Why Every Top 10 Team Except Tennessee Won’t Be Winning the National Championship This Year
Well, it’s that time of year again. The time where we can officially say that we’ve made it through the dreaded “Black Hole of Sports” months. Football is officially back (Hawaii and Cal play Friday night in Sydney, Australia, if you didn’t know). As usual, with the return of football comes the preseason polls. Since these polls began emerging a few weeks ago, the Tennessee Volunteers seem like they have already been dubbed the most likely to underachieve.
From the beginning of August, the Vols have been been trashed by almost all opposing fan bases with the, “Every year is their year” taunt (Plenty of facts can disprove that quickly, but that's another article).
That will not be the case here.
I examined why this really is the year and why the Vols will be the ones hoisting the golden cone, football, or whatever shape it resembles at the end of the season. To do this, we will take at each team in the AP top 10 and explain why they have been measured against the Vols and been found wanting. Eight out of the last 10 years a team that was ranked in the preseason top 10 has ultimately won the national championship, so it only makes sense.
Let’s get started…
10. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish come into the 2016 season fresh off of a fairly successful 2015 campaign that saw them finish 10–3. Quite a few eyes are on Notre Dame watching for them to break out once again and become playoff contenders. Unfortunately for Irish fans, the last time ND had back to back 10 win seasons, the Berlin Wall had just fallen. No matter how easy the schedule, they always seem to lose a few games to teams they shouldn't. In addition to all of that, the off-field trouble has already started. At the current rate, Notre Dame will end the season with as many players dressed in orange as the Vols.
They’re winning it all. Next.
Stanford comes into 2015 on the heels of a New Years Day beat down of the Iowa Hawkeyes. (But honestly, who hasn't done that at least once?) Stanford was able to rack up some points and win some close games on the legs of all purpose back Christian McCaffrey. Seriously, that guy is good. However, the schedule toughens up a little bit this year, and teams know what they have to do to stop them. Plus their mascot is a tree, how can you take them seriously?
The Michigan Wolverines are on a track similar to the Vols, but they still may be a year behind. The one thing aiding them, is that they play in the Big 10. Being in such an easy league, they really only face a couple of challenges all year. The Wolverines will be close, but just close enough for coach Jim Harbaugh to get his khakis in an even bigger wad heading into the off season.
6. Ohio State
Much like their rivals to the north, the Buckeyes have the luxury of playing in the easiest Power 5 conference. They have an early season test against Oklahoma in Norman, but should they get through that unscathed, there is a gauntlet of directional schools and community colleges to get through before late season match ups with Michigan and Michigan State. If the Buckeyes slip up anywhere, look for Urban Meyers heart trouble to start again. If not, expect the Vols to continue their annual January tradition of blowing out a Big 10 team.
LSU will come into 2016 much like Stanford, riding on the legs of their star running back. Leonard Fournette finished last season with close to 2000 yards and 300 carries, 100 more carries than the rest of the team combined. Needless to say, the Tigers need Fournette to stay healthy, and with a struggling QB situation and an SEC schedule, that wont be easy. That said, the success of the season may ultimately fall on Les Miles himself and whatever insane predicament he may get his team into.
4. Florida State
The Seminoles enter the season breaking in new quarterback Deondre Francois. The Noles finished 2015 with a 10–3 record, but will need Francois to step up big time against a much tougher schedule than they had the previous year. FSU has a tough opening match-up with Ole Miss, which could derail their season early. However if its any consolation to them, FSU will most likely be allowed to erase that possible loss in 3–4 years when the NCAA forces Ole Miss to vacate the win.
The Sooners were arguably the team that benefited most from a Vols collapse in 2015. Sure a Vols collapse allowed the Gators to win the SEC East, but with the win over Tennessee, the Sooners were able to reach the College Football Playoff. That win allowed Bob Stoops to take a couple steps away from the hot seat, and allowed quarterback Baker Mayfield to become a household name. The 2016 season starts out extremely challenging for OU, as they will face 3 ranked teams in the first 4 weeks. Should they get through that with a perfect record, it may very well allow them to face Tennessee once again, this time in the playoffs, where the Vols won’t be letting them off the hook a second time.
Clemson, by far the team with the least history in the top 10 returns a veteran squad that gave eventual national champion Alabama all they wanted in the title game. The Tigers schedule is on par with Ohio State’s, as it is one of the easiest in America. The Tigers play 2 currently ranked teams, and outside of that, they will be playing the worst the ACC has to offer. Despite the veteran team, one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Deshaun Watson, and a schedule full of blowouts in the waiting, the Tigers still carry the burden of having never won anything meaningful. As the old saying goes, “Act like you've been there”. Well the Tigers never have, and should they make it to the playoffs again, the Vols will make sure that streak continues.
Finally we come to the evil empire, Alabama. The Crimson Tide are once again ranked at the top of the polls, which in this case is more of a curse than a blessing. The last time the AP preseason No. 1 pick won the championship was 2004, and technically, that doesn't even count because USC was forced to vacate that championship. To find the last official preseason No. 1 winner you have to go back to 1999, when the Florida State Seminoles started and finished the season in the top spot. The tougher task for the Crimson Tide will be simply getting into the playoffs since by that time they will have already lost to the Vols twice.
Well, that's it. At least one reason why everyone in the top 10, sans Tennessee, will not be making the playoffs and winning a national championship this year. Whether it be history of poor performances, tough games, or just an upcoming and unavoidable beating at the hands of the Vols, none of these teams except the one wearing Orange & White will be hoisting the championship trophy in January.
So, the next time anyone from these fan bases decides to attack you with “It’s always Tennessee’s year” just remember, this time it’s for real.