Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is my college football team to be good

Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is my college football team to be good

Looking forward with positive reinforcement for nine notable football programs stuck grasping at the past

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Image for article titled Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is my college football team to be good
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The idea of getting back to a previous, dominant form is antithetical to moving forward. By looking back and chasing past eras, schools like USC, Miami, Nebraska and others are envisioning levels of dominance that are extremely rare and difficult to replicate — or in some cases *cough* Texas *cough* didn’t exist.

That’s not to say teams on this list like USC can’t have another run like they did under Pete Carroll, but in order to do that, it’ll take a forward-thinking approach. Relying on what made you successful five, 10, 20 years ago in a sport that’s constantly innovating and changing only works if you build on it.

There are currently nine schools of higher learning that are hoping to not suck again and get their prestige ranking right for the return of EA College Football. They are Florida, Florida State, Miami, Nebraska, USC, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia Tech and Washington. All of them are either on track to fire a coach, have fired their coach or just hired a coach who will get fired if he keeps coaching like this. They have a combined 7,012 wins, 39 national titles, 196 conference titles and 20 Heisman Trophy winners. This year, they are a combined 41-55.

Before you say your team shouldn’t be on this list, or argue who is missing (LSU won a title too recently to qualify) or generally want to call me an idiot on Twitter, read on or skip to your team. I’m going to say some nice things about all of these programs because all the media wants to do is dump on them. I’m not saying they’re wrong, or the schools don’t deserve it, but a change of narrative is refreshing as we go into what will be the final game for a majority of these teams. I’m even going to say something (begrudgingly) positive about Texas.

Here are some holiday hopes for each team next year as we look forward (never back) to try to give you some happiness before or after turning off the game in a rage this weekend. (Unless you’re Florida State and Florida fans, in which case, get ready for a depressing broadcast and an even more depressing rivalry game.)

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Texas

Texas

Steve Sarkisian
Steve Sarkisian
Image: Getty Images

924 wins, 4 national championships, 32 conference titles, 2 Heisman winners

In the battle of states that love football, the one responsible for “Friday Night Lights” is probably the winner solely due to it loving the sport a little too much. The Elmyra of fanbases squeezes so hard because it cares.

The Steve Sarkisian hire was unimaginative for a team with the resources to do anything they want. If you sent Sark to Whole Foods with an unlimited budget, he’d come back with a few New York strips, maybe crab legs, a cheese board and deli-made appetizers.

There are too many smart football minds in Texas to settle for the best assistant off Nick Saban’s staff. Ask Matthew McConaughey. He might not have the right answer, but I bet he’ll get you thinking.

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USC

USC

Donte Williams
Donte Williams
Image: Getty Images

878 wins, 11 national championships, 39 conference titles, 7 Heisman winners

In the land of the pro-style quarterback, take a tip from the NFL’s late/recent discovery and try a QB who can do more. The skill players the Trojans can get are always talented and it’s archaic that they’re relying on a guy whose best way of extending a play to find said talented skill guy is good pocket presence.

I’m not going to speculate on coaching hires too much because this piece isn’t a deep dive into how hard it’s going to be to find a coach with a resume that gets the fanbase excited with this many high-profile jobs opening up. (That’s not a bad idea, though.)

I can’t remember what sports documentary I saw that was like “USC beat Alabama so bad they had to integrate,” but that’s the kind of forward-thinking we need. Carson Palmer notwithstanding, who out of Matt Leinart, Sam Darnold, Mark Sanchez, John David Booty, Matt Barkley and Cody Kessler is a good NFL QB?

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Florida

Florida

Dan Mullen
Dan Mullen
Image: Getty Images

745 wins, 3 national titles, 8 conference titles, 3 Heisman winners

This team was in the Top 10 this preseason, so it theoretically isn’t far off from being good. If it wants to knock Georgia off the SEC East pedestal, it needs to figure out what bothers the Dogs, and I’m not talking offensively.

Florida’s defense is its key to the division because it has the capability to get athletes as good as any in the SEC on that side of the ball, and Georgia’s biggest flaw under Kirby Smart has been inconsistent quarterback play. The Gators’ biggest in-state rival for recruits are on this list — Miami and FSU — and even when all three were getting their fair share of five stars in the ’90s, the state of Florida displayed it has as much speed as gators have teeth. (Pretty sure that’s a saying in Gainesville.)

Defense travels but it also smothers in The Swamp.

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Florida State

Florida State

Mike Norvell
Mike Norvell
Image: Getty Images

565 wins, 3 national championships, 18 conference titles, 3 Heisman winners

The last team out of the ACC to win a national title, other than Clemson, has to go through the Tigers to win their division and conference. Competing with them would be a start. Bullying the rest of the ACC is a better place to start.

Beating the teams you’re supposed to is easier in the ACC than the other power conferences (maybe not the Pac-12), and so if you can get there — and Wake Forest showed how possible that is — you only need to upset Dabo Swinney to get to the playoff.

I don’t know how many ways I can compliment the talent in Florida or insult the ACC, but I will certainly have plenty of opportunities in this piece, so when I come up with something better than “They’re really good” and “they play in the ACC” I’ll use it. Until then, things are always positive, Florida State, because you can get really good talent and you play in the ACC.

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Miami

Miami

Manny Diaz
Manny Diaz
Image: Getty Images

636 wins, 5 national championships, 9 conference titles, 2 Heisman winners

I spent a semester-and-a-half in Coral Gables for grad school — that’s a different column altogether — and didn’t attend a Hurricane football game until I returned as a grad school dropout the following season because it was easier to fly in from out of state and rent a hotel than it was to get there as a student. That’s the key. Get students and fans to the game. Make shuttles so easy to find that they autofill when you start Googling “Miami Hurric…”

Pack the stadium with diehards, because if the amount of car decals about is any indication, they have a lot of them in South Florida. Is there a way to run a Nevin Shapiro special and ferry fans to the stadium on stripper and cocaine-laden yachts?

How do you add swagger to the university that created it? A turnover chain is cool, but how about turnover yachts? Give the players NIL deals to spend an afternoon tooling around Biscayne Bay in exchange for a pick six.

Also, Florida has a lot of talent and Miami plays in the ACC, you got this.

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Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech

Justin Fuente
Justin Fuente
Image: Getty Images

760 wins, 11 conference titles

The only team without a national title on this list made it because I loved Beamer Ball and playing with Va Tech when I still celebrated the release of EA College Football like it was my birthday. I don’t care if Marcus Vick stomped on a guy before Ndamukong Suh made it popular, he could’ve been better than Michael.

The good thing about this many good jobs opening up simultaneously is one of these schools will be forced to hire a coach who’s not a retread or white or a product of nepotism (sorry, Shane Beamer). The Hokies helped lead the way on modern Black quarterbacks, letting them run enough non-option centric plays to showcase pro potential. Hiring a Black coach isn’t exactly innovative, but a university with a history of empowering Black people in areas usually reserved for white people could build off that.

They’re also in the bad division of the ACC, and the ACC in general.

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Nebraska

Nebraska

Scott Frost
Scott Frost
Image: Getty Images

908 wins, 5 national championships, 46 conference titles, 3 Heisman winners

This is the hardest team to stay positive with because it’s my team. Simplifying it to win your division is a discredit to Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and the other teams that have consistently beat/played with them. This may be an unconventional suggestion, but do all you can to throw Big Ten teams off their game, including making all home games night games.

I’m sick of these bullshit early kicks. All these teams love the 11 a.m. ESPN 2 time slot; it’s a warm, unassuming, nonthreatening blanket. Husker fans need to be drunk to talk themselves into optimism and also cheer. I’ve been in the stadium when the crowd gets tense, and it seems to happen a lot more often when the stadium is still half asleep.

Nebraska fans still travel, so let’s give them more incentive. How about buy a ticket to a home game and get a free one to a road game. Hell, the university and boosters are already buying empty seats to extend the sellout streak. We’ll grasp at the smallest glimmer of hope, and the idea of Scott Frost running it back with Adrian Martinez for a fifth season is the anti-Viagra. Let me at least enjoy the rest of the games before swearing off football for the rest of the day.

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Tennessee

Tennessee

Image for article titled Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is my college football team to be good
Image: Getty Images

853 wins, 6 national championships, 16 conference titles

The Vols and new coach Josh Heupel (above) have been competitive this year, due in large part to the transfer portal. Reminder to the rest of the teams on this list: The portal works two ways. Tennessee has a shot at seven wins, and I’m trying to say that with a positive voice inflection, but I know you can’t hear that on the internet.

Lowering expectations can only happen one way, and as much as losing hurts, coaches need time and room to fail. Tennessee doesn’t have to build tradition; it already has it. All these teams already have it. When UT plays Florida or Georgia, and CBS or ESPN runs those old highlights, it’s a reminder of how good it felt to be relevant on a big Saturday.

The Vols are trending upward, and that’s the nice thing I have to say about them. Being better than last year is the goal, and they are. I would trade places with a Vols fan tomorrow, and I’d like to believe that gives them at least a skosh of solace.

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Washington

Washington

Bob Gregory
Bob Gregory
Image: Getty Images

743 wins, 2 national championships, 17 conference titles

If the Hokies can make the list, the Huskies can, as well. I’m not sure if it’s an honor to be on here, but I feel like it is. It means you matter. I’m old enough to remember when Washington was the Oregon of the Pac-10 (when it was the Pac-10). I also could put Kansas State and Colorado on here, but it’s late, and I can only force myself to be cheery about one former Big 12 team/rival per post.

I didn’t mention the hapless state of the Pac-12 in the USC segment because I didn’t realize that Washington had a vacancy or that I would need to fill space with a callback. You want to know how fucking insane the searches and upcoming coaching carousel will be? A program with 743 wins fired their 3-5 head coach, and a coach of a 4-6 team in its division is on the short list of candidates to replace him.

I believe I have a relevant callback for this, though, because one of these schools is going to hire a coach we never thought would get an opportunity. That’s a good thing as I’ve run out of optimistic anecdotes. Happy holidays!

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