Since the 2002 and 2000 college football seasons, we haven't seen a real longshot win the national title. Since 2003, we have seen a bevy of teams that many people, and so-called experts, felt could have won a national title before the season even started, and then ended up doing it.
2003: USC and LSU
Those teams were all ranked within the Top 15 (LSU 2003 was No. 15 preseason) before the season started, and then lived up to their early season billing and finished the business at hand.
Then we have 2000 and 2002. A mere blip on the map you say?
Dating back to those years, Ohio State in 2002 was fresh off of a somewhat dismal 2001 season in which they were 7-5 including an exhilarating 31-28 loss to the Lou Holtz coached South Carolina Gamecocks team in the Outback Bowl.
Dating back to Oklahoma's 2000 National Championship season, they were 7-5 including an Independence Bowl loss to Ole Miss just the year before their historic run.
With all that said, both Oklahoma and Ohio State have a huge amount of respect as being one of the big boys.
So who on the 2010 ledger can be considered one of the big boys coming off of a five-loss season?
A team that supposedly has as much chance of getting with Mary Samsonite as did Lloyd Christmas back in 1994. (Yes, I know Mary's last name wasn't Samsonite.)
So, without further introduction, here are the teams that just might have that once in a million type chance:
While new Head Coach Gene Chizik was booed from the very moment he stepped on campus at Auburn, he did bring about an infusion of hope amongst the Auburn faithful as well.
Coming off of an embarrassing 5-7 season (yes, as a Husker Fan, I know all about it), Gene was able to mold the Tigers into an 8-5 team that actually won a bowl game.
With 15 starters returning, and the knowledge that they put the National Champs to the hilt last year, these Tigers could be of a different stripe.
Much like the lore of Josh Heupel for Oklahoma or Craig Krenzel from Ohio State, is Cam Newton the man to make the right amount of plays when the game is on the line?
The Auburn Tigers are a very interesting team entering the 2010 season.
Yep, yet another SEC team, and it won't be the last. Head Coach Mark Richt is 'supposedly' under some fire this season to make the Bulldogs more competitive.
Tough sled to grind when you have 10 or more wins in six out of your only nine seasons at the school in the SEC.
On the bright side, the Bulldogs do return 15 starters including 10 on offense which really didn't drop off as bad in 2009 as many would think.
Red-shirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray should provide a spark, and with the talented running back depth that the Bulldogs have along with superstar receiver AJ Green, they should be somewhat set on offense.
Defense? The 'Dawgs didn't struggle as bad on this side of the ball last year either. Yes they gave up some huge points to Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas, they simply weren't that bad.
The offensive line is stocked and ready to grind some games out, and the defense can't get worse by Georgia standards. Even in the rough and tumble SEC, this team could very much surprise and roll home with the SEC title before all is said and done.
We've been hearing it for years that Spurrier would build this team up to being very competitive in the SEC.
However, nobody really thought that it would be the defense that would carry them.
Such is the case.
Now that Steve actually has a two year starter behind center returning for the first time in his career at Columbia, the rousing natives in the SEC have to be a little bit scared.
Alshon Jeffery is as good a receiver as you'll find in the country. And that comes in a conference with AJ Green and Julio Jones. Stephen Garcia has grown up over the last two years, and the 'Cocks have four offensive lineman returning as starters.
With 16 starters returning, don't be surprised if this team is not only a spoiler in the SEC, but actually competing and/or winning the SEC title this year. And over the last four years, that has simply been a step towards the National Title.
Hard to believe that the Sooners had five losses last year, but that is simply a reality.
With Sam Bradford and company returning in 2009, the Sooners were expected to seriously challenge for the almighty crystal football.
About seven snaps into the season, Sam Bradford went down, and so did the Sooner's hopes. It also didn't help that Jermaine Greshman went down with an injury before the season started either.
But hope is eternal on the Sooner side. While we can all cry about Sam Bradford's injury; backup and future star Landry Jones took over.
While it took a little bit for Landry to get adjusted, he did throw for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also ended up ranked in the top 15 according to passer rating numbers in all the college football land just last year. Pretty impressive for a guy who was supposed to stand on the sideline and simply take stats in 2009.
Fast forward, and the 2010 season was already supposed to be Landry's team. He just got an almost full season introduction into college football, and will likely progress faster than even Bob Stoops thought.
If the Sooners can play a lick of defense, look for them to very much be in the mix for a National Title this year.
A lot of similarities with Butch Davis and Bob Stoops and Jim Tressel in this manner.
A new head coach, looking to build up the program, and bringing in a lot of solid recruits along the way.
Another interesting note is that North Carolina also lost their bowl game in close fashion just like Carolina did last year. (OU and OSU lost their bowl game before winning it all in their respective seasons in 2000 and 2002.)
While North Carolina doesn't tip the tongue as a big boy, they were giving Florida State all they wanted before Mack Brown left to Texas.
While I realize that Marvin Austin will not be around on defense, they have four other players who may be drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL draft come next April.
If TJ Yates can get it together, and he has shown signs as a competitor, they have a solid amount of talent on offense with Greg Little and Jheranie Boyd. The "real" question has been the OL, and with four starters returning, I'm not sure that anybody wants to see this team on their schedule in 2010.
Consistency is the name of the game for the Tarheels, and they are a flat out scary team entering the 2010 season.
Can you believe they lost six games last year, and actually won their bowl game on the bowing out of Bobby Bowden?
Make no mistakes about it, the Seminoles have a huge amount of talent returning including 15 returning starters.
The entire offensive line is back. Good, bad, or indifferent, they should provide Ponder some time to throw more so than they did last year.
The question is whether Ponder can deliver?
But in reality, it is the 'Noles defense that has to step up. After giving up 30 points per game last year, it was tough for any offense to keep suit.
Defense is the name of the game for the 'Noles. If they can find one, they could really surprise. IF they give up 30 again, they'll be 7-6 again, or maybe worse in Jimbo's first season.
Is Jeff Tedford sitting on a monster? Maybe. The Bears have had some solid years in the last decade under his guidance.
This is a program that has been sitting on the Top 15 outside and looking in. While they have been ranked as high as No. 2, they have never finished that high.
Late season collapses, injuries, you name it, the Bears aren't that far away.
Is Kevin Riley ready? Shane Vereen looks like he is ready to be the next breakout Cal running back.
How about some defense? Mohamed and Jordan need to create some attitude on this defense.
The real question is if they can step up on a week in and week out basis.
Just four years ago, this team went 1-11 over a college football season. That season included losses to each and every Pac-10 team member AND San Jose State AND Navy, AND Notre Dame.
In 2009 they beat San Jose State, and beat Notre Dame, along with six other Pac-10 opponents to finish 8-5 after a loss to Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl.
Andrew Luck is back, and more importantly so is head coach Jim Harbaugh.
While Heisman contender Toby Gerhart is no longer in the fold, it doesn't mean that Stepfan Taylor isn't capable.
With one of the most underrated receiving corps in the entire nation coming back with Owusu, Whalen, and Fleener, the Cardinal already have a solid offense without a big-time running back. Toss in four returning starters on the offensive line and this offense could be very very good.
Once again, it comes down to defense. Can Stanford find enough players on defense to make it happen?
Likely we'll have another perennial favorite win the title, but keep an eye on these teams as the "five-plus-loss season" mystery could come to hand in 2010.
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