6/17 Roundtable - The Sleeper BCS Title Team
Penn State RB Stephfon Green
Penn State RB Stephfon Green
Posted Jun 17, 2009

What teams that no one is talking about has an honest shot at playing for the national title? It's the Wednesday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

June 17

What Team Is The Sleeper In The National Title Debate?

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Past Roundtables
June 16 Do 40 Times Really Matter?
June 15 Does college football need a Rooney Rule?
June 12 Should Alabama vacate wins?
June 11 Should college football players be paid?
June 10 Is the recruiting hype too much?
June 9 If you were starting an NFL team ...
June 8 Where would you take over as head coach?
June 5 Who does the least with the most?
June 4 Who does the most with the least?
June 3 The star players of September
June 2 The star teams of September
June 1 The coach you'd want for one game
May 28 Should the Big Ten expand, and if so, then what team should be added?
May 27 Should the Pac 10 expand? If so, then what two teams should be added?
May 26 Chizik, Kiffin or Mullen?
May 25 Heisman race sleepers 
May 22 2009's most interesting teams

May 21 Is Tebow the best QB ever?
May 20 When should preseason polls come out?
May 19 Does 2008 Utah have a beef?
May 18 No BCS, No Weis?

Pete Fiutak, CFN

Yes, I'm part of the problem. You can check me out at and find out future roundtable topics and other random musings.

Q: What team that no one is talking about has an honest shot at the national title?

Remembering the key word here is honest. It's not fair, but if you're not in a BCS league, you don't have a chance to play for the national title. I don't make the rules; I wish I did.

So, to be an honest out-of-the-blue national title contender a team needs to be good enough to be ranked but not hot enough to be getting any national respect, be in the right conference, and have the right schedule. Here are my four top contenders to break through the Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, USC foursome to potentially play for the national championship.

4. West Virginia - Jarrett Brown is the real deal as a replacement for Pat White at quarterback, while the defense should be terrific, especially at linebacker. If the Mountaineers can win at Auburn, they'll start to generate a national buzz, and considering two of the toughest remaining road games are against rebuilding South Florida and Cincinnati teams, and considering Colorado and Pitt have to come to Morgantown, there's a great chance Bill Stewart's club could be 11-0 going into the season finale against Rutgers. However, to get to the national title game, WVU has to be perfect. The same might not be true for the SEC or Big 12 champion.

3. Georgia - If the Bulldogs can beat a loaded Oklahoma State in Stillwater to start the season, they'll be thrown into the national title picture. Of course, it'll all come down to the Florida showdown, but the Dawgs are loaded on both sides of the ball with a phenomenal defense that's not going to buckle under the mere presence of Tim Tebow. It's asking too much to go unbeaten, but a one-loss SEC champion will likely play for it all. There can be a loss to, say, LSU, Oklahoma State, or even at Arkansas, but there must be a win over the Gators.

2. Penn State - The receiving corps reloaded and most of the big holes on defense were filled. Helped by the return of LB Sean Lee and QB Daryll Clark, leadership isn't an issue and there's enough talent across the board to be a double-digit favorite in eight games. One of the close battles should be against Iowa, but that's a revenge battle in Happy Valley. Ohio State also has to make the trip. Games at Illinois and the regular-season finale at Michigan State will be nasty, but any team that wants to think about playing for a national title has to win those.

1. Alabama - Don't jump off the bandwagon. The Tide is loaded with NFL talent, even if many of the future stars are underclassmen. No one's going to run on a big, talented, veteran run defense, and that includes Virginia Tech, who can't do anything but run, in the season opener. Unless there's a major upset, it's a four game season after the battle with the Hokies. LSU and Tennessee come to Tuscaloosa, and Auburn isn't anywhere near as good as the Tide. That means the one road game to truly worry about will be at Ole Miss. but despite all the Rebel hype, Alabama has more talent. Again, a one-loss SEC champion would likely play for the national title, so there can be one early slip. Bama might be good enough to avoid it.

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: What team that no one is talking about has an honest shot at the national title?

Is Penn State too conservative for this question? I mean, I realize I don’t risk injury by being out on a limb, but it’s not as if the Lions are being mentioned in the same sentence as Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, or USC.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind about Penn State this season: First, while the team only returns about nine or 10 starters, it’s no longer in up-and down mode, having won at least nine games in four straight years. Plus, getting back Darryl Clark to run the offense and Sean Lee to quarterback the defense are huge. Sure, the secondary and receivers are concerns, but there’s enough talent in Happy Valley for the Lions to plug the holes and manage. Lord knows, they’ll have plenty of time to work out the kinks.

While almost inexcusable, the Penn State schedule is conducive to a long flirtation with the national title game. The Nittany Lions don’t go on the road until Oct. 3. Their out-of-conference slate is composed of a quartet of cream puffs, Akron, Syracuse, Temple, and Eastern Illinois. And the big game with Ohio State will be staged in State College. With that schedule, it’s very possible that this team can get a head of steam, regroup on the fly, and be unbeaten by the time the Buckeyes visit on Nov. 7.

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: What team that no one is talking about has an honest shot at the national title?

Georgia Tech. It's entirely conceivable (not likely, but conceivable) that the Yellow Jackets, with another year of polishing under Paul Johnson, can run the table. Their schedule lacks the heft of a probable BCS title game participant, but if everyone else stubs enough toes, the Rambling Wreck can take a cross-country trek to Pasadena.
Besides... if a team resides in the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, or Pac-10, chances are that someone is talking about it. In the ACC (or a Pat White-less and Bobby Petrino-free Big East), national title talk doesn't generally enter a discussion.

Jon Miller, Publisher,

What team that no one is talking about has an honest shot at the national title?

:Notre Dame comes to mind due to one of the weakest Fighting Irish schedules in a long, long, but there have been some folks mentioning them as having a shot at it. 

How about Ole Miss? I have gone through every BCS conference school and several of the usual suspects from non-BCS conferences and projected their entire seasons. The first time through, I put Ole Miss at 12-0. I am not yet ready to put these predictions into ink, but that would definitely have them in the national title discussion. If you want to get really out there, you might throw Cal into the mix, but they have to play at Oregon. Oregon, there’s one...beat Boise State on the road right out of the box then the road schedule in league is UCLA, Washington, Stanford and Arizona, with USC, Cal and Oregon State at home. They also host Purdue and Utah. No attention?  Fine.

Hunter Ansley, Publisher,

Q: What team that no one is talking about has an honest shot at the national title?

A: Really, I don’t know if there is anyone with a legit shot this year. At least not a team that no one is talking about. The big three teams (Florida, Oklahoma, Texas) are so stacked that I think it will be pretty surprising not to see some combination of that trio in Pasadena.

But the BCS has been surprising before. And if I have to pick someone, I’m going to go with someone pretty risky. I mean a team that no one in the world is giving a chance on that level. A real Mine that Bird type of team. Sort of.

The Cal Bears. They’ve got a returning quarterback in Kevin Riley who will be entering his third year under quarterback guru Jeff Tedford. They’ve got the most explosive running back in the nation in Jahvid Best. The offensive line has three or four guys back, depending on who you ask, even though losing center Alex Mack will hurt, and the top receivers are all in school again.

Then there are the eight defensive starters back to try and top last year’s 34 takeaways. That’s including the entire secondary and the entire defensive line. Corner Syd’Quan Thompson might be the most underrated defensive back in the country.

And finally, the schedule sets up nicely. The only tough road game appears to be the early contest at Oregon, and while that won’t be easy, the Bears have beaten Oregon four of the last five times they’ve played, including the last meeting in Eugene. And USC might actually have a down year for the first time since Pete Carroll righted that ship. It won’t be easy, but if you’re looking for a legit dark horse, Cal’s a decent bet at 50-1 odds. .   


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