In case you missed our Biggest Coaching Surprises of 2015 predictions yesterday, you should rectify that immediately. If you didn't miss them, then you'll understand the context for our Biggest Non-Coaching Surprises of 2015.
Scott (@FootballScoop):Within a year we will see at least one current "Group of 5" FBS program either stop playing football, or opt to move down to FCS.
The economics of fielding a competitive full squad at the FBS level -if you aren't in a Power 5 conference - are simply becoming difficult to make work unless you have a sizable, loyal, giving and growing fanbase. To remain competitive requires financial investment and while the Power 5 guys are reaping the benefits of what at some point felt like never-ending TV money (and it feels like that ship is slowing, too), Group of 5 programs are not all rolling in new TV money. Tough decisions lay ahead. Here's a bit of unsolicited advice to university presidents out there: find yourself an athletic director who is aligned with your vision for your university and invest in that person. Together, develop your plan and stay the course, but be willing to make minor course corrections as needed (sometimes even to get ahead of the competition). Keep him (or her) happy and watch his or her roots grow and your university will see the benefits for years to come.
Zach (@Zach_Barnett): One conference gets two teams in the Playoff AND the Heisman winner comes out of nowhere.
I'm technically cheating here with two predictions, but that's because I'm so sure in each of these that I'd venture to label them "guarantees."
I had one bet-the-farm pick in 2014 - four separate conferences would make the inaugural Playoff. With so many competing agendas and so little trust in the new system, spreading the wealth as far as possible was a lock last year. Now that we're a year in and college football has not exploded from within, the committee stretches its legs a little and leaves two conferences out of the semifinals.
As for my second prediction, let's look at the recent history of Heisman winners. Before Marcus Mariota took the Heisman home to the West Coast last year, the last preseason favorite to actually win the stiffarm statue was... Troy Smith in 2006? In fact, prior to Mariota, three of the last four winners (Newton, Manziel, Winston) were in their first year on the field with their respective teams. So I'd actually put money on a guy like UCLA true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen before Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott or TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin.
Doug (@CoachSamz): Only one of the four teams from the 2014 playoff field will appear again in the 2015 playoff.
Ask college football experts around the country who is going to make the college football playoff this season, and their opinions are going to be all over the place. Some say LSU, others say Michigan State, or Clemson or Arizona State. There are just so many quality teams this year that pose a real threat.
I think the biggest surprise in the 2015 playoff field is that only one team will be making a repeat appearance, and I think that team will be Ohio State. Oregon and Florida State both have to replace big-name quarterbacks and other firepower on both sides of the ball, and I'm not confident that Alabama will even win the loaded SEC.