It was beyond the wisdom of the BCS to give us a bowl pairing that involves TCU or Boise State playing one of the teams from the traditional power conferences, so there is little left that can catch us off guard for the balance of the season.
With this in mind, our gang at College Sports Matchups reviewed the season and made our list of the top surprises from the season.
When the season started, Florida was ranked first in any credible poll you could find. Why not? They were bringing back the entire two deep on defense and seven offensive stars, including Superman himself, Tim Tebow.
Something other than greatness started to show itself when Urban Meyer blamed the flu for a tough game against Tennessee. Watching closely, you could really tell these Gators had less of a bite than last year when the Razorbacks had Tebow’s team on the ropes until some untimely officiating gave Florida new life.
They were totally exposed in the SEC Championship Game by Alabama’s wrecking crew on offense and defense. Given how highly they were regarded entering the season, this is the No. 1 surprise of the season in our estimation.
Now for the rest, in no particular order...
In a positive sense, the collective Big East pulled the opposite of what Florida did and made a strong rebound through the season.
Remember the conversation at the start of the year regarding the Big East? There was much mocking of them and their lack of representation in the top 25. Now we have an undefeated Cincinnati team that deservedly was in the conversation for the BCS title game. Pitt and West Virginia gives the league two other teams in the most recent BCS standings at 16 and 17 respectively.
The de facto Big East Championship game also provided one of the best games played this season.
On the blue field of Boise State during the first weekend of play, Oregon looked to be a team in peril. They had no offense, could not stop the Broncos, and then LeGarrette Blount threw the punch that dominated the headlines for about two weeks.
It was seven weeks later before the Ducks lost another game, and their 10-2 record has given them a Rose Bowl date with Ohio State. Their rushing attack made them the highest scoring team in the conference and gave them two top 10 rushers in running back LaMichael James and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
To make the circle of redemption complete, Blount was even reinstated to play after being suspended for the year and scored a key touchdown in the Ducks' win over in-state rival Oregon State. After the way they played in week one, the success Chip Kelly’s first Oregon team enjoyed was surprising.
Comparatively speaking, USC was going to be down this year, but down for USC is not the same as it is for other teams. Every year they seem to have their choice of recruits from across the nation, and this year looked like one where there was plenty of talent, but seasoning was going to be necessary.
What was surprising was just how bad the Trojans could be some days. Washington played well early in the year, but the Trojans are not suppose to lose games to a team that could not manage a single victory in the prior year.
What was truly surprising were the total meltdowns that occurred in their games with Oregon and Stanford. They were whipped up and down the field in both games. It was really pathetic to hear Pete Carroll whine about Stanford—STANFORD—trying to run the score up on his once mighty, point-piling-on Trojans.
Mark Ingram and Toby Gerhart taking the top two spots in the Heisman Trophy voting was something that did not even merit serious consideration until the middle of the season. When they all announced the NFL would have to wait another year, the three big quarterbacks (Tebow, Sam Bradford, and Colt McCoy) were given presumptive status as the finalist.
Ingram won the trophy by being at his best in the Tide’s biggest games, save Auburn, while Gerhart was the most consistent of the Heisman finalists.
How the vote would turn out became even more interesting when Nebraska’s great defensive lineman, Ndamukong Suh, showed the nation why he was worthy of very serious consideration for the Heisman when he almost took the Longhorns down by himself in the Big 12 Championship game.
What was not surprising: Notre Dame’s lack of success was not a shock, and it could have been much worse for the Irish; TCU and Boise State running the table after winning one big out of conference game each; Florida State ending their time with Bobby Bowden was something that could be seen coming since the end of last season; Alabama and Texas playing for the national title since they have been among the top ranked teams in the nation since the season started; upsets, jaw-dropping plays, and great moments, because this is what college football delivers each season.
Bowl season will give us even more to discuss in the weeks ahead.