Expanding from a post I made in reference to our BCS ranking. My semi-educated thoughts below, would love to hear from you folks who also think about these sorts of things. Let me also first say that I'm loving the ride this team's taken us on this year, and this speculation in no way dimishes the fun I'm having watching this team fight and grow together right now.
IMO we are roughly the 10th best team in the country right now. I think it goes something like this:
- Kansas St.
- Notre Dame
- Florida St
- Ohio State
(South Carolina would be above us WITH Lattimore)
So I'm glad we aren't playing any of those top 6 teams in a bowl this year. I'd always love to play ND, no matter how good they are. And anyway, I don't think they'd score much on us, and I DO think we could run on them. I just think we match up well, even though they may beat some teams we wouldn't beat (i.e. Oklahoma, who I don't think we match up well with).
Next year, however, I fully expect Braxton to have improved his passing enough for us to be able to beat teams in the air when they're stacking the box against the run (at least I hope so!). If that's the case, and we get improved LB play from the young guys, then we're a top five team. If not, then we're about where we are right now: a very good, barely top 10 team with major flaws. Could still win the Big Ten, of course, but not likely beat the best SEC teams.
Losing Simon, Hankins (as I expect), Boren, Sabino and Williams will really hurt the D, as I don't expect Bennett, Adolphus Washington, Pittman, Schutt etc. or Cam Williams/Jamal Marcus/Josh Perry/Curtis Grant to be able to fully replace their production just yet (maybe in 2014).
If Brax stays healthy, and we can sign some more OL studs this year (Johnson and Dawson would be nice!) and develop the young guys we have, then I think our team in 2014 will be significantly better than 2013. The offense would/will be a juggernaut with Brax and his many weapons in the backfield and out wide, and the defense should be deep and coming into their own. That's when we steamroll and compete for another national championship.
(edited to remove CJ Barnett reference, who's only a Junior)