Winning back-to-back championships is one of the toughest accomplishments to achieve in the world of sports. Just winning one takes some tremendous skill and preparation and, yes, a little bit of luck along the way. To get through an entire season and a postseason and to end the year as the last team standing is a true reward. Doing it two years in a row is somewhat obscure. Do not tell that to Florida State, who ended the 2013 college football season as kings and look to establish dominance in the brand new College Football Playoff era.
With the College Football odds recently being updated, Florida State remains the top favorite to win it all in the 2014 season. The Seminoles have plenty of reason to start the year on top of the preseason polls that will be coming our way faster than you might think. Aside from returning Heisman Trophy quarterback Jameis Winston, Florida State returns a top-flight running game that will be led by Karlos Williams, last year’s leading receiver Rashad Greene, one of the top tight ends in the country in Nick O’Leary and four out of five starters on the offensive line. The defense will be stacked with athletic skill and talent as well, despite losing five of the top six tacklers from last season. According to Phil Steele, Florida State’s defensive positions rank in the top two across the board in the ACC, so the rest of the conference still has some catching up to do. This is why Florida State is receiving great betting odds to win the national championship this upcoming season. Bovada lists Florida State at 11/2 to win it all. Vegas Insider is in the same boat with 6/1 odds on the Seminoles.
Is it too easy to pick Florida State to win it all, when the road to doing so will theoretically be more difficult? I think so. Betting on Florida State does not seem like a wise move, and history backs that idea up.
Alabama won back-to-back national titles in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, becoming the first and only back-to-back national champion in he BCS era (USC technically won back-to-back titles by winning the AP title in 2003 and BCS title in 2004; LSU was crowned BCS champion in 2003). There were some darn good teams in the BCS Era as well. In the early 2000s Miami looked like a back-to-back championship team before being upset by Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl in 2003. USC was a Vince Young highlight away from back-to-back titles as well. These were some of the greatest teams in the BCS Era too, and they only managed to win one national championship. Why? Because winning one is hard even for the greatest of teams. If not for a bizarre ending to the Iron Bowl, maybe Alabama would have gone on to at least play for a national championship, but crazy things happen in the course of a season. Why can’t something crazy happen to Florida State along the way?
Take a look at the three most recent recognized back-to-back national championships. These are the three recognized back-to-back champions I came up with:
Alabama: 1978, 1979
Nebraska: 1994, 1995
Alabama: 2012, 2013
Once you start digging a bit deeper into the history of college football, the number of various national champions recognized becomes crowded in some seasons. For example, there were split national championships from 1964 through 1966 with four different schools claiming major national titles. From 1964 through 1970, there were multiple national championships claimed each season. But the numbers above suggest winning back-to-back recognized national titles happens about once every decade and a half. In other words, history trends against Florida State in 2014.
At first glance, Florida State’s schedule looks somewhat favorable this season. Opening against Oklahoma State in Arlington, Texas should be a showcase for what Florida State will be capable of doing this season. Oklahoma State may be in a bad situation at the start of the season, which is not good in his match-up. The Seminoles get Clemson out of the way at home in late September as well. I suspect Clemson takes a minor step back from last season, although the Tigers should still be one of the top threats to FSU in the ACC in 2014. The biggest obstacles remaining should be Notre Dame at home and road games at Louisville and Miami. Florida State, if healthy, will be the better team overall, but those could prove to be tricky spots later in the season. Oh, and Florida State will have to play a Florida team that should not the same train wreck it was last fall… hopefully. After that would be the ACC Championship Game (rematch with Miami? North Carolina? Duke?).
The good news is Florida State has a little bit of a buffer this season with the four-team playoff. Even one loss may not be enough to knock the defending champs out of the four-team playoff this season, unless there happens to be an undefeated champion out of the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12, assuming one spot goes to the SEC champion. Then it is all about the match-ups. Would Oklahoma be able to surprise Florida State the way it did Alabama in the Sugar Bowl? Would Oregon have enough offense to run by Florida State’s defense? What if Alabama goes on a tear and makes up for last year’s shortcomings at the end of the season?
Florida State will be the best team in the country when the season kicks off, and they will be the team to beat. But history has a way of coming out on top more often than not.