NCAA Football

20 College Football Programs on the Verge of Greatness

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Top 20 Programs on the Verge

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

For college football fans the future is almost as fun as the present. For a lot of fans, the future is much more fun that the present. Case in point, consider a struggling program that has just wrapped up an ugly season. Looking to tomorrow is much easier than accepting the current situation.

Millions of fans flood message boards and read about the latest in recruiting news for their respective programs. College football fanatics live for what next year is bringing and beyond. With so many eyes focused on what's just around the corner, why not take a guess at the programs most likley destined for something big in the coming years.

Who is on the verge of greatness?

Much of this conversation depends on how one defines greatness. Or verge for that matter. The following programs vary from bowl teams to laughing stocks. Each team has a chance to turn it all around and improve. A bowl team could become a national championship contender, and a doormat might be on their way to a bowl soon.

Of course the exercise depends on forecasting. Some schools simply have great potential while others might have an excellent coach waiting to take them to new heights. The process for determining who is on the verge is very complicated. Mathematicians and scientists from around the world have developed the formula.

The best way to look at this list is to think of each team as a stock. Some stocks are worth more than others. But each stock has value if you believe it will trend up. Buy low sell high right? These are the college football stocks I'm buying.

Is there a team you think was left out? Give it some respect and state your reasoning. A team you think was included and should not have been? That's why you Rant about it.


James Gomez is a Pac-12 and Mountain West columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America. You can follow James on Twitter as well.

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20. Colorado Buffaloes

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Don't laugh. OK laugh. Now let me make my point when you are done chuckling. Yes, this is a dumpster fire of a program. It is hard it imagine a team in worse standing than the Colorado Buffaloes. If CU can get its act together, and I believe they will, this can be a very attractive gig. Of course that is dependent on the administration finally going all in when it comes to football. If they do, a cozy Pac-12 job in the Rocky Mountains is a nice place to be. Remember this was a once proud program.

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19. San Diego State Aztecs

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The San Diego State Aztecs have several things going for them. A move to the Big East in 2013 will mean a little better opportunity to make a BCS bowl. That aside, this is a team led by coach Rocky Long that should continue to improve. Coming off a 9-3 campaign with a returning quarterback in Adam Dingwell, the East Coast should beware of the Aztec invasion.

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18. Virginia Tech Hokies

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

This past season didn't exactly go well for the Virginia Tech Hokies. Usually this is a ten win program. Frank Beamer has a solid looking 2013 recruiting class and you know the Gobblers won't stay down for long. Ten win seasons aren't too far away.

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17. Virginia Cavaliers

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An odd choice for sure, but the Virginia Cavaliers are a team that should be better soon and even compete for a bowl. Head coach Mike London cleaned house to his coaching staff after a second consecutive four win season. I believe London is a strong recruiter and will mold a solid program in his image. Plus the ACC Coastal division can be had.

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16. Fresno State Bulldogs

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Year one in Fresno was a success for rookie head coach Tim DeRuyter. The Fresno State Bulldogs were co-Mountain West champions and have the future wide open. Next year both the Boise State Broncos and San Diego State are gone to the Big East. Leaving the Dogs salivating over another possible conference title. Assuming DeRuyter isn't lured by a bigger coaching gig, Fresno State should be back to consistent greatness.

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15. Washington State Cougars

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Most of the 2012 season was filled with disappointment for fans of the Washington State Cougars. However, an Apple Cup win over the rival Washington Huskies was the feel good moment Wazzu was looking for. Plus head coach Mike Leach bought some goodwill with the upset. Once Leach has his offense up and running expect good things to happen in Pullman.

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14. Illinois Fighting Illini

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No doubt, the Illinois Fighting Illini are not known as a football school. After an 0-8 season in the Big Ten and two wins overall, no one is thinking of the Ilini as anything but the ugly duckling. Do not underestimate head coach Tim Beckman and his ability to sell playing time. Right now Rivals has Illinois as the 4th ranked 2013 class in the conference.

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13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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The now departed Greg Schiano built up the Rutgers Scarlet Knights into a respectable top-level Big East program. A move to the Big Ten provides opportunity to leave a messy Big East and find stable shores. New Jersey provides fertile recruiting ground as the Knights have the number one rated class in the conference per Rivals.

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12. TCU Horned Frogs

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The TCU Horned Frogs are not coming off a disaster of a season, nor are they in an unstable situation. Head coach Gary Patterson is as good as they come and shows no signs of departing for another program. Why would he? The Horned Frogs are in the Big 12, have national recognition and are primed to go from BCS Buster to BCS Power.

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11. Utah Utes

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Great conference? Check. Great head coach? Check. Talented recruiting classes? Check. Look out for the Utah Utes. Utah may not be taking names and kicking butt in the Pac-12 so far, but I expect that to change. Kyle Whittingham is a smart dude and has a quarterback by the name of Conner Manning in the 2013 class that has high potential.

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10. Auburn Tigers

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Just a few years ago the Auburn Tigers were celebrating a National Championship. Today Gene Chizik has been fired, and a new era is set to begin. Enter Gus Malzahn a former respected assistant at the program he will now lead. Malzahn is highly thought of as a brilliant offensive mind. How long do you believe the Tigers will stay down? I say not very.

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9. Tennessee Volunteers

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Lane Kiffin was a one night stand. Derek Dooley was the wrong fit. Butch Jones could be just right. Just hired as the new head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, Jones has a track record of success and was a hot commodity among ADs around the nation. Rocky Top is a prime place to be in the SEC, and if Jones and lure in recruits from the South, good times are ahead.

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8. Miami Hurricanes

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Here is the main reason I have the Miami Hurricanes so high in my list. Potential. Perhaps no team in this forum has the ability to reach the elite level like the Hurricanes. The 80s and 90s were dominated by The U, thanks to a plethora of four and five star athletes in southern Florida. It can happen again and likely will. The big question is will Al Golden jump ship before Miami gets there?

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7. Arizona Wildcats

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After one season spent in the desert, Rich Rodriguez looks like he was born to coach the Arizona Wildcats. Ann Arbor proved to be an awkward fit for the head coach, but Tuscon fits like a glove. The Cats were one of the most prolific offense in the country taking to Rich-Rod's spread run option system like a fish to water. Imagine what can happen when Rodriguez has an entire team of his players?

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6. Baylor Bears

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Once upon a time, not that long ago, the Baylor Bears were the worst team in the Big 12. A bottom feeder no more, the Bears have a legitimate football power mentality. This was evidenced by the current head coach Art Briles forgoing possibilities at bigger schools and instead, extending his contract in Waco. Briles is an excellent coach and the Bears are on their way to competing for a conference championship. Once thought impossible.

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5. USC Trojans

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

At the moment, the USC Trojans are the great underachievers in college football. This was supposed to be the year that Lane Kiffin would lead Troy to a National Championship. Five losses later defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has stepped down adding doubt to the younger Kiffin's future in LA. Have we forgotten this is USC? The class of 2013 is as deep as any, plus the Trojans are still recovering from three years of probation and scholarship restrictions. You might be selling the Trojans stock but I'm buying.

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4. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Gundy is staying in Stillwater. That is very good news for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Offensively the Cowboys are a juggernaut. This season Gundy had to shuffle around two different freshman quarterbacks and a third string junior because of injury. OSU still had the fourth best scoring offense in the country. A national championship is not out of the question for the Cowboys in the near future.

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3. Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss
Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Lost among all the high profile SEC off-season firings and hires is the Ole Miss Rebels. Hugh Freeze brought the Rebels to respectability in his first year in Oxford. Ole Miss is once again bowl eligible and has a chance to keep that momentum going into 2013. Recruiting in the SEC isn't easy but Freeze has some gems in his 2013 class that could help lead them back to competing for division titles.

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2. Michigan Wolverines

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Don't let 2012 spoil the eventual party to be had in Ann Arbor. The Michigan Wolverines are primed to get back to the top level of BCS programs. Brady Hoke is an excellent recruiter and currently has Michigan in the top five of most services. Good is about to be great in Wolverine town.

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1. Ohio State

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

How can an undefeated team be up and coming you say? I'll tell you. The Ohio State Buckeyes led by coach Urban Meyer ran the table in a year with no expectations and no chance at a postseason bid. The Urb as they call him, will have little competition from the Penn State Nittany Lions who are on probation for another three seasons. Add in a Wisconsin Badgers program that is suddenly searching for a new coach, and a weak conference overall. A sleeping giant is awake in Columbus.

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