As we turn the calendar to 2015, college sports fans can greet the new year with anticipation. As college football season winds down, the action on the hardwood is starting to heat up.
But if you’re in need of something a bit more tangible, you’re in luck. Here are five things that college sports fans can definitely look forward to over the next 12 months.
5. Big Ten football
Big Ten football fans have suffered through several years of mediocrity. (Don’t believe me? Just ask one for yourself.) The conference has been the laughing stock of the so-called “Big Five” – remember at one point this football season we were debating whether or not the Big Ten deserved a spot in the playoff? – surprisingly lacking in a recognizable face, even with high-profile coaches like Urban Meyer and James Franklin in the fold.
But the 2014 bowl season – and the events surrounding it – has to have Big Ten fans salivating for next year. An up-and-down Michigan State team rallied to beat Baylor (Baylor!) in the Cotton Bowl. Wisconsin – under the guidance of Barry Alvarez, nonetheless – knocked off Auburn (Auburn!) in the Outback Bowl. And then the biggest one of all on the biggest stage – Ohio State shocking Alabama (Alabama!) in the Sugar Bowl.
While the conference is reveling in the on-the-field play – so much for going 0-fer in bowl season, huh? – Michigan very quietly (sarcasm intended) added yet another huge name to the conference in the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. And suddenly, the Big Ten is relevant once again, which is good for all of college football.
4. NFL Draft
Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston? At the Rose Bowl, it was Mariota … but what does that mean – if anything – for NFL potential? And will they both, in fact, declare for the draft? As a senior, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty will be in the draft; right now, he’s the top-ranked quarterback that’s definitely available.
Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson surprised even his teammates by declaring for the draft by way of Instagram post (yes, this is indeed the era we live in now) prior to his team’s appearance in the Orange Bowl. Will Alabama receiver Amari Cooper declare … or come back to Alabama for another shot at a national title? How about Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley?
There are still many questions left unanswered. It should be an exciting lead-up to April 30.
3. NCAA Tournament
Yes, it happens every year. Yes, there are upsets and blowouts and with any luck at all, a Cinderella team. But this year, there seems to be the potential for even more ridiculousness than usual. Consider the early-season upsets: NJIT, Eastern Washington, Temple and Creighton have wins over Michigan, Indiana, Kansas and Oklahoma, respectively. Northern Iowa – at least for now – is ranked in the AP Top 25. North Carolina and Kansas – again, for now – aren’t in the Top 10, while Virginia, Iowa State and Utah are. Feels just a bit topsy-turvy, doesn’t it? Yes, there’s still a lot of basketball to be played, but at least for the moment the potential for chaos feels very tangible.
2. Preseason football rankings
Take them worth a grain of salt, for sure, but the 2015 preseason Top 25 rankings could hold much more intrigue than usual. Consider TCU’s complete domination over Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl – and then consider the fact that the team returns 18 starters in 2015, including quarterback Trevone Boykin, who has publicly stated he will return to TCU for his senior season. TCU as preseason No. 1? It definitely seemed plausible – until Ohio State shocked the college football universe and advanced to the College Football Playoff championship game. Meyer has said frequently this year that he thinks this team is “a year away.” If that’s the case, the Buckeyes have a strong case for No. 1, regardless of how the title game plays out. Alabama and Oregon should be right there as well. Thank goodness we have a playoff now to sort all this out, right?
1. College Football Playoff Championship Game (Jan. 12)
Speaking of the playoff … yes, I realize this is kind of cheating as it’s a known entity. But after the performances we got in the first-ever semifinal games from Oregon and Ohio State, it’s hard not to put this at the top of the list. Many on Twitter have pointed out that in the old BCS system, it’s very likely that the computer-determined national championship game would have been between Florida State and Alabama. With the controversy over the fourth and final seed a seemingly distant memory, we are left with an unexpected title game and a great deal of anticipation for a system that – at least for now – appears to have achieved what many college football fans have wanted for many years.
Image Source: OhioStateBuckeyes.com
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