Now that the regular season is over, with the exception of Army vs. Navy next weekend. Now seems like an appropriate time to go all the way back to the preseason and take a look back at some of the best and worst predictions I made for the college football seasons. Let’s start with the good, which is a little simpler and significantly more boring.
10. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (7-5) Prediction: 7-5
Fortunately, I was spot on about enough teams to have a whole top ten comprised of teams that I nailed the preseason record on and we will start with the Blue Raiders. Coming into the season I noted that they had won between five and seven games in seven of the last nine seasons. They made it eight for ten this year, and also managed to make my proclamation that they would be rewarded with a bowl game. They will be traveling to the Bahamas to take on Western Michigan on Christmas Eve to fulfill that prediction. The one thing I was wrong about was predicting them to go at least 2-2 in their non-conference game by upsetting either Illinois or Vanderbilt or both, which they failed to do losing to both by a combined six points.
9. Syracuse Orange (4-8) Prediction: 4-8
Syracuse’s preseason over/under was three wins and I was heavily chastised by Levi and Ross in the preseason ACC Atlantic podcast for picking them to get the over. They did by exactly a game. The worst part of my preseason prediction was to suggest that a healthy, dual-threat Terrel Hunt would be a primary reason for Syracuse’s marginal improvement. Hunt tore his Achilles’ heel in the season opener after going 0-2 with a pick and one rush for two yards to start that game, so it’s safe to say that was way off. I did suggest that Wake Forest, Virginia, and Boston College offered the best opportunities for a conference win, and the Orange did manage to snag two of those games but couldn’t top Virginia in Charlottesville. Speaking of the ‘Hoos…
8. Virginia Cavaliers (4-8) Prediction: 4-8
Aside from nailing the record prediction for the Cavs, I also hit the nail on the head with two other Virginia predictions. The first being that their insanely hard non-conference schedule would cost them a potential bowl opportunity. UVA went 1-3 in non-conference play. The second is one that I’m not proud of and hoped I’d be wrong about, but ultimately wasn’t. Mike London came into the season on the hot seat, and after going 4-8 the ‘Hoos decided to go in another direction and hired BYU’s Bronco Mendenhall to replace London.
7. Duke Blue Devils (7-5) Prediction: 7-5
Keeping things in the ACC (a conference that you’ll see I was either right on or way off on) the Duke Blue Devils were another team that made me look pretty good this year. Duke actually got off to a really nice start before losing four of their last five down the stretch. In the preview, I suggested that Duke was due for some regression after the best three-year stretch in school history which did end up being true, even if it took two months for it to come to fruition.
6. N.C. State Wolfpack (7-5) Prediction: 7-5
So here we are with yet another middle of the “pack” ACC team. (Yeah, yeah I’ll be here all week). The Wolfpack replicated last season’s regular season 7-5 mark after many thought they might be in position to take a step forward. Jacoby Brissett had a good year at quarterback with 19 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. Ultimately, N.C. State used a soft non-conference schedule to get off to a 4-0 start, but then proceeded to lose to every bowl-eligible ACC team they played indicating that they are still very much a middle of the road team in the conference.
5. Kentucky Wildcats (5-7) Prediction: 5-7
This one really stung Levi a.k.a Captain of the Big Blue Nation Football bandwagon. He was very adamant that the Cats would be bowl bound in 2015. Alas, they are not. Kentucky lost to Florida, Vanderbilt and Auburn all by single digits and blew a big lead in the finale against Louisville to keep themselves from getting a bowl bid. Patty Ice’s rough year at the helm for Kentucky, despite being one of the few returning starters at quarterback in the conference, was a big reason this team was unable to make the leap back into bowl eligibility.
4. Tennessee Volunteers (8-4) Prediction: 8-4
Josh Dobbs and the Vols were a trendy preseason pick to win the SEC East, but they still ended up a little short this season. Butch Jones made some coaching gaffes that came back to bite them against Oklahoma and Florida, where they gave up an inexplicable 4th Down conversion late in the game to lose. All in all, they lost four games by a combined 17 points, which ultimately still means they finished second in the division. However, it’s undeniable that Rocky Top is trending in the right direction.
3. Arkansas State Red Wolves (9-3 Sun Belt Champs) Prediction: 9-3 Sun Belt co-champs
Arkansas State will be the first non-Louisiana representative from the Sun Belt in the New Orleans Bowl since 2010. The Red Wolves are also the only conference champion that I correctly picked in the preseason (I know sad right?). Fredi Knighten wasn’t quite the dominant force that I and others thought he might be, but that’s partially due to him missing three games due to injury. It’s also fair to say that ASU cruised through the Sun Belt, considering that they won every conference game by double digits, including a 13-point victory over 10-win Appalachian State. They also got to avoid Georgia Southern on the schedule (my pick to be there co-champion), but it didn’t end up mattering as the Eagles couldn’t handle business against Georgia State and Appalachian State.
2. Florida State Seminoles (10-2) Prediction: 10-2
The Seminoles may have lost twice as many games this season as they did in the Jameis era, but they still did enough to earn a Fiesta Bowl bid. The ‘Noles did it a little bit differently this year offensively riding Dalvin Cook and the running game a little harder than they needed to win Famous Jameis was at the helm. One other thing I hit spot on this year with FSU was their losses (Clemson and Georgia Tech). I may have been horrendously wrong about Georgia Tech’s season, but I got one of their games right. Funnily enough, the team that the ‘Noles will play on New Year’s Day is number one on this list.
1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-2) Prediction: 10-2 New Year’s Six Bowl
Ironically, the first and last team previews I wrote (Kentucky and Notre Dame) were two of the best. That being said, if you guys wanna just ignore everything that was in-between and believe that I went two for two I’m cool with that. One thing I missed the boat on was suggesting that Malik Zaire would be the QB to get them this far, which unfortunately an injury prevented him from doing. Zaire will be back, but it was Deshone Kizer who led the Irish back against Virginia and led them the rest of the way with the only two losses coming to two Power Five conference champions by a combined four points.
Northern Illinois (8-5) Prediction 8-4
Miami (OH) (3-9) Prediction 3-9
Navy Midshipmen (9-2) Prediction 10-2
SMU Mustangs (2-10) Prediction 2-10
Toledo Rockets (9-2) Prediction 10-2
Old Dominion Monarchs (5-7) Prediction 5-7
Florida International Panthers (5-7) Prediction 5-7
North Texas Mean Green (1-11) Prediction 1-11
Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-11) Prediction 1-11