THE ANATOMY OF A CHAMPION
FOUND ON SMITTY’S DESK
If you’ve ever wondered what Hauser, Hawk and I are looking at while we’re broadcasting, here’s your chance. I thought I would pass along some of the notes and research I do so that you can see it for yourself. Form your own opinion and make it heard at 864-573-1400 or find us on twitter @espnsmitty and @mrjshawk.
The Anatomy of a Champion
We’ve been having a little trouble trying to pick a favorite for this season’s BCS championship. I thought a peek at the past might help us forecast the future. So I listed the last ten champions and worked from there. The similarity in the make-up of these teams is striking:
2001 Miami (FL)
2002 Ohio State
2004 Southern California
For starters, 8 of the ten teams above had returning starting QBs. The exceptions were Matt Flynn in 2007 and Cam Newton last season.
That’s not much of a surprise. What may be more startling is that 9 of the ten BCS winners had at least one first-round draft pick starting on the DL. Only Texas in 2005 was missing that particular piece. In other words, most champions have a lineman that can look across the ball and say,”You don’t have a guy for me. Better double up.” We’re looking for a force of nature with his hand on the ground 40 times a game.
Here’s some of those guys:
2001 Miami (FL) William Joseph
2002 Ohio State Will Smith
2003 LSU Marcus Spears
2004 Southern California Mike Patterson
2005 Texas None
2006 Florida Derrick Harvey
2007 LSU Glenn Dorsey
2008 Florida Carlos Dunlap
2009 Alabama Marcell Dareus
2010 Auburn Nick Fairley
Also, ten of the last ten champions already had a national title in its trophy case. There hasn’t been a “new” champion crowned since Steve Spurrier’s Gators back in 1996. There’s something to be said for pedigree. It attracts talented players and big-name coaches. In addition, 8 of the last ten title-winners featured an impact offensive freshman. A kid that was highly touted and lived up to the billing almost right away. This is almost impossible to predict but let’s look at the list:
2001 Miami (FL) None
2002 Ohio State RB Maurice Clarett
2003 LSU RB Justin Vincent
2004 Southern California WR Dwayne Jarrett (Carolina Panthers fans roll eyes here)
2005 Texas RB Jamaal Charles
2006 Florida QB Tim Tebow
2007 LSU None
2008 Florida WR Jeff Demps
2009 Alabama RB Trent Richardson
2010 Auburn RB Michael Dyer
That weeds out most of the pretenders that don’t bring in five-star freshmen. And that leads us to our next point: The last ten BCS champions all recruit at an elite level. As impressed as we all are by the successes of TCU, Boise State and Virginia Tech, they’re not listed above for a reason. Stockpiling talent is crucial to overcome injuries and endure a rugged, title-worthy schedule.
Finally, it seems that it’s rare that a team “comes out of nowhere.” Nine of the last ten champions boasted 8 wins or more in the previous season. That sets the winning foundation.
Let’s take a look at which 2011 teams best fit the formula for success.
Recruit at an elite level: Sixth, 13th, seventh and 14th in the last four Rivals rankings should qualify.
Title in its past: Covered here.
2010 record: 12-2. That’s plenty.
First-round DL: Stacy McGee or Casey Walker? We’ll see.
Returning QB: Landry Jones returns.
Impact freshman: RB Brandon Williams is a candidate. No. 3 RB according to Rivals.com.
Assessment: Could come up short along the defensive line. Do you trust Oklahoma against an SEC team in January? I don’t. But they’re pretty close to the formula.
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Recruit: 1st, 1st, 5th and 1st since 2008. Yikes.
Title: Ummm, yes.
2010: 10-3. Good enough.
DL: Josh Chapman, Damion Square or Courtney Upshaw? One could emerge.
QB: Nick Saban’s staff will breaking in a new one.
Freshman: RB Dee Hart is highly regarded. Could be the guy.
Assessment: Nick Saban is turning the Tide into a buzzsaw. QB a question mark. But maybe Bama’s an exception, just as their rival was in 2010.
Recruit: 19th, 32nd, 13th and 9th. Willie Lyles paying off.
Title: Close, but no cigar last season.
2010: 12-1. Auburn loss only blemish.
DL: Doesn’t look like there’s a dominant force there.
QB: Silky Darron Thomas returns.
Freshman: LA’s De’Anthony Thomas could be an immediate HR threat.
Assessment: Oregon looks more like a champion every day. They’ll have to keep the NCAA dogs at bay long enough for improved recruiting to pay off. Showdown with LSU looms large.
Recruit: 11th, 2nd, 6th, and 11th in the Rivals rankings. Les Miles has locked the borders.
Title: Two this decade.
DL: Kendrick Adams or Sam Montgomery? Someone should swim to the top.
QB: Jordan Jefferson is in place. Must improve.
Freshman: RB Kenny Hilliard could be the name here.
Assessment: Difficult schedule could dash the Tigers dreams (or Les Miles’ hallucinations). If the Tigers get past Oregon early and Alabama late, they’re the pick. Bear in mind, both titles LSU has in the decade came without an undefeated regular season. Pollsters may reward their guts.
Just for fun, let’s see how Clemson and South Carolina stack up against the formula.
Recruit: 12th, 37th, 19th and 8th. Right there with Oregon.
2010: 6-7. Long way to go.
DL: Maybe Andre Branch can be the kind of force that Da’Quan Bowers was.
QB: New QB in Tajh Boyd. Could present a problem.
Freshman: Take your pick between Mike Bellamy, Sammy Watkins or Charone Peake. This won’t be a problem.
Assessment: Talent level is going up, but last year’s record reflects how much wood there is to chop. Not a contender, yet.
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Recruit: 22nd, 12th, 24th and 18th. Very good.
2010: 9-5. Good foundation.
DL: Devin Taylor or Jadeveon Clowney could fit the bill.
QB: Reinstated and returning … Stephen Garcia.
Freshman: Clowney on D, but it’s tough to see a breakout freshman star on offense.
Assessment: Schedule is manageable, for a change. The Gamecocks have played the eventual national champion six times in the last five seasons (Auburn twice last year). That will slow any program down. Ten wins is realistic, but the big title looks out of reach.
Got a national title pick now? Hit me up on twitter @espnsmitty