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Jonathan’s Journal
July 11, 2001
Evaluating the National Title Contenders

Well, we’re about 52 days away from the start of college football, plus or minus a few depending on when your team starts. It’s as few as 45 for those teams who begin on August 25 and as many as 59 for those of you who begin on September 8. Still more than 6 weeks away from the very first game and the previews are full blast. Rating the conferences, teams, schedules, players, coaches, fans, stadiums, and just about anything else you can think of. Just check around. There isn’t much info you can’t find.

Along with all those previews comes the hopeless debate of who will make it to the national championship game, which happens to be at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA this year. It’ll be kinda strange not having a normal PAC-10 vs BIG TEN game this year, huh? That most likely won’t happen. Well, everybody is taking their guesses (rolling the dice), so I figured I’d do the same. What can it hurt? So below you’ll find a list of the 28 teams (of the 117 in Division I-A) who I believe have a legitimate shot at the National Championship Game. These are the teams who, on my previews of each team, have only one or no teams listed under the ‘Probable Losses’ category. Since every team has at least a couple of ‘Toss-Up Games’ as well, I thought this would be the best way to start.

And I know you’re saying, “Would Oklahoma have had more than 1 ‘Probable Loss’ at the beginning of last year?” And the answer is: “Maybe, maybe not; I don’t really know.” So just because a team isn’t listed here, it means they have no chance of the Rose Bowl, right? Wrong. This is just my best guess, but chances are, those 2 teams in Pasadena will be 2 of the 28 listed here.

And one more thing. No, I’m not giving away my Rose Bowl prediction just yet, but I will narrow down these 28 teams to 9, which in my opinion have the best shot. If you wish, you can go back and look at the comments beside those 9 and pick the two for yourself. Or one of yours may not even be one of the 9. Anyway, if you do have an opinion or see a team I left out, Email me, and tell me about it.

So here we go with the 28 teams, with comments on why they may not be able to get to Pasadena:

CLEMSON: bad schedule; must go 11-0; tough games with GA Tech, NC State, FSU, and SC give Tigers at least 2 losses

FLORIDA STATE: could go with 1 early loss; tough games with Miami, Florida, GA Tech, and Clemson

GEORGIA TECH: could go with 1 early loss to FSU or Syracuse; tough games with FSU, GA, and Syracuse

MIAMI: could go with 1 loss; tough games at Penn St.(early), Pittsburgh, FSU, and VA Tech

PITTSBURGH: must go undefeated; tough games with UAB, Miami, BC, Temple, & VA Tech

VIRGINIA TECH: probably would need to go 11-0; tough games with Pitt, Temple, VA, and Miami

MICHIGAN: could go with 1 early loss; tough games at Washington, Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin

MICHIGAN STATE: too many tough games; ND, NW’trn, Minn., Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, Penn State all toss-up games

NORTHWESTERN: tough games with UNLV, Ohio State, Purdue, Indiana, and Illinois; would need to go undefeated

PENN STATE: too many tough games; won’t win enough; Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State all possible losses

NEBRASKA: could go with an early loss; must win Big XII championship game; tough games with Oklahoma, Kansas State, Colorado, and ND

OKLAHOMA: would need to go undefeated or possibly with 1 loss and Big XII championship game victory; Texas and Nebraska tough games

TEXAS: must go undefeated or possibly with 1 loss and Big XII championship game win; tough games with Oklahoma and Texas A&M; ‘Horns can never quite reach the highest level

UAB: no strength of schedule; will lose to Pitt, officially knocking them out of the race

CINCINNATI: no strength of schedule; too many tough games including Purdue, UAB, Houston, Louisville, E. Carolina, and Memphis

LOUISVILLE: only C-USA team with a chance, but little at that; must beat Colorado State, So. Miss, Cincinnati, E. Carolina, TCU and go undefeated to have chance

NOTRE DAME: too many tough games, including Purdue, Michigan State, Nebraska, TX A&M, USC, BC, Tennessee, and Stanford

BYU: no strength of schedule; tough games with Miss. State, Colorado State, UNLV, Cal, and others

COLORADO STATE: bad strength of schedule; must go undefeated; tough games with Louisville, Colorado, UNLV, Fresno State, and BYU

OREGON: decent strength of schedule; very, very early loss, most likely undefeated; tough games with UCLA, Wisconsin, USC, Arizona, and Oregon State

OREGON STATE: would probably need to go 11-0; tough games with Fresno State, UCLA, USC, and Oregon

UCLA: too many tough games, including Alabama, Oregon State, Stanford, & USC

SOUTHERN CAL: too many tough games, including ND, Kansas St., Oregon State, Oregon, Arizona, and UCLA

ALABAMA: possibly could go with an early loss; too many tough games; S. Carolina, UCLA, Tennessee, LSU, Miss. State, and Auburn

FLORIDA: could go with 1 loss and SEC title; tough games with Miss. State, Tennessee, LSU, SC, and FSU

LSU: must win all games; tough games with Tennessee, Miss. State, Florida, & Alabama

MISS. STATE: must win all games; tough games with Auburn, LSU, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi

TENNESSEE: could go with an early loss and SEC title; difficult games with Arkansas, Florida, Alabama, and Notre Dame

After looking at those 28 teams and those facts, I came up with this list of 9 teams that I think have the best chance to get to the Rose Bowl. In cases where there are multiple teams from the same conference, obviously only one team from each conference can go. So, although there are 9 teams listed, you could actually narrow it down, to your personal liking, to 6 teams. Here is the list of nine:

Georgia Tech
Oregon State

So who are my two of these nine? Well, I’m not telling. Yet. My preseason bowl predictions will be released on July 30, so be sure and check back to see who my pick is.

Comments, questions? Have a topic you want me to write about? Email me!