As much as I’d like to convince you that I see the future in college football, I simply cannot. That’s it; my credibility is destroyed. I’m finished.
After all, if I could see the future, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be starring in my own real-life version of Back to the Future II, living in a mansion made of solid gold, taking down sportsbooks by the hour and consuming different kinds of luxurious cheeses for full meals.
This, unfortunately, is not my life, and I’m instead tasked to provide educated and informed predictions as best I can. Each year, near the end of summer—shortly before our calendars switch to September and our football thirsts are quenched—me and my kind outline how the college football season will unfold.
Some of this plays out exactly how I envisioned; some of it does not.
While I could spend days (maybe more like hours—well, minutes) talking about where things went right on the prediction front, where’s the fun in that? Instead, let’s go to the piñata and discuss where my predictions (and perhaps some other general preseason assumptions) misfired.
We begin with the obvious.
Notre [expletive deleted] Dame
The nondescriptive curse included above isn’t a negative by any means, but instead a sign of just how spectacular this season was for Notre Dame. The book on this is still very much unfinished, of course, with a date with Alabama on tap, but no one saw this kind of season coming.
Not even you, Irish fan in the back with your hand raised. Please, kindly leave and take your undefeated T-shirt with you.
Heading into the season, I looked at Notre Dame’s schedule and said that it was one of the toughest—if not the toughest—in the entire country.
While it wasn’t the same daunting path that I presumed it to be thanks to the Big Ten being a mess and USC being a bigger mess, this was not a season I saw coming. I thought this would be Brian Kelly’s best team, but didn’t anticipate this kind of jump.
With that being said, “undefeated regular season” is not a phrase I planned to throw around. A two- or three-loss season would have been viewed as a superb step forward, and Notre Dame took it miles further. It wasn’t always pretty, but it shattered expectations.
Also, to be continued…
On the topic of the Big Ten…
Of all conferences, this is where I missed the mark most. I pegged Ohio State as a 10-2 team, and it finished unbeaten. I thought Penn State would win five games, and Bill O’Brien hit the eight-win mark, a marvelous achievement.
Michigan State with a 9-3 season thanks to solid quarterback play from Andrew Maxwell? Not quite; Sparty struggled to move the ball and finished up 6-6.
My biggest whiff, however, came from Wisconsin, which I thought would finish 11-1. Well, a Rose Bowl trip—albeit one with five losses—is still on tap, although this was not the dominant Big Ten team I thought we’d see.
In general, I placed far too much faith in the Big Ten. I vow it will never happen again…until probably next year.
Swing and a Heisman Miss
For the record, I pegged USC quarterback Matt Barkley as my chalky Heisman pick, which was not exactly how it all went down. I did, however, toss Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein around as a solid dark horse, which was very close to coming through.
I wasn’t the only one who swung and missed here—let me see your preseason “Johnny Manziel will win the Heisman” claims—Vegas also was way off. Your Heisman favorites heading into this season were, as follows at your local sportsbook:
Matt Barkley (3/1), Denard Robinson (5/1), Montee Ball (5/1), Landry Jones (13/2) and Geno Smith (7/1), Marcus Lattimore (10/1), A.J. McCarron (15/1), Tajh Boyd (20/1), Taylor Martinez (20/1), De’Anthony Thomas (25/1), Rex Burkhead (25/1)
None finished in the top five, and if you had Johnny Manziel edging out Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o for the award in the preseason…you didn’t have Manziel edging out Te’o in the preseason, because your friends would have laughed at you if you made this prediction.
Also, they would have absolutely no idea who this “John Football” is you speak of.
O Knile, Where Art Thou?
Without question, my biggest overestimation of a single player heading into this season was Arkansas running back Knile Davis.
Coming off injury, I though Davis would have a monster season if he stayed healthy. I had my concerns with the team under John L. Smith, but I expected Davis to return to form, or at least come close to the kind of production he had in 2010.
That…didn’t happen, and it wasn’t even close.
Davis did miss two games, but he never got going. He finished with only 377 yards rushing with 3.4 yards per carry, and he never hit more than 75 yards rushing in a game.
If you told me that this would be his final season of college football, it wouldn’t have shocked me. The fact that Davis is bound for the NFL after a season like this—and with a head coach coming in that knows a thing or two about running the ball—is shocking, to say the least.
He’s got special abilities; this much I know. We didn’t get to see it this year like I thought we would, but perhaps we will again at the next level.
And finally, “Go Gators”
Here’s what I wrote about the Gators back in August: "The defense could be scary, perhaps the nation's best. The offense is a different story. Fascinating potential if they can find the end zone."
Included in this description was a 7-5 predicted record. As my forecast stated, I just didn’t know where they would come up with enough points to win more games. Well, at times, the offense did struggle, but they found a way.
They squeaked by inferior opponents, beat very good teams on a schedule loaded with landmines and finished up with one loss against a Georgia team that was a tipped ball away from the national championship.
The Gators won’t be playing the BCS National Championship, but they were awfully close. The fact that we’ve debated whether or not they should be playing in that game shows just how far Will Muschamp exceeded expectations in 2012.