5-at-10: Poll vaulting with college football’s champ, a 2024 look ahead and NFL coaching jobs

Michigan defensive back Will Johnson celebrates after an interception against Washington during the second half of the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Michigan defensive back Will Johnson celebrates after an interception against Washington during the second half of the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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Wow, we are going to serve more polls than a Cracker Barrel in Warsaw today.

Atop the current poll

Michigan destroyed Washington on both sides and offered up the perfect end to a pressure-packed season that was perfect on the field and just about everything but off it.

Imagine the Michigan roller-coaster that started this time last year for a second:

— Michigan stumbles as a big favorite in the playoff semifinals against TCU.

— Coach Khaki flirts with the NFL, because either a) he's Coach Khaki, b) he knows the NCAA is about to move its satellite office from Auburn to Ann Arbor, or c) A and B.

— Multiple NFL-ready draft picks from the QB to a slew of OLs to multiple defensive starters forgo the draft after the Wolverines' playoff disappointment.

— The NCAA hands out the first of two three-game suspensions to Jim Harbaugh to start the season, this one for lying about a cheeseburger.

— The Wolverines talk about unity from the season-opener, but without Coach Khaki, those first three are offensively lethargic against over-matched competition.

— Then comes the sign-stealing allegations that range from whispers to cries of collusions and include resignations, firings and comparisons to the 2017 Astros. In truth, I'm not sure there's been a bigger in-season controversy surrounding an eventual champion since 2010 when Cam Newton's daddy greatly undervalued his QB1 and allegedly wanted $180K for the most dominant college football player since Herschel Walker.

— Then comes the playoff hubbub and FSU quits and Alabama leaps Georgia. Michigan continues to handle its business, out-Alabamaing Bama in the Rose Bowl and imposing its will over a Washington team that simply had few answers for Michigan's physicality.

Perfect amid totally imperfect settings led to a perfect season and one of the sport's most decorated programs winning its first title since 1997.

Now, will the last Wolverines coach or player left in the building turn out the lights?

I firmly believe Harbaugh is headed to the NFL. Heck, I'd love to hear that Falcons owner Arthur Blank has already sent his private plane to pick Harbaugh up in Houston.

Michigan is Michigan, but when your offense is going to likely lose QB1, RB1, RB2, WR1, WR2, TE1 and all five offensive linemen (only QB JJ McCarthy and RB2 Donovan Edwards, whose stock will never be higher, were not seniors or grad students among that group) and at least half-a-dozen defensive starters, well, this was the year.

And they made the most of it.

Perfectly.

Too early poll vaulting

Yes, it's a 5-at-10 tradition. The day after the title game, we post our 2024 college football poll.

Of course it's too early and there still may be some spring portalling that greatly alters everything. Like Alabama losing a key OL cog to THE Ohio State, like what happened yesterday. Or the mass defection to the NFL underwear Olympics to prep for the draft.

But like that guy that played the redneck violin on the top of his house — what was his name? Oh yeah the fiddler on the roof — would say: "Tradition."

Also of note, and re-reading the caveat above about changes still abound, this is not my guess at what the preseason poll is. It also is not my guess on what the final poll will be — because that's doubly dangerous going into the first year of the 12-team playoff.

This is my view on the best 25 teams in the country heading into Jan. 9, 2024.

Deal? Tradition.

1. Georgia. Yes, Georgia fans are going to say this morning that the Dogs would have beaten Michigan. And they may be right. (Georgia would have been favored over Coach Khaki's crew.) But the 2024 Dogs better be the best in the country — and Carson Beck will get the chance to earn that reported $4 million in NIL weekly — against a brutal schedule.

2. Alabama. Sounds familiar, huh? The Tide improved all season, and if Jalen Milroe grows as much in the next eight months as he did in the last three of 2023, well, hello Heisman frontrunner.

3. THE Ohio State. Yeah, tradition indeed. THE Buckeyes may have won the portal with KSU QB Will Howard, the Ole Miss RB1 Quinshon Judkins and the Alabama center.

4. Oregon. The Ducks may have the best O in the country with former Oklahoma QB1 Dillion Gabriel replacing 15-year NCAA veteran Bo Nix. Some defensive questions, however.

5. Texas. No team could receive the "Michigan bounce" with players forgoing the draft like the Longhorns, who could lose two dude WRs and a couple of DLs. Or they could come back and lift the big-as-Texas expectations even higher.

6. Notre Dame. Love the addition of portal passer Riley Leonard from Duke. Side note: Marcus Freeman is doing work in South Bend.

7. Ole Miss. The Rebels loaded up on defense through the portal. Losing Judkins was a surprise, but Lane Kiffin's crew is loaded.

8. Clemson. A team that returns a ton of starters on both sides and was at its best at the end of the year.

9. Michigan. Too low for the title winners? That's a ton to replace and a schedule filled with Big Ten foes new and old wanting to take down the champs.

10. Washington. Will Rogers replaces Michael Penix Jr. Man, the portal is something no?

11. Tennessee. Are you ready for some Nico hype? Cause it's coming.

12. Oklahoma State. The Gundys could return as many as 10 offensive starters including star RB1 Ollie Gordon II.

13. Utah. Love the title odds on this team, which was rolling before injuries and return eight starters on each side of the ball and the best head coach in college football no one could pick out of a crowd.

14. LSU. Yes the Heisman winner is gone, but so is the worst DC in Red Stick since the DeNardo era.

(OK, running low on time, let's get this moving.)

15. Arizona.

16. Oklahoma.

17. Kansas.

18. Penn State.

19. Louisville.

20. FSU.

21. Missouri.

22. Kansas State.

23. West Virginia.

24. Iowa.

25. USC.

Thoughts?

NFL power poll

Told you there were more than a few today.

Let's flip it and reverse it today a bit and do the best NFL coaching jobs and the worst in 2023. Deal? Deal.

Best

1. DeMeco Ryans. Yes, drafting the NFL offensive and defensive rookies of the year was a bonus, but the Texans went from arguably the worst team in the league to division winners. In year 1.

2. Dan Campbell. He won 12 games. With Jared Goff at QB1. In Detroit. He could be higher.

3. Mike McCarthy. Winning in Dallas is never easy, and the Cowboys a) won the division and b) are a true Super Bowl threat for the first time since before we loathed going to the airport because of those super-long security lines before 9/11.

4. John Harbaugh. Maybe he should be higher but man those Harbaughs can coach their headsets off.

5. Kyle Shanahan. Loaded roster. True. But that dude calls the best in-game plays I have seen since Bobby Petrino was at the height of his powers in Arkansas.

Worst

28. Arthur Smith. Good riddance.

29. Bill Belichick. Yes, I feel like a sinner for even putting his name down here — and below Smith — but it was what it was.

30. Brandon Staley. A lot of the pink-slip party had major QB1 issues. Staley had Justin Herbert for Pete Rozelle's sake.

31. Josh McDaniels. After losing the locker room in Vegas, he'll never get another HC gig right?

32. Frank Reich. Fired in Carolina before week 12. In year 1. Says it all, no?

This and that

— You may not have heard about this before now, but you will. A Michigan couple is suing their school district because they claim their daughter was transitioned without the parents' knowledge.

— Ja Morant will have season-ending shoulder surgery. That's a dude that has had an all-time forgettable season.

— Georgia is the betting favorite to win the 2024 title at 17-to-4. Tennessee is a tasty 40-to-1.

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday.

True or false, you made it to the end of the title game.

True or false, I missed your favorite coach in the above NFL coaches power poll.

True or false, I undersold your favorite team in the preseason college football poll.

True or false, you were cheering for Washington last night.

As for today, Jan. 9, let's review.

On this day in 1776, Thomas Payne published "Common Sense," one of the more powerful pieces of writing in American history.

Rushmore of "common." And a Rushmore of "sense."

Go.


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