It’s been an amazing season for college football. This Saturday night, the most exciting bowl games will take place, and the “Hurry Up Bowl” in Atlanta will have a national title on the line and a chance to send the University of Georgia to a sixth straight bowl game. There are also high hopes for Miami, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and others in the hunt for a title.
In a study conducted at the University of Michigan, researchers have discovered what may be football’s “Ifs” list. The study looked at the results of the last ten years of college football, in which they analyzed the results of 128 teams. The data consisted of the official win-loss records of each team, as well as the play-off results and rankings. The researchers noticed that, despite what many might think, a team’s winning percentage (W%) is not a very good predictor of how they will perform in the play-off, especially if they do not have a national championship.
Let’s face it: The 2020 season was not the best in college football. The crowd was empty or incomplete, there was no tailgating or atmosphere. Prior to the season, all of the sport’s flaws and shortcomings – the lack of central leadership, the outdated model for handling athletes, and even the limitation of the playoffs to four teams without adequate representation – were abundantly clear. The season still had some great moments (and, at Alabama, the best team ever), but it was also even more frustrating and grueling than usual.
But perhaps it is because of this disappointment that the sun seems to be shining a little brighter this off-season, the optimism a little thicker in the air. The crowds return to the stands, the sausages return to the parking lots, and we can enjoy another full season of college football.
The season is not just about the race for the national title. The journey is as important as the destination. But it’s always nice to be able to set the table in a format that allows us to discuss multiple teams and cover more ground.
This is my annual to-do list article – an attempt to determine what, if anything, I need to make the team a true national title contender. Here are the 19 teams with national title odds above +10000 according to Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, ranked by the number of Ifs needed. At the top of the list are some familiar names from the title race, but below that are a lot of newcomers.
(As always, we won’t worry about obstacles like injuries, which can affect any team at any time. These problems are obvious to everyone).
Look at the team: Alabama | Clemson | Ohio State | Georgia
Oklahoma | Texas A&M | Texas | Iowa State | North Carolina
Florida | Notre Dame | Oregon | USC | LSU | Miami
Wisconsin | Penn State | Oklahoma State | Iowa
If… Spencer Petras has a few more passes. After a disappointing 0-2 start, Iowa has won six in a row in the Big Ten, including five with at least two touchdowns, and moved up to 10th in the SP+ rankings. The defense was just insane and the running game, with fullback Tyler Goodson in a key role, was strong.
Passing game? Not really. Petras was only 64th in QBR, and Iowa was 95th in completions with almost no games. The Hawkeyes almost made it to the CFP in 2015 without an elite QB game, but they need the passing game to really win games when they face opponents.
When… the reconstructed host body will explode. The lack of big plays came despite the efforts of fifth-round pick Ihmir Smith-Marsett, who averaged 13.8 yards per game in catches. Only four players with 10 or more receptions returned to the team; their average is 10.4 yards per reception. Either way, Iowa needs whole games.
When… the new trick breaks the horizontal bar. Iowa has produced a lot of good offensive linemen over the years, and after losing Alaric Jackson and Mark Callenberger, they will need a few more. Petras needs all the help he can get.
If… The reinforcements on the D line will be ready. Iowa’s defense will be phenomenal, but the front seven will have to replace five starters. Fullback Zach VanValkenburg is a star, and midfielder Jack Campbell accounts for 12 percent of Iowa Havoc’s plays despite missing three games. With a lower offensive ceiling than most other contenders, this defense can’t go wrong.
If… the defense doesn’t let the opposition get away with it. With such a well-positioned defense, the Hawkeyes couldn’t always get off the field. They were 11th in success rate on standard attempts (first down, second and 6 or less, third and 4 or less), but 48th in passer rating. This, combined with an unsafe red zone defense, created a few more touchdown opportunities than necessary.
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