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Christmas wish lists for faltering high-profile CFB programs

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Santa Claus makes his annual rounds Wednesday night/Thursday morning, and we thought we'd help out the jolly fat guy by preparing a list of gifts he can leave coaches of eight "power" programs that fell on (relatively) hard times this season.

As helpful as Santa can be, he's not a miracle worker: One or two new recruits are not going to turn these teams around. Instead, guys on hand need to improve their games, and it's in that vein that we tell Santa what these teams need.

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Colorado

The wish list: You wonder if coach Mike MacIntyre tells this story for Christmas: "Gather 'round, boys and girls, and let me tell you of a long-ago time when Colorado football won a bunch of games and played for national titles. The Buffs had star running backs, big-time linebackers and tough-minded linemen. And they were as real as the smile upon your face when you wake up on Christmas morning." Colorado won double-digit games five times in an eight-season stretch from 1989-96 but has done so only once since. And the Buffs have had just six winning seasons since '96. If MacIntyre has talked with Santa, he surely told him he needs defensive linemen and linebackers -- and difference-making linemen and linebackers. A stud feature back would be nice, too.

Florida

The wish list: Think about the shirts your eccentric aunt gave you every year at Christmas: She wanted to see you in it, but you were mortified that someone outside your family actually would see you wearing it because it was so embarrassing. That has been the Florida offense the past few seasons. New coach Jim McElwain arrives with the reputation as an offense-minded guy and that should help. But he certainly won't mind if Santa drops off some ready-made starting linemen and a receiver or two. Depth along the offensive line is going to be a huge issue next fall. And who's the No. 2 receiver going to be?


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Michigan

The wish list: Man, this one is easy -- the Wolverines want Santa to bring Jim Harbaugh "home." And even if Santa does deliver Harbaugh, Michigan also needs numerous talented skill-position players, especially at wide receiver. Some competent offensive linemen would be good, too. If Santa doesn't bring Harbaugh? Let's just say it will be a while before Wolverines fans believe in him again.


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Notre Dame

The wish list: Think of the Irish defense like an expensive toy that is fragile -- toughness was not a trait shown by that unit this season. The defensive front seven needs help, and improvement in that area would ease things considerably on a secondary that was picked on this season. Actually, the best present for coach Brian Kelly might be Santa convincing star third-year sophomore OT Ronnie Stanley to forgo the draft and remain in South Bend. There's also the complex case of Irish QB Everett Golson: He needs to be tinkered with by the toy-shop elves to get him working correctly again.

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Penn State

The wish list: Coach James Franklin already has one great item in place -- QB Christian Hackenberg. Yes, Hackenberg had a horrible sophomore season. But just think of him as a toy that needs a new battery (i.e., some skill-position help). In addition, think of him as the lone toy on a shelf -- he needs some playmates. Big ones. As in offensive linemen. If Penn State's line had been merely adequate this season, the Nittany Lions could've won eight games.

Texas

The wish list: Think of recent-vintage Texas teams like the rich kid who gets everything he wants at Christmas, then lets it sit there -- unused. The Longhorns always bring in high-caliber recruiting classes, but the development of those players has been extremely lax. Coach Charlie Strong will change that. He won't ask for a lot from Santa, but what he does get, he'll put to good use. Strong definitely could use some speedy skill-position players, along with some physical offensive linemen. Truthfully, like a child who genuinely likes every toy he gets for Christmas, even if others think some of them are lame, Strong won't care if his offensive linemen aren't necessarily considered top of the line; if they do what they're supposed to, he'll be fine.

Texas A&M

The wish list: Coach Kevin Sumlin wants Santa to bring a defensive coordinator, above all else. And with that DC, Santa needs to bring in boxes of linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties. Santa doesn't need to worry about the Aggies' offense; instead, the focus should be on defense. Think of it this way: While everybody wants shiny toys and top-of-the-line electronics (i.e., offensive skill-position players) every Christmas, the Aggies have a huge need for the basics, like underwear, socks and T-shirts (i.e., stout defensive players).


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Virginia Tech

The wish list: Watching the Hokies play "offense" (their word, not ours) this season was cringe-inducing. Coach Frank Beamer needs Santa to deliver a quarterback, some wide receivers and some offensive linemen. It's Virginia Tech, so Santa always delivers old reliables such as cornerbacks and undersized-but-productive defensive linemen. But the Hokies need the elves to switch up some boxes and make sure some of those shiny toys and top-of-the-line electronics that usually go to College Station, Tallahassee, Eugene and Columbus end up in Blacksburg.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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