that.
6. Oklahoma State. The Cowboys might be higher, but I'm still not sure how long Mike Gundy (and his glorious mullet) stay in Stillwater. Plus the Big 12 remains last among the Power Five programs, and I'm not sure that will change soon.
7. Virginia Tech. A good, young coach (Justin Fuente), a great stadium environment and a path to the ACC title game through the weaker, non-FSU/Clemson/Louisville division.
I also considered West Virginia, Utah, Boise State and North Carolina.