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Tuesday, Sep 18, 2018
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Who makes the playoff first: Jimbo, Mullen, Taggart or Richt?

When college football's crazy coaching carousel stopped spinning, one question kept getting stuck in my head.

Which team makes it to the College Football Playoff first: Mark Richt's Hurricanes, Dan Mullen's Florida Gators, Willie Taggart's Seminoles or Jimbo Fisher's Aggies at Texas A&M?

Now that spring football is underway (or about to be) across the region, and now that the staffs and first recruiting classes have been filled, this is a good enough time to discuss.

All four programs have the recruiting base and resources to get there eventually. All four coaches have built successful programs in the past, to varying degrees and at various levels. It wouldn't surprise me if, in 10 years, all four have made the playoff once.

But my answer: Richt and Miami.

He has a head start, because this is his third year at his school, not his first. His Hurricanes just reeled in the nation's No. 8 recruiting class. UM's 2019 class ranks second nationally, behind only Georgia.

Miami is recruiting well in its backyard, as it must if it wants to compete for national titles. The Hurricanes signed seven Miami-Dade/Broward/Palm Beach prospects who were ranked among the state's top 50 players in 2018. The Gators and Seminoles signed two … combined.

The Hurricanes were in the playoff conversation last year until the minor detail of a two-game losing streak that extended to three in the Orange Bowl. With better quarterback play — Malik Rosier was No. 63 nationally in passing efficiency — maybe Miami could have been legitimately challenging for a final four appearance.

I don't know whether Richt has solved Miami's quarterback issue, and I don't think we'll know that until September. But he has fewer problems than the other programs.

Quarterbacks justifiably get the most attention in Gainesville, but Mullen has to correct a defense that gave up 27.3 points per game last year. That was the worst figure by the Gators since 1946.

FSU's offensive line has struggled, its defense is depleted, and Taggart will have at most five healthy scholarship receivers this spring.

A&M might have the highest upside of the bunch, but there's a reason the Aggies fired Kevin Sumlin. Plus Fisher's road to the SEC West title runs through Tuscaloosa, Auburn and vs. LSU … and then he might have to beat surging Georgia to win the conference.

Miami's schedule isn't easy. The Hurricanes play FSU annually and have season openers set against LSU (this year) and UF (next year), plus future non-conference games against Michigan State and Alabama. But Miami remains in the weaker ACC division, which helps.

What do you think? Which of those four coaches reaches the playoff first (at his current school)?

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