Here we are heading into the postseason and as always, the college football regular season has delivered. The narratives, surprises, and breakout performances are unmatched in sports. They’re unpredictable, but we tried to predict them anyway. So, let’s look at how things played out and and how close our picks were.
Jalen Hurts became an elite QB and Heisman contender
We picked Oklahoma to win the Big 12 (again), but we figured it would be of the back on defensive progress overcoming offensive regression. In a sense, we were right. The offense took a step back from last year’s historic Sooner offense and the defense is much improved. We were wrong in the sense that Jalen Hurts has blown our expectations out of the water. He never exceeded 2,800 passing yards or 25 passing TDs at Alabama. With at least two games remaining, he’s already past 3,000 passing yards and 30 TD (not to mention the 1,000 rushing yards). He’ll almost certainly get an invite to New York for the Heisman ceremony.
Texas was wildly overhyped...again
Here’s what I said about the Longhorns coming into the season:
“The Longhorns are the en vogue pick this year, but some of that may be due to recency bias after they upset the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl. They return only two starters on defense. Seven of their nine wins last year were by a touchdown or less. Predictably, the advanced stats were not high on Texas and ranked them just 32nd even after beating UGA.”
We nailed this one. An early loss to LSU exposed their weak defense, but still provided hope overall as their offense kept them in the game until the final moments. After a close loss to Oklahoma a few weeks later, things started trending downhill fast and they lost all three road games from that point forward. Their only decent win was an early road win at Oklahoma State.
Ohio State to play Wisconsin in the B1G Championship
Welp. I missed on this one. It’s bad, folks. I picked... Nebraska and Michigan to play in the B1G Championship. Quit your snickering, you’re in this boat with me. 177 of you said Michigan had a better shot to make the playoff than LSU and Utah.
Michigan finished 9-3 and looked pretty solid down the stretch. Thinking they would be good was a solid prediction. The real miss was underestimating Ohio State. With first round draft pick QB Dwayne Haskins and three-time National Champion Head Coach Urban Meyer departing, a slight step back seemed like a pretty safe bet. Somehow the Buckeyes look better. In fact, they look like the biggest threat to a Clemson Tiger repeat.
The B1G West got wacky and wasn’t decided until Rivalry week when Paul Bunyan’s Axe and the B1G West were awarded to the Wisconsin Badgers. They’ve been the best program in the division for a while, but flopped last year when Northwestern won it. With only three starters returning on offense and a big question marks at QB, it was hard to pick them. What’s the lesson here, just assume the B1G title game will be Ohio State vs. Wisconsin unless there’s overwhelming reason to think otherwise.
Oregon to play Utah in Pac-12 Title Game
STS was on the Clemson Pawcast prior to the season and we all agreed that Oregon and Utah, rather than Washington and USC, would be the teams playing for the conference title. I picked Oregon to win the conference and be in the mix for the playoff (they were until they blew it against Arizona) while Pawcast host, Nick Tully, chose Utah to win the conference and be a dark horse playoff contender. Utah appears to be just one win away, but they’ll have to beat Oregon. Good picks here, and if Utah can win one more and get into the playoff, Nick’s pick will be the pick of the year.
Virginia and Virginia Tech will finish 1st and 2nd, respectively, in the ACC Coastal
The ACC Coastal just had to go to a seventh different team in seven years, didn’t it? It just felt right. Of course, picking the team with the best QB and a strong defense was the logical pick too. Miami was a popular pick, but I never trust the U and I think Manny Diaz was a mediocre hire. It almost feels like a thoughtless hire.
The situation unfolded like this: successful Miami defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz, got a head coaching job at Temple and left. Shortly thereafter Head Coach Mark Richt unexpectedly retired. Miami almost immediately buys out Diaz’s new contract with Temple and brings him back as the head coach. Diaz was a good hire for Temple, but you’d think Miami would be hiring at a higher pedigree than Temple... nope.
The ACC will be really bad, but Clemson will be really good
Most of our writers projected Clemson to go 12-0. Part of that prediction was how down the ACC looked to be in 2019. I’m not going to pretend we got it all perfect, Syracuse, NC State, and FSU fell well short of our expectations, leading the conference to be even worse than we envisioned, but at the macro-level, we correctly saw Clemson being very good and the rest of the conference being pretty poor.
What we really didn’t see coming was the “ACC is bad so Clemson must not be very good” narrative. As David Hale said on a recent podcast, strength of schedule does not measure how good or bad a team is. Rather, it gives us context to help us gauge our confidence about how good we already think they are. For example, if pundits said, “Clemson looks great and we’ve seen what a lot of these players can do against elite competition in the playoff, but we’re a little unsure about XYZ because they haven’t proven it against good teams this year,” that would’ve been fine. Conversely, to argue that our poor strength of schedule meant we were a worse team than Penn State (as the Nittany Lions were ranked above Clemson in the first iteration of the CFP rankings) is laughable.
Although it is annoying, I’m thankful the media and CFP committee gave our coaching staff this disrespect card. It’ll serve Clemson well.