Written by: Joseph Yun
Need that last-minute gift for that special someone in your life, college football fans? Have no fear, I’m here to deliver some gifts to the college football world.
Some teams are going bowling while others are opting out to go back to their families after months-long “bubbles”.
What do these Power 5 teams want for Christmas and won’t be tempted to re-gift their presents that Santa Joseph gives them?
What do you get a conference that has seemingly everything going for them?
- They got the biggest gift in all of college athletics recently in the form of Commissioner-elect Dr. Jim Phillips. He was viewed as a lock for the Big Ten commissioner gig until the last-minute endorsement of Kevin Warren swayed things. The hire of Dr. Phillips has been universally praised due to his excellent work as Northwestern’s Director of Athletics. This is a hire that not many ACC centric people were expecting as he is an outsider rather than a run of the mill Tobacco Road elitist. I feel like he’ll spread the love for everyone outside of the Research Triangle.
- A long-term marriage to #4 ranked Notre Dame (in football) after years of shameless flirting and a year of actual dating. It has been a wildly successful mutually beneficial relationship for both ND and the ACC this season. With the Irish in a conference that is relatively easy to win in, their path to the playoff would get a lot easier while the Independence road pressures them to be undefeated every season. The ACC would get a share of the NBC honeypot along with more money to be shared with everyone via the College Football Playoff.
- Speaking of the Fighting Irish, one would assume that they would like nothing more than to upset the heavily favored Crimson Tide and get a potential trilogy fight against Clemson.
- Florida State got some good news as former UCF QB starter McKenzie Milton recently announced his intent to transfer there. Now if they can get some more help in the portal to fill out the offensive line (which improved from nuclear grade dumpster fire to mediocre in 2020), Coach Norvell might be in business. The Noles get a contract extension plus some extra perks for OL coach Alex Atkins for the miraculous work he did to develop his unit. Maybe a receiver or two like John Dunmore (Penn State) or Jeremiah Holloman (FIU via UGA) to help offset the loss of Tamorrion Terry would help as well. One would imagine that Mr. Norvell would love to develop a back like Chris Curry (LSU) too. Faster progress of donations towards a standalone football-only facility would be on top of the list too.
- Clemson would love for OC Tony Elliott to take a page from DC Brent Venable’s playbook and stick around for a while despite head coach overtures from high profile programs. He’s more than proven his worth as the point man in Trevor Lawrence’s development (as much as Lawrence needs to be coached) and continuity for the heir, DJ U would be great. For now, yet another potential national championship date against Alabama will suffice as a gift.
- Heart monitors for North Carolina fans (namely Blitzalytics colleague Zach Gartin) and continued progression for Sam Howell as he embarks for potentially the last hurrah in Chapel Hill next year. Much like their professional counterparts in the Pacific Northwest, UNC hasn’t played a regular game like ever since Mack Brown took over (shoutout Rodger Sherman of the Ringer). Replacements for all world receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome along with dynamic backfield duo Michael Carter and Javonte Williams would be welcome. The good news is that Rontavious Groves, Khafre Brown, and Antoine Green are all slated to return at receiver. A glorious opportunity for further trolling of Texas A&M awaits Coach Brown in the Orange Bowl.
- Continuation of the defensive wizardry that Pat Narduzzi brought from East Lansing for Pittsburgh. They held up well despite some massive personnel losses throughout the year.
- Improvement from respectable competitors to competing for .500 ball for the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech would be a great gift for Geoff Collins in the 404. They have the QB (Jeff Sims) and RB (Jahmyr Gibbs) in place, now the rest of the roster needs rounding out.
- Can the Hokies find a capable QB that will seize the job and make Justin Fuente’s hot seat a bit cooler? Both Hendon Hooker and Braxton Burmeister had moments of consistency.
- A time machine to go back and redo their Commissioner hiring process as Kevin Warren has proven to be an utter and abysmal disaster in every facet of his job.
- Ohio State would dearly love a revenge win over Clemson after several officiating decisions didn’t go their way last time in the semifinal. Other than that, not much to give them with Ryan Day leading the way for an always excellent recruiting class that ranks in the top three again. Is CJ Stroud the next signal-caller after Justin Fields takes his talents to the NFL?
- Northwestern needs a new AD after the aforementioned Dr. Phillips left for the ACC. Will the impressive foundation (seriously that indoor facility next to Lake Michigan is elite) that he laid down keep Wildcats legend Pat Fitzgerald in Evanston amidst the increasing siren calls of the NFL?
- The Wolverines need some resolution to the Jim Harbaugh saga one way or another before 2021 becomes yet another failed referendum of his less than desirable tenure.
- As for the Badgers in Madtown, a capable backup to Graham Merz (he’s eligible for the draft next season) needs to be found. Wisconsin has the usual elements of its success in place with its roster relatively young under Paul Chryst. Also, it’s beyond mind-boggling that Merz didn’t play Oregon in the 2020 Rose Bowl.
- How soon can Minnesota get its crew to gel quickly on its boat after losing key pieces such as Tanner Morgan, Rashod Bateman, and Mohamed Ibrahim? Rising superstar coach P.J. Fleck is in town for another season so there’s that.
- Nebraska needs a program-wide “Big Ass Fan” to cool off the extremely warm seat that the prodigal son turned potentially bad hire Scott Frost occupies. He needs a great 2021 in the worst way after two years of little progress.
- Can the Longhorns please find some stability so that Urban Meyer’s wife isn’t repeatedly seen looking for Austin real estate? A new QB will take over for the departing Sam Ehlinger as well. Suffice to say that Tom Herman and the athletic department aren’t on the best of terms right now. An old school Big 12 rivalry date awaits them at the Alamo Bowl against Colorado.
- Oklahoma gets a reprieve from the NFL coaching carousel for at least one more year. Also, the continued development of much-touted Spencer Rattler. Can the Sooners retool around Rattler with some new faces on offense? Will the defense be anything but a turnstile? The college football equivalent of the Bundesliga runs through Norman AGAIN. Can they stop the high-powered Gators in the Cotton Bowl?
- Big 12 runners up Iowa State would love nothing more than to keep Matt Campbell in Ames for another year. A replacement for the outgoing Brock Purdy must be found as well. A Fiesta Bowl over Oregon would be a nice way to end the season after coming so close to the Big 12 title.
- Oklahoma State needs to find replacements for both LD Brown and Chuba Hubbard along with Tylan Wallace. First, they have a matchup with the Hurricanes to deal with in the Cheeze-It Bowl. Mike Gundy has a history of unearthing offensive stars so there’s that.
- Alabama is looking for title number 18 and they are well on their way to getting it with a semifinal date with underdog Notre Dame.
- Georgia has polished off yet another highly ranked recruiting class and will look to finish the year strong against an upstart Cincinnati team in the Peach Bowl. Fans will forever wonder what could’ve been had J.T. Daniels been the starter all season. May Daniels be healthy for all of 2021.
- The Gators have the gift of one more game of the Kyle duo (although Pitts won’t be playing due to opting out) and will be looking to finish a successful year. It’s going to be a fun finale for a host of players like Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes, Kyle Trask, and infamous shoe thrower Marco Wilson. Do they have a future star quarterback on the current roster?
- A Texas Bowl win for surprisingly competitive Arkansas would be the cherry on top for head coach Sam Pittman. He has a good recruiting class coming in to build the future within Fayetteville. The future is bright for the first time head coach.
- The Lane Train had a good debut for Ole Miss and he headed off rumors of a dalliance with Auburn to boot. It helps that quarterback Matt Corral was arguably the most improved player in FBS. The citizens of Oxford will be looking forward to a comfortable Outback Bowl victory over Indiana. A+ recruiting graphics on ESD.
- A rocky first season in Starkville for one Mike Leach as Mississippi State found out some things about themselves. Namely, Will Rogers is better than KJ Costello. A true year zero for Leach as he’s beginning to turn over the roster that Joe Moorhead built.
- Auburn fans need comforting after the program opted to pay former coach Gus Malzhan a cool $21 million to not coach. The Tigers gave the Bryan Harsin family some joyous news Tuesday night after being repeatedly rejected by other coaching candidates. He’s a good football mind but I’m just wary of the cultural fit between him and the program’s sordid history with boosters.
- Texas A&M has a case to be livid at ESPN and the playoff committee for leaving them out of the playoff. 2021 will be a much stiffer challenge for Jimbo Fisher and his bank account as many proven stars are leaving or are ready to jump to the pros. Perhaps a shot at taking down longtime rival Mack Brown will cool their heels a bit.
- Hiring Merton Hanks to oversee football ops was a step in the right direction but much more drastic action is needed. That action: removing Larry Scott from his post as conference commissioner and installing a more football-centric person to reverse the tide of their conference’s negative perception nationally.
- Oregon fans can breathe a sigh of relief as head coach Mario Cristobal signed his long-awaited contract extension that ramped up after Auburn made overtures. Consecutive conference titles ain’t a bad way to end 2020 after beginning the year with a Rose Bowl win. A Fiesta date with well-coached Iowa State looms in the Arizona desert.
- Speaking of the Arizona desert, the Wildcats got the gift of well-traveled Jedd Fisch as the new man to head their football program. Fans will make much of his NFL contributions, particularly how he’s of the “Belichick Tree” even if it was for one season.
- USC fans get a lump of coal for the holidays as the Trojans couldn’t fend off the Ducks for the Pac-12 title after an undefeated season. Clay Helton will be the head coach for a bit longer it seems, much to the chagrin of SC fans and the happiness of others in the conference. USC opted out of the bowl season so they have to live with the bitter taste of defeat for a while.
- Washington has had a rough go the past couple of weeks due to COVID issues, losing a precious spot in the conference title game to hated rival Oregon despite a better record and then opting out a bowl. It hasn’t been a stellar year for them recruiting wise as the top echelon recruits from the state opted to go elsewhere. May good health return to the Huskies in the near future.
- While it wasn’t a true year zero for Nick Rolovich at Washington State, there were signs of life in Pullman for the Post-Leach era. The Cougars will be a pain much like Hawai’i was as their unique Run and Shoot offense will be hard to prepare for on short notice.
- Death, taxes and Utah being annoyingly good every year despite roster turnover. Utes fans had to sit back and rend their teeth watching Holy War rival BYU take all the glory. Utah just recently got a great gift in transfer QB Charlie Brewer so there’s that.
- While literally EVERYONE hysterically laughed at Colorado for hiring a retread coach, Karl Dorrell and his herd of Buffaloes were competitive for a bit, running up an undefeated record until late. Much success will be expected in Boulder in 2021. Can Dorrell deliver an encore?