Rivals national columnist Mike Farrell is here with thoughts on what’s next for Alabama, a prediction on the next programs to win the CFB Playoff for the first time and 10 hints about what’s to come in 2022.
Is Alabama done? Is the dynasty over? You know some will ask these questions after the Crimson Tide were manhandled in the fourth quarter by Georgia in Monday’s national title game. And the simple answer is no. Nick Saban will hoist that national title trophy again, perhaps more than once, as this is a blip on the screen for the greatest college coach to ever live.
In fact, Alabama will be favored to win it all next season with Bryce Young and Will Anderson back. The SEC still runs through Tuscaloosa. As with any dynasty, it will end sometime but not until Saban retires and some poor coach has to try to fill his shoes. Keep in mind that Saban has never had a Crimson Tide recruiting class fail to win at least one national title and Alabama seems to respond even stronger after falling short of a national title.
Alabama fans may be concerned at the way the season ended while others use injury as the reason but, either way, the Tide are far from done. And let’s remind those who write them off of how many times the New England Patriots were written off under Bill Belichick. Great coaches find a way.
Who’s next? Georgia is the latest first-time winner of the CFB Playoff. Which program will be the next to break through? Here are my five best guesses.
1. Texas A&M — This season was a disappointment but the way the Aggies are recruiting reminds me a bit of Georgia’s emergence under Kirby Smart. If they continue to put classes like this together, they are bound to win one.
2. USC — Lincoln Riley changes the game for USC as he’s the first real recruiter and offensive coach not hindered by sanctions since Pete Carroll. USC will recruit off the hook and will be in the playoff soon.
3. Michigan — If Jim Harbaugh stays, the Wolverines have a chance. I’ve changed my mind about Harbaugh and Michigan many times over the years but this season was a massive step in the right direction. If he says no to the NFL, the Wolverines could break through with the right quarterback.
4. Miami — Mario Cristobal will recruit like crazy at Miami and the roster will have as much talent as it has had since Larry Coker was handed the keys. And let’s remember how bad the ACC is and how a good run can get you into the playoff.
5. Oklahoma State – Oklahoma lost Riley and is headed to the SEC with Texas while Oklahoma State and arguably the most underrated coach in college football, Mike Gundy, have a chance to dominate the Big 12.
Bowl season and the playoff gave us many hints as to what to expect next season. Here are 10 big ones.
1. Georgia gave us the blueprint to win the title with defense — It’s been offense, offense, offense during the CFP era, but the Dawgs bucked the trend this year winning it all with a defense-first team. They’ll lose a lot to the draft and have to replace coordinator Dan Lanning, but they should be excellent again next year and you can bet that there will be a lot of teams that will try to copy their success.
2. Dallas Turner is the next great SEC pass rusher — Turner showed in the title game that he is going to be a force. Especially with Anderson coming back and getting a ton of attention from opposing blockers, Turner will have plenty of one-on-one opportunities. He’s got prototypical size and speed and has a great chance of being a really high draft pick down the line.
3. Ohio State won’t miss Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson — This isn’t meant to disparage these two receivers – they’re both outstanding and will have long careers in the NFL. Instead, it’s the recognition that Jaxon Smith-Njigba might already be better than both of them. His national coming-out party was in the Rose Bowl, but he was their most consistent receiver all season, leading the team in catches and yards. And the Buckeyes have plenty of depth behind him with Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and much more.
4. Wisconsin has its next superstar running back — Death, taxes and a dominant running back for the Badgers. While Braelon Allen may not have the elite top-end speed of a Jonathan Taylor or the pass-catching ability of a James White, he’s undoubtedly a force. He’s not even of legal voting age yet, so we can expect even more growth from the bruising tailback. The Derrick Henry comps are not unwarranted.
5. South Carolina will be a contender in the SEC East — The Gamecocks finished as one of the hottest teams in college football, and are getting an influx of talent with Spencer Rattler and Austin Stogner transferring in from Oklahoma. Shane Beamer‘s team looks to take another leap in his second year, and will potentially start the year as the second highest-ranked team in the division behind Georgia.
6. Oklahoma will have a downgrade at QB — Even though Caleb Williams has stated that he is leaving the option open to return to the Sooners, anyone who’s following the situation knows that he’s as good as gone. And with Rattler gone as well, Oklahoma is going to take a step or two back behind center. Dillon Gabriel and Chubba Purdy (if he commits) are a big drop off.
7. Utah is the team to beat in the Pac-12 — Despite a depleted roster due to injuries and tragedy, the Utes still won the Pac-12 this season and they should be the favorite heading into next season. They’ll lose some contributors on defense (most notably Devin Lloyd) but will still have the best combination of talent and coaching in the conference.
8. Michigan will need to restock its defense — There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Wolverines’ program heading into the offseason, including what is going to happen with Harbaugh. But no matter who is leading the team next year, they’re going to have to rebuild a defense that is losing some huge names including Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, as well as most of their secondary. They’re going to need guys like Mazi Smith and others to take some big leaps forward if they’re going to sustain the levels they had this year.
9. Marcus Freeman has his work cut out for him — The new Notre Dame coach has plenty of talent but will have to replace some key pieces next year, including Kyle Hamilton and Jack Coan. The former was one of the best defensive players in the country over the past two seasons and there isn’t a current player on the roster who can match his versatility. Coan had an outstanding year after transferring from Wisconsin, and while Tyler Buchner had his moments, he’s very raw as a passer. At least he’ll have Michael Mayer to throw to.
10. Clemson will still struggle on offense — Things could not have gone much worse for Clemson’s offense this season, and it’ll be behind the eight-ball after losing coordinator Tony Elliott to Virginia. D.J. Uiagalelei took a few steps back as a sophomore and will need to really up his game if the Tigers are going to make it back to the playoff. Outside of Will Shipley, there’s a lot to be desired at the skill positions.