Recently ESPN released their Future Power Rankings for 2015. It’s a projection of the 25 best teams over the next three years. Basically, who’s going to win the most games from 2015 to 2017.
Before we get started, let’s take a little peek at how the sausage was made. This year there were eight voters: Heather Dinich, Brad Edwards, Travis Haney, Brock Huard, Sharon Katz, Tom Luginbill, Adam Rittenberg, and Mark Schlabach. They each graded college football’s best teams on a scale from 1-10 in five different categories: coaching, current talent, recruiting, title path, and program foundation. The factors are pretty straight forward for the most part, except for the last two. Title path is listed as how likely the team is to play for a conference and national title given resistance in their conference, and program foundation takes into account a program’s history, facilities, fan support, sanctions, and resources.
A quick glance at the results and you’ll know ESPN’s love affair with the SEC isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Georgia all made the top 10. An impressive feat considering title path is one of the key factors.
The SEC may be distancing themselves from the rest of the power five conferences, but Alabama’s chokehold on college football seems to be loosening as there’s a new number one this year. Ohio State is now the top dog. It’s amazing what a high-profile coach, three NFL-level QB’s, and a National Title will do for your outlook.
While ESPN was laying in bed writing little love letters to the SEC, they somehow found time to send the Big 12 a note as well, ‘You ain’t gettin’ no love from me’. The Big 12 barely had a team make the Top 10 at number nine, and even more shocking is who it was. Here’s a hint, you’ll need at least five guesses, because that’s as high as any pundit worth their salt has them ranked for 2015. That’s a third of the outlook! 2016 and 2017 must be just unbelievable for the Longhorns.
#9 Texas Longhorns
CURRENT TALENT: 8.0
TITLE PATH: 7.6
OVERALL SCORE: 81.01
I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around Texas having the most wins in the Big 12 over the next three years. Now, don’t get me wrong, I fully believe the Longhorns are on the way back up, but there’s a big difference between being a contender by 2017, and being the best overall team from now till then. I mean does everyone else in the conference just close up shop? At least new athletic director Steve Patterson is making sure there will be plenty of room for all the bandwagon fans sure to show up should this actually come to be.
#12 TCU Horned Frogs
CURRENT TALENT: 7.4
TITLE PATH: 8.3
OVERALL SCORE: 79.83
What’s the power of a logo? Texas is projected to be the winningest team in the Big 12 despite any real indication on the field showing them capable of doing so, yet last season TCU wasn’t even ranked. The Horned Frogs went 12-1 last season, and many have them edging out Baylor to win the conference this season. That would make them one of the winningest teams for last year’s rankings. So why the whiff? “Perhaps we just needed to see TCU prove it belongs.”
#14 Baylor Bears
CURRENT TALENT: 7.6
TITLE PATH: 7.6
OVERALL SCORE: 79.54
No other team in the country has gone from cellar-dweller to legitimate powerhouse like Baylor has. Art Briles is building a dynasty in Waco, and it’s becoming tough for the pundits to ignore. After all, when you play one of the toughest conference schedules in the country, everyone can only complain about a weak non-con for so long. Slowly but surely ESPN is taking notice of the Bears. It’s only taken back-to-back Big 12 Championships, and to be the favorite for a third. If Baylor can keep the streak going for a few more years, they may even crack the top 10!
#17 Oklahoma Sooners
CURRENT TALENT: 7.5
TITLE PATH: 7.8
OVERALL SCORE: 77.24
Well this is awkward. The Longhorns are sitting at the top for what one can only assume is because of their logo, but the Sooners, the winningest program of the entire BCS era, are the last Big 12 team ranked. While it’s true neither program is as dominant as they were in the early 2000’s, the Sooners are only one year removed from a share of the Big 12 title, while the Longhorns have only once won more than eight games in a season over the last five years. Despite the Sooners’ stock rising as we near actual football being played, ESPN must feel that OU hasn’t reached bottom just yet.
Sorry Oklahoma State and K-State, only college football’s old guard receives the benefit of the doubt in these rankings. Who knows, maybe ESPN has it figured out. There seems to be some key factors missing (like player development), but maybe the Big 12 is destined to struggle.