As strange as it may seem, Washington lost its head coach this off-season to a conference rival and may have upgraded anyway. Washington was able to lure Chris Petersen away from Boise State. Petersen had long been a popular name for openings at top schools, but he never found a place he wanted to jump to until the Washington job came free, and most Huskies fans don’t seem to be willing to trade him for the chance to get Steve Sarkisian back. Petersen has a long history of beating top programs when given the chance at Boise State, and the opportunity to see him coach a power conference team, especially one with a solid foundation like UW, is exciting.
Kids love playing in fun systems, and there aren’t many better examples than the football renaissance currently taking place at Baylor. Art Briles built a powerful program out of nowhere, and has produced BCS teams and a Heisman winner. Recruiting is on a steady incline, and Baylor has become a very attractive program for those who want to play football and participate in track and field. Big things are happening in Waco, and Briles doesn’t seem interested in taking his offense anywhere else for the time being.
Losing Bill O’Brien, who successfully guided Penn State through massive reputation hits and NCAA sanctions following the Jerry Sandusky scandal, is very difficult. Filling in the void with James Franklin, who created a winning program out of thin air at Vanderbilt, is a pretty good recovery. Franklin is an ace recruiter who grew up in Pennsylvania, and should be able to lock up the key recruits in the Northeast. Penn State also has a much better football pedigree than Vanderbilt. If he can win nine games with an SEC schedule, he shouldn’t have too much trouble building on that with the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten.
Gus Malzahn was the brain behind the offense that won the 2010 National Championship, and in his first year back at Auburn as head coach he turned a 3-9 squad into a 12-2 National Championship runner-up immediately. Alabama fans likely thought they had created some serious distance between themselves and their state rivals in the post-Cam Newton era, but Malzahn has the program flying high. Saban-Malzahn helmed Iron Bowls are going to be so much fun.
This is an easy answer, but the program with the brightest future, both immediate and long-term, is Florida State. They have a fairly young head coach in Jimbo Fisher, who is 48 years old, a Heisman and National Championship winning quarterback with at least a year left in Tallahassee in Jameis Winston, a manageable conference to deal with, and elite recruiting in perhaps the best football state in the nation.
Florida State will be prohibitive favorites to repeat as National Champions in 2014-15, and while there may be a slight set-back after Winston leaves, recruiting isn’t slowing down. According to Rivals.com, Florida State has had a Top 10 classes every year since 2007. Expect Florida State to be a fixture in the College Football Playoff, and for Fisher to raise up quite a few crystal trophies in his career.