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Three-Point Stance: Squandering talent, top coaches, biggest needs

Rivals National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with programs underachieving on the field based on roster talent, ranks the top 10 best coaches in college football right now and what a few programs need to break through and be the next national champion.


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Kirby Smart
Kirby Smart (USA Today Sports Images)

We all know Alabama, LSU, Clemson and Ohio State recruit at an elite level and always have amazingly talented rosters each year, and they have each won at least one national title in the last seven seasons. But what about the rest? Here are the five programs that squander the most talent.

1. Georgia — With three-straight No. 1 recruiting classes and a roster that is always seemingly loaded, there is no excuse for the Bulldogs to be in the middle of a 40-year national title drought. Despite coming a play away from a national title, Georgia has fallen short with more talent than anyone.

2. USC — It’s not hard to recruit at USC and the fact that no coach since Pete Carroll has broken through is disappointing. Beyond that, it's embarrassing that Washington and Oregon have been to the playoff and USC has not. This is a head-scratcher.

3. Florida — The Gators' recruiting efforts have been down since Urban Meyer and especially since Will Muschamp but that doesn’t mean there haven't been rosters with talent. This past season is a great example where Kyle Trask was a Heisman candidate and Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney could go in the first round. Ten players since 2016 have gone in the first two rounds of the draft before this 2021 draft even starts.

4. Texas A&M — It isn’t about the draft for me with the Aggies as much as it was player development pre-Jimbo Fisher. There was talent, a lot of it, and it was either squandered or it left (Kyle Allen, Kyler Murray, etc.). They’ve put linemen in the draft but they haven’t developed the highly rated skill players they get.

5. Texas — Texas recruiting took a dip after Mack Brown left but that doesn’t mean the roster hasn’t been stocked at times. Charlie Strong was over his head and Tom Herman clearly coached his team to play down to opponents somehow, but Texas has had the talent to at least make a serious run at the Big 12 title.


Nick Saban
Nick Saban (USA Today Sports Images)

I do this every so often and I’ll be doing it more because it’s fun to debate. If you ask 100 people to name the top 10 college football coaches in order you could get 100 different answers (is that possible mathematically?). Here are my top 10...

1. Nick Saban, Alabama — Do I even need to explain? I don’t right?

2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson — Clemson has as many playoff appearances since the playoff era began as Alabama. Think about that.

3. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M — Jimbo Fisher won a national title at Florida State and we see what state the program is in since he left. And his Aggies made a strong case for the playoff this year so success in College Station is on its way.

4. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma — The Sooners are right behind Alabama and Clemson when it comes to playoff appearances but that national title hasn’t followed yet. Riley is one of the best offensive minds in college football.

5. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame — People don’t appreciate the job Kelly does at Notre Dame with academic restrictions and little home recruiting advantage. He’s taken them to the BCS title game and the playoff twice.

6. Ryan Day, Ohio State — Day hasn’t been around as long as the others but he’s been to the playoff twice and title game once. The way he’s recruiting, he will be there consistently.

7. Mack Brown, North Carolina — Brown has won a national title and has shown exactly how great a coach he is with the sudden turnaround of North Carolina. He’s the biggest threat to Clemson the Tigers have had in years.

8. Dan Mullen, Florida — Mullen did an amazing job at Mississippi State and gave Alabama as much trouble as they could handle this year. He’s not an elite recruiter but he can develop.

9. Ed Orgeron, LSU — Once know as just a great recruiter, Orgeron put himself on this list with the amazing 2019 season which was pretty much flawless.

10. Mario Cristobal, Oregon — This will be a controversial call but let’s not forget what he did at FIU and he has won a couple of Pac-12 titles. The way he’s recruiting he’s going to move up this list. Just watch.


Alex Grinch
Alex Grinch (USA Today Sports Images)

Finally, it’s pretty simple to see what some programs need to address in order to break through and win a national title. These are programs that have been close but fell short. The problem? Fixing these problems isn’t going to be easy.

Oklahoma: DEFENSE — The Sooners went from No. 64 in the country to No. 28 last season under Alex Grinch so there is positive momentum, but Oklahoma has given up 37, 54, 45 and 63 points in their four playoff games. Ouch.

Georgia: COACHING — Georgia has only been the playoff once and never made a run at the BCS title either so this boils down to coaching. The Bulldogs lost to a true freshman quarterback after having a 13-0 lead over Alabama at halftime in 2017 and it seemed like Nick Saban just had every answer needed while Kirby Smart did not.

Notre Dame: QB AND SPEED — We all know the issues at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish haven’t had a quarterback who can lead them from behind and speed on the outside especially on offense has been lacking. Those things need to change or they will continue to struggle against ultra talented teams.

Ohio State: CONSISTENCY — Sometimes the offense comes together and the defense doesn’t and other times it’s the defense that dominates and the offense becomes one-dimensional. This year it was the secondary that let the Buckeyes down and the year before it was ineffective red zone play on offense. They are talented enough they just need to put it all together.