Jay Christensen covered college football, among other sports, for the Los Angeles Times and produces the popular college football blog TheWizofOdds.com.
There are 120 teams in Division I-A and of that group, 66 are members of the country club known as the Bowl Championship Series.
Life is good at the top, but like any collection of the rich and powerful, there is an elite class that snubs their noses at the mere suggestion of having to engage with the rest of the group.
Can you blame them?
Today we look at the rich and powerful in college football. There are merely 16 members of this ultra-rich group, and you can bet that for as long as the BCS is around, these are the only teams to ever have a chance of winning a title.
Membership is based on five factors: wealth, tradition, stadium, proximity to recruits and something called the Sugar Daddy factor. Let’s break it down by conference:
Miami — The Hurricanes don’t have to go far for players and now play in Land Shark Stadium, a serious upgrade from the Orange Bowl. Don’t forget about that 2001 BCS title.
No Florida State, you ask? It’s a program in serious decline and the Seminoles will be lucky to make a bowl game this season. For now, Miami rules.
Nebraska — Factors working in the Cornhuskers’ favor: big budget, a weak Big 12 North Division and the only game in town — or state in this case. Negative: few in-state players.
Oklahoma — The Sooners have played in four BCS title games and have a pipeline to Texas prep talent. Few teams can match Oklahoma’s tradition.
Oklahoma State — A newcomer to the list, but quickly becoming a player with Sugar Daddy T. Boone Pickens’ money. Facility upgrades alone will put the Cowboys among the elite teams.
Texas — Winning in Austin is so easy, a caveman could do it. Longhorns have a big budget, great facilities and the best homegrown talent in the land. They might be adding a second BCS title to the trophy case on Jan. 7.
Although the league gets an automatic BCS berth, no teams meet the qualifications necessary for admittance to this exclusive group. Please move along.
Michigan — College football’s most winning program has the biggest stadium and a budget to match. Rich Rod might not be the answer, but if he doesn’t work out, somebody else will.
Ohio State — The Buckeyes have it all — a fat budget and huge stadium, tradition and a wealth of players in their backyard. Ohio State frequently gets bashed, but the Buckeyes do have three BCS title game appearances. Any team would like that on the resume.
Penn State — We’re convinced that Joe Paterno’s retirement party won’t happen until 2060. Until that day arrives, the Nittany Lions will remain a force. Just keep harvesting that Pennsylvania prep talent.
Notre Dame — Positives: A tradition-rich program that can recruit from Florida to Hawaii. Plus, no other team can make the claim that all of its games are broadcast nationally. Negative: Charlie Weis.
Oregon — The Ducks have the finest facilities in the league and Sugar Daddy Phil Knight writing the checks. In 2004, Oregon sent out a fleet of private jets and chauffeured cars to bring 25 recruits to Eugene. The NCAA took note and banned the practice the following summer.
USC — Swimming pools, movie stars. Pete Carroll could make a living signing the best players in Los Angeles, but this guy likes a challenge so he recruits nationally by selling the Southern California lifestyle. More times than not, it works.
Alabama — If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. Alabama takes a win-at-all-costs approach and is no stranger to the NCAA Committee on Infractions. Expect nothing but the best from Nick Saban if the Crimson Tide can keep their hand out of the cookie jar.
Florida — The gold standard. The Gators, gunning for their third BCS title in four years, have it all. Urban Meyer is an energetic recruiter who doesn’t have to go far to find top-flight talent.
Georgia — Granted, the Bulldogs haven’t ruled the college football world since the days of Herschel Walker, but all the ingredients are there for success. If only they could figure out a way to get past that Florida speed bump.
Louisiana State — Like their SEC brethren, everything else takes a back seat to football. The Tigers have won two BCS titles and are regularly among the elite teams.
Tennessee — The Volunteers, who won the first BCS title in 1998, are recovering from their divorce with Phil Fulmer. Money is not a problem. The current coaching staff is the highest-paid in college football.
There you have it, the Sweet Sixteen of college football. As long as the BCS is around, no other teams will have a shot at winning the title. You can take it to the bank.