Ranking College Programs Now:
Feature photo of writers Loran Smith and Han Vance, taken by (6th-generation) UGA man Richard Hilley. The three of us have had so much fun watching our Dawgs and more than our fair share of heartbreak.
MY TOP 5 PROGRAMS RIGHT NOW:
1. Clemson ~ It is oh so easy to honestly rank Clemmy ahead of currently distant-second Alabama when you look at the actual/recent CFP numbers. Bama went to 5 CFPs. Clemson went to 5 CFPs, most recently reaching the final and losing a game they had control of halfway through the 2nd quarter and were again in solid contention to win in the 3rd quarter, though they trailed at the half and looked lost at the end, Georgian Trevor Lawrence finally experiencing something new as a true sophomore in that season’s 15th game: trouble in a big contest in which his teammates and coaches had no answers and his defense simply could no longer stop the opposition. He got happy feet, eventually. He’s still considered the single best player in college football, and I’m hearing from sources an almost definite number one overall NFL draft pick…but these things can change quickly. He could, I’ve heard, sit out now and go #1 overall. That would be a bitch move, and of any program not consistently making bitch moves right now, like blaming only the coordinators and the kids, which is hard to not do, bitch moves that is, when you are in the super-soft and all over the East, ACC, still a basketball league, and your head coach is at heart just a goofy twerp. It’s Clem and Son LLC. In the Deep South, basketball school is an insult. Clemson is a bonafide DEEPest South football institution, win at all costs like Alabama, only doing it better. Clemson just made the CFP finale in back-to-back years, after cruising through an ACC that doesn’t test them often enough at all now that FSU SUX – actually a disadvantage in many respects because as any Oklahoma dirt farmer can tell you, making the two-round Playoff is still not the hardest part of becoming champs. They’ve faced Bama in the national championship game three times, winning twice, lastly a full-on blowout upset I publicly predicted and said how it was going to happen. It did, SEC faithful. The Natty meeting before, their breakthrough finally happened behind the glue-handed receiving excellence of Hunter Renfrow, more than anything else I saw. He wanted it more than Saban, folks. The finale meeting prior, the first versus a Bama who couldn’t stop them at all in the 4th quarter (with Kirby Smart defensive coordinating) and simply escaped on Saban’s greatest coaching move ever – the fake kickoff – done out of desperation. Should be 3-0 there based on both teams’ actual strengths. Yes, they played each other another time in the first round of the CFP and Bama won. Ol’ Georgia had quantifiably the best football team that whole season, though, and simply got out-coached in the end. Which happened much more egregiously in the next meeting with the Tide (before they got blown out by Clemson), when Kirby Smart called for a fake punt at midfield in a tie game on 4th and 11, “sneaking” a giant – Justin Fields – into the formation. My point in bringing that recent history up is this: Dabo point-blank is plainly not the sharpest knife in the drawer, listening to him opine like an idiot proves that, but he’s smarter than that crap. If you don’t think blowing games like that is a fireable offense, you have your heads in the sand, dog. What if it happens again?!?! Clemson does not have nearly the recruiting success – on paper – that Bama and Georgia have, and South Carolina is not a populous state. Hasn’t stopped them from dethroning the kings and rewriting the narrative in orange-and-purple ink. Georgia owns Clemson is an undeniable fact. Look it up. The series is similar to Georgia-Vandy in recent and historical terms.
2. BAMA ~ They finished third in the SEC West in ’19 and were EXTREMELY “fortunate” (Kirby personally choked as our head coach twice similarly is EXACTLY what happened, folks, nothing more, nothing less, it was top-down butt clinching like I’ve never seen…and I’m ’bout 50) to beat Georgia in the previous two seasons in huge moments, netting one SEC title and one national championship in the last three years total, and that not in the same season. Only Bama gets to blow games and people just forget about it. Saban is a Yankee. Georgia is on a two-game win streak on the capstone, beating ranked Bama teams there twice consecutively, the latter coached by little Nicky. Kirby is a brash Jim Donnan personality type trying to act like Coach Saban, and there’s only one little Nicky. The empirical state of Georgia owned what is now called “Alabama, The Beautiful.” Stop giving it away, DAWGS!
3. Ohio State ~ Made the CFP three times, winning their very first game there over Bama against all betting trends and depleting my then-huge bowl wins (10-2 my last dozen bets that year), then easily beating Oregon 42-20. “O” schools lose the biggest games, and that happened again last season. But, Georgian Justin Fields had an insane 180 quarterback rating in his first year starting and threw only three interceptions to way more touchdowns accounted for than other whole teams. He’s back and bound for the Heisman and the Natty…maybe. Through three head coaches, there has been no drop-off whatsoever and I believe their current coach to be the overall best of the three. We’ll see. Time will tell, but the needle is pointing straight up for the Suckeyes. They own the entire North and much of the middle of America; how’s that for an advantage in battling the divided South, where all the power is proximate to Atlanta, with LSU slipping way back this year, without their Ohio State transfer to save them.
4. LSU ~ Unpopular but true fact is that Georgia would have beaten LSU in Atlanta if not for injuries to our best two offensive players: D’Andre Swift (by far the best runner in the SEC) and Lawrence Cager (unguardable dominant receiving force in the big wins over Notre Dame and AT Florida). Georgia’s third-best offensive playmaker sat out the first half with suspension, and the game was still close then. Our fourth best offensive weapon besides just Jake Fromm himself suffered a season ending injury in the game. If you blame Fromm, you do not know as much about football as you think, period. No coach did. And, he has the best completion percentage in school history. The remaining receivers behind Cager were often inexperienced idiots, running wrong routes and shying away from the spotlight. The Georgia defense was so far superior to LSU in every quantifiable way, but the offensive play calling by Kirby Smart’s hand-picked, overmatched offensive coordinator doomed the Dawgs. …ONLY when coupled with injuries. Take away LSU’s top offensive guy, one guy, and see what happens. You will this year. Loud AF Ed Orgeron is just a male cheerleader. Would UGA have beaten Ohio State or Clemson in the first round of the CFP, if at full strength, though? Not so sure based on recent trends and mentalities. LSU loses their offensive passing guru and the defensive coordinator who gelled a defense very undisciplined-to-bad in the first three quarters of the long season. That team was very lucky to beat both Auburn (2nd in West) and Bama. They are only ranked so highly this year and here based on one amazing year, not so much those 15 years that they had the best total winning percentage in the SEC with rare peaks and no instate rival to pester them at all. Joe Burrow is not walking through that door ever again, Bengals. Losses per year, going back seven full seasons: 0, 3, 4, 4, 3, 5, 3. I see one five, one zero and a whole lot of above-average football, throw in plenty of cupcakes.
5a. Oklahoma ~ Choklahoma has made the CFP four times. Losing, though.
5b. Georgia ~ Doing the least with the most. Georgia was further from winning the SEC (27 points!) this season, after being further from winning it all the year prior compared to 2017, negatively trending in that top-tier category, and still a solid tie for fifth with the only team they’ve ever beaten in the CFP. Kirby won the SEC only once and was very fortunate to win one CFP game in double overtime, after starting it super slowly. That was one year only, way back in his second year head coaching any team after a bad first year. Hey, Mark Richt won the SEC twice in his first five years and likewise would have made the CFP (if then four teams), at least, his second year. Kirby either wins the SEC this year or is actually off the pace a later-fired Richt set. Wake up and smell the sUGAr, friends. Georgia last won the Natty in 1980 and shared it with top-team Ohio State in 1942, before WWII took the talent away. The unblemished 1946 team was totally robbed, in favor of media darlings Notre Dame. Georgia owns ND, and (also-undefeated) Army played those same Irish to a 0-0 tie that year in the “Game of the Century.” Will talent-rich big state recruiting giant Georgia win it all in an undisputed fashion again…ever? Maybe. I’m turning 50 this month; it happened once, I was 10 then.
LSU, UGA, ND, FSU, Michigan State, Oregon and Washington each made the CFP just once…ONCE.
That’s nothing to crow about anymore, y’all.