There are really only a few, if you think about it.
Here's my ranking:
Not much explanation necessary. Although, one wonders if perhaps they are now moving toward a decline with so much defection this past year and Kiffin likely to leave next year. Still, as long as Saban is there, it will be hard to keep them off this list.
Great coach in Jimbo, outstanding recruiting, and a slightly less competitive path to the national title each year puts them in prime position to take over the top spot one day. The key for them will be continuing to sweeten the pot enough to keep Jimbo from eyeing the NFL. Although you wouldn't know it looking at their facilities, they actually don't have the level of resources that we do. They just do an infinitely better job of maximizing the resources they do have. Very, very impressed with the FSU program right now and Nole fans should arguably feel more confident than even Alabama moving forward at this point. They will win another national title or two in the next 4 years, no doubt in my mind.
It might sound strange to put Michigan here above Urban's Ohio State program, but that's the effect of Harbaugh. I can't stress enough what a game-changing hire that was for them. Although they are not a finished product just yet, it's so painfully obvious what they will become that it's impossible to keep them out of this spot. Anyone who doesn't see it is blind.
4.) Ohio State
The Buckeyes are set with Urban, but it's definitely shakier than some of the programs above them. What we've learned is that Urban is very much at the mercy of his offensive coordinator hires. When Mullen left us here at UF, we all saw what happened. Last year, OSU should have been a juggernaut, but clearly missed Herman. Buckeye fans should still feel confident in their program with Urban at the helm - he's always going to recruit well, for instance - but you get the feeling they just don't have that same edge as some of the programs above them, where the coaches seem to have a more direct grip.
This one is going to cause a stir, no doubt, and may get me laughed off this board. That said, I think we have to acknowledge Tennessee's arrival and understand where they are right now. Like Michigan, although to a lesser degree, this is a program primed to make an ascent to the top of the college football world. I have them winning the 2016 SEC Championship and being a factor in the national playoffs. Will they win the national title? I don't know, but Jones has them back in the conversation and they aren't going to go away as long as he's there. They were extremely close to being a 1 loss or even undefeated team last year. This is the year they cash in, and, subsequently, I feel we have to put them here. Vol fans should feel "set" moving forward right now.
Programs with "good situations," but I don't consider "set":
- Ole Miss
- Notre Dame
- Michigan State
All of these are a lot more fluid than the 5 I listed above and, frankly, they lack the gravitas or weight when you evaluate them moving forward compared to the programs that made the list. They just aren't quite as substantial for a variety of reasons. One of the factors I specifically look for is an innate "sense of dread" and I just don't feel it with any of these. Good situations, yes, but their fans can't feel nearly as confident as the ones listed above.