Friday, November 24, 2017

Which college football teams are on the way back? Florida? FSU? Notre Dame?


Everybody wants to turn back time. Everyone wants to be young again. Everyone wants to revisit their glory days.

That goes for Notre Dame, which hasn't been great since dinosaurs were puppies.

And for Miami, which hasn't been essential since the days of boogie shoes.

And for Tennessee, which was something to behold back when it played its games on black-and-white televisions.

Pretty much, that is what college football has become. It is a mad scramble of former brand name programs all chasing yesterday. Florida wants to be what Florida used to be, and FSU wants to be what FSU used to be, and Minnesota wants to be what anyone used to be. Oklahoma has slipped, and Texas has fallen, and Michigan can't get up.

Ah, but you should have seen them all back in the day.

Back then, back in the day of Hula Hoops or Speedy Alka-Seltzer or your grandmother wearing a mood ring, why, these programs made the earth tremble.


Times have changed. A great many of college's name-brand programs seemed to have fallen off of the mountain about the same time, and since then, they've been trying to climb back up. Isn't that the question of this season? Is Notre Dame back? Is Florida State back? How about Florida?

All of those programs won national championships. Today, all of them want to be the next Alabama, a brand-name program that lost its way and then found it again.

The truth? Most of these teams are still like an '80s band trying to squeeze out one more hit. None of them are fully back. Blame scholarship limits. Blame so many games on TV.

So who is closest to being back?

1. Florida: 86%

The Gators haven't been gone long. It just feels that way after two seasons of 8-5 and 7-6.

Even now, Florida lacks the offensive explosion of its three championship teams. But the Gators play a nasty brand of defense, and if they beat Georgia on Saturday, the path to the BCS title game is clear.

2. Notre Dame: 81%

Oh, the Irish are miles from the best days of their history. No one counts the horsemen at Notre Dame these days. But if this year's fifth-ranked Notre Dame team can win another title, that will signify a return to the elite. After all, it has now been 24 years since Notre Dame won a title. If the Irish get past No. 8 Oklahoma Saturday, they might have a chance.

3. Ohio State: 78%

The Buckeyes haven't been a vital team lately, either. They haven't won a title for a decade, and NCAA sanctions guarantee they won't get in the mix this year, either. But if Urban Meyer's health holds, he may give Ohio State enough juice to get back into the title picture.

4. Florida State: 75%

Admit it. After the Seminoles beat Clemson on Sept. 22, you thought they were close to the '90s, when they won two national titles. That was before FSU lost to N.C. State, however, and suddenly, FSU was back to not being back.

5. Southern California: 70%

The Trojans really haven't been the same since the house that Reggie Bush built turned out to be, well, against the rules. The last three seasons have included a fifth and two third place finishes. This year, the Trojans are a quiet 6-1, however. They aren't that far away.

6. Michigan: 58%

The Wolverines are 5-2, but whenever critics want to make fun of Alabama's schedule, they seem to start with Michigan. Why not? Michigan's only title in 64 years came in '97.

7. Nebraska: 48%

The Cornhuskers won two national titles in the '70s and three more in the '90s. This year? Do you need to know more than the 63 points they gave up to Ohio State?

8. Texas: 37%

The Longhorns were 13-12 over the past two seasons. This year, they are a shaky 5-2, and in their past three games, they've given up 161 points. These days, no one is talking about the 2005 national title.

9. Miami: 9%

For a very long time, the Hurricanes were college football's neighborhood bully. No one matched their success or their swagger. Over the past seven seasons including 2012, however, the 'Canes have lost 39 games. Even if you don't think about the NCAA in the distance, things are not good in Miami.

10. Minnesota: 0%

Go ahead, laugh. But back around the time of Vaudeville, the Gophers won four national titles. The bad news? Vaudeville isn't coming back. Neither are the Gophers.

There are others. Penn State. Tennessee. Pitt. Michigan State. Hey, you can even count Princeton, which dominated the early days, including winning one title after a pulsating 1-1 record.

All of them are trying to relive history. All of them want one more day in the sun.

On the other hand, so does Speedy Alka-Seltzer.

Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 97.8-FM the Fan.

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