CFR will be tracking HeismanPundit's "Big Six" teams on here throughout the 2005 college football season. The Big Six teams we are referring to are the six teams who have pulled away from the other 113 teams in college football in regards to scheme sophistication on either offense, defense, or both.
The Big Six are---USC, California, Louisville, Boise State, Florida and Utah.
FYI-These five (sans 2005 newcomer Florida) went 57-4 (.934) last year, or 55-2 (.965) if you omit direct matchups. Not bad.
-HP fleshes out the Big Six in this 6/28/05 entry-Gang Of Six
-Utah is on Big Six probation after review of Arizona/Utah game, no longer implementing full Meyer offense.
-Notre Dame was added later in the year as a replacement for Utah.
-HP fleshes out the early 2006 candidates here.
Final 2006 Season Results
- USC (12-1, 8-0) #2 AP
- Notre Dame (9-3) #9 AP
- Florida (9-3, 5-3) #12 AP
- Louisville (9-3, 5-2) #19 AP
- California (8-4, 4-4) #25 AP
- Boise State (9-4, 7-1)
Utah (7-5, 4-4)
The Big Six took a step backwards in 2005 in relation to overall record. Collectively, they went 56-18 (.757) or 54-16 (.771) in non head-to-head's.
After watching offensive coordinator Norm Chow depart for the NFL, along with several other prominent coaches (defensive line coach Ed Orgeron to Ole Miss, offensive line coach Tim Davis to Miami), little was known about USC's coaching situation. For the most part, the Trojans adjusted very well, playing to within 19 seconds of an unprecedented three-peat, but they had defensive issues all year and dumbed down their offense, leaning more than usual on talent than their scheme. Back Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy and Matt Leinart finished in third place.
Notre Dame, a new entrant, needed just 5 games to get used to Charlie Weis and the new offense. After an overtime home loss to a hot Michigan State team, they nearly toppled USC in October and flew through the rest of the schedule before losing to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Quarterback Brady Quinn is the 2006 Heisman front-runner.
Florida got off to a rough start, ditching much of the Meyer offense as SEC defenses and mismatched personnel and bad line play forced coach Meyer's hand in grinding out games. The Gators finished with notable wins over top 25 teams Florida State and Iowa and should perform much better offensively once some high-level recruits from this year's top-two recruiting class get acclimated.
Louisville had a surprisingly modest year in the winnable Big East, dropping a stunner to South Florida and handing over late what looked like an impressive win against West Virginia. The offense continued to perform at a high level, but was more inconsistent this year as Brian Brohm got acclimated to full-time starter status. Both Brohm and star back Michael Bush battled through a handful of injuries, further unsettling the offense.
California's season was over almost as soon as it started. After a publicized fall battle, Freshman Nate Longshore beat JUCO transfer Joe Ayoob for the starting quarterback job. Unfortunately, Longshore also broke his leg a few snaps into his college career, to miss most of the season. Ayoob proved an incompetent replacement, misfiring on his first 14 collegiate passes and otherwise having a ruinous season (14 interceptions). He would be replaced by converted fullback Steve Levy after a nail-in-the-coffin effort against USC. Coach Tedford's system is a balanced attack but requires intelligent quarterback play that never materialized in '05. With a healthy Marshawn Lynch at tailback and some consistency from Levy/Longshore, the Bears should have a much better 2006.
Boise State earned a lot of hype leading up to its game against Georgia. However, the confident Broncos failed to show up, as Georgia bullied them into an embarrassing loss. Most of the struggles were on offense where quarterback Jared Zabransky had one of the worst meltdowns I've ever seen, turning the ball over 6 times in the first half. He never fully recovered. Boise had a handful of closer-than-necessary games but battled to a respectable record against light competition. They nearly took down Boston College before a home crowd in their bowl game, but lost in the last minute after Zabransky threw an ill-advised interception into the end zone on what would have been the game winning drive.
I expect a return to 2004 form for the "Big Six".
USC won't be going anywhere, neither will Notre Dame. Florida should be vastly improved, and California will rebound. If they learned some lessons about Big East play, Louisville will be just fine. The one team to worry about is Boise State, which lost coach Dan Hawkins to Colorado. His replacement is a touted understudy, but so was Urban Meyer's at Utah. I'm skeptical until I see what happens on the field.
There was a lot of criticism directed at the Big Six in 2005, but much of it was explained by coaching changes, injuries, and roster turnover. The big picture is that these teams all have schemes that do a terrific job of adjusting for these changes, perhaps not always keeping these teams at the highest levels of college football, but letting them remain competitive. And when the opportunity's right, they have shown that they're among the games best. Taking a look at coaching and quarterback situations, the next two seasons should be quite fruitful for this maligned group. Stay tuned!