It was the event we needed for decades, the one we begged for, the one playoff to rule them all, one playoff to find them, one playoff to bring them all together and in the piles of millions bind them.
Ohio State won the first ever College Football Playoff in spectacular fashion escalating Urban Meyer into the coveted seat as best coach in college football. However, the secret to his success isn't solely his sideline acumen. Urban would agree, or at least one day he will, Saban says it, Coach Crum and Coach Pitino swear by it, and eventually all the hall of famers utter it. Great players make great coaches, and in the world of college football, recruiting is the only constant for our national champions.
I am not downplaying the role of a head coach; complete incompetence can wreck even the most powerful of rosters. With that being said, it doesn't take a Bear Bryant, Meyer, or Saban to win championships (see Chizik, Miles or Coker). Talent can be found in every corner of this nation, but elite talent is an absolute necessity to compete and win football national championships.
In regards to football rankings, rivals.com from Yahoo! Sports seems to be the most accurate and reliable in my book. It took some digging, but if one were to look at the last 11 consensus national champions there would be one common denominator between them. Within three years of their title season, these teams reeled in at least one, if not multiple top five recruiting classes.
In football, the usual recipe to a championship team and playoff team in college or the NFL is a blue chip or franchise quarterback, coupled with future NFL draft picks or current pro bowlers filling out the offensive and defensive lines. Another common attribute of the past 11 champions is a star studded recruiting class that brought them four or five star quarterbacks, most eventual Heisman winners or finalists, and four and five star linemen.
Diamonds in the rough exist, linemen can be developed and discovered late, but for every Eric Wood there are countless more hogs in the trenches that are guaranteed draft picks the minute they sign a letter of intent to the big boys of college football. Recruiting services can misfire from time to time on quarterbacks, but Matt Leinart was a four or five star, Vince Young was a five star, Chris Leak was a four star with five star Tebow backing him up, Matt Flynn was a four star, Cam Newton was a five star, McCarron was a four star, Jameis Winston was a five, and Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett were fours. Only Greg McElroy and Cardale Jones were the outliers as three star recruits, yet each had an overly impressive list of offers and Jones proved to be the best quarterback in football in just three games.
Athleticism and speed are a lot easier to find and more common throughout this country. Coaches can fill their rosters with elite receivers, running backs, and defensive backs without raking in primarily four and five star targets. Technique can be developed and strength can be added to these skill players, but when it comes to quarterbacks, there is the upper echelon and then there is everyone else.
Not every linemen recruit has to be elite, work ethic and strength programs can change the potential of their careers, but watching Ohio State's defensive and offensive front bully Oregon made one thing very clear: size, strength, and speed beats only speed every night of the week. Even the Seminoles bullied Oregon to the tune of almost 600 yards, but karma and lady luck finally caught up to them as they self-destructed in embarrassing fashion. If Louisville wants to beat the big boys of college football, Coach Petrino and his staff have to sign the biggest and strongest boys in high school.
Louisville is a perfect example. In 2013, the Cardinals had the best quarterback in college football, future MVP of the NFL, and considerable talent surrounding him. The coaching staff was solid and the Cardinals won 12 games. If you fast forward to 2014, Louisville upgraded or got better at every position except quarterback. The coaching staff was also a phenomenal upgrade. However, in 2014 the drop off at quarterback was so severe Louisville managed to win just nine games and appeared severely outmanned against Georgia. Simply put, we have to recruit better and we are.
Coach Petrino and his staff have been burning up the recruiting trail and this weekend the Cardinals will host the most impressive set of visitors in our program's history. Our coaches have played, coached, and competed at every level and they are fully aware of what it will take to bring Louisville its first national championship. The Cardinals may have the best coaching staff in football and the skill positions are impressive and will only continue to soar. The Cardinals want to reach the pinnacle, but an elite quarterback must be found and developed, and the Cardinal trenches will have to stand their ground against anyone. Cheers to Louisville's best recruiting class of all time, cheers to the future, and cheers to the collision course because the time is now.
All Hail UofL !!