Friday, January 9, 2009

Outcomes: Bowl Results & Top 25 Predictions

In looking at my picks for the bowl season, I wasn't as good as I'd hoped. Only 20 for 34 straight up (59%), and 19 for 34 against the spread (56%). Still, it's above .500. In the regular season I was 169 for 240 straight up (70%), so with the bowls I went 189 for 274 (69%). I was 131 for 240 (55%) against the spread, so with the bowls I went 150 for 274 (55%). Not great, but decent.

Also if you recall, at the beginning of the season I had a post on predictions that listed my thoughts about how the Preseason AP Top 25 teams would fare this year. Let's see how we did.

Where the Coach's Pre-Season Top 25 Will End Up in January

georgia1. Georgia: lower = I think the Dawgs are going to be solid this year, and could even get through their schedule with only 1 or 2 losses. But when you start at #1, the only place to go is down. (No, this isn't an easy cop-out that breaks rule #1 - they do get harder, and overall this method has a lot more balance than trying to correctly pick what the exact order of the Top 25 will be five months from now. And don't worry, I'll own up to the ones I get wrong in January.)

Actual Final Rank: #13 (good call - 1 for 1. It's a gimme, but I'll still count it.)

Well, the Dawgs' schedule didn't turn out to be as hard as people expected. Arizona State & Tennessee were terrible, and LSU & Auburn were down. They lost to the two best SEC teams, as well as a really good GA Tech team, mainly because they imploded for short periods of time. With Stafford and Moreno gone next year, they're gonna have to find a new offensive identity if they're going to have any chance in the SEC.

usc2. USC: lower = The Trojans have lost two games each of the last two seasons, but rebounded to finish with a bowl win and a top-4 ranking. They still could be top-4, but do I think they will make it to #1 by winning the national championship? Probably not.

Actual Final Rank: #3 (good call - 2 for 2)

Right where I put them. The loss to Oregon State was their usual Pac10 collapse, but the finish and Rose Bowl win followed script too. Next year is going to be a watershed season for the Trojans - I can see them winning it all or taking a dive out of the top ten.

ohiostate3. Ohio State: lower = The Buckeyes have the schedule to get back to the national championship, especially if they beat USC on Sept. 13. But can they do it three years in a row? My sources say no.

Actual Final Rank: #9 (good call - 3 for 3)

Yeah, the losses took their toll, but part of the reason Ohio State wasn't higher in the rankings during the season is because nobody wanted them higher. Still, they're gonna be set for the next few years on offense with Pryor, and the D will be solid enough in conference games. The big question is when they'll finally get over the hump and beat an elite team? It's gonna happen soon...

oklahoma4. Oklahoma: higher = The Sooners will be a top-3 team? I think so. I don't forsee Bradford having a down sophomore year as big as McCoy did last year, and their defense should be able to keep them in games. I think they'll make it back to a BCS game, and I think this year they'll win one.

Actual Final Rank: #5 (bad call - 3 for 4)

Well, the Sooners were a top-3 team after the regular season - but that doesn't count here. Oklahoma is going the way of Ohio State, less and less able to win bowl games - will that start to come back and bite them in the ass next year? The only way they'll avoid the Buckeye curse is to win it all, unfortunately for them.

florida5. Florida: higher = Tebow? Harvin? Meyer? The Gators aren't gonna lose 4 games like they did last year. No way. Maybe 1 or 2.

Actual Final Rank: #1 (good call - 4 for 5)

Yup. Excellent season for the Gators, and Urban Meyer is building a dynasty in Gainesville. They should start in the top-5 next year, possibly #1 if Tebow returns.

lsu6. LSU: lower = It's not so much that the Tigers are going to be worse this year, though they are - it's more that other SEC teams are going to be a lot better.

Actual Final Rank: #28 (good call - 5 for 6)

I knew the Tigers would drop, but I didn't think they'd fall out of the top 25 entirely. But still, after a very rough season, they redeemed themselves with their big bowl win over Georgia Tech. That good feeling isn't going to last long if they start to lose again next season...

missouri7. Missouri: higher = This one’s tricky. Daniel is back at QB and is a Heisman hopeful, and the schedule isn’t too bad (pretty easy non-conf, no Oklahoma). But like Kansas, can they put together stellar seasons two years in a row?

Actual Final Rank: #19 (bad call - 5 for 7)

Apparently not. It's looking more and more like the Tigers reached their peak in 2007 and are settling back to a more normal spot. Nebraska is on the rise in the Big12 north, and with the south still strong, Mizzou could have a bumpy ride next year.

westvirginia8. West Virginia: lower = The Mountaineers are going to miss Rodriguez a lot more than they're willing to admit. Pat White will help break their fall, but there will be a drop-off.

Actual Final Rank: #23 (good call - 6 for 8)

9-4 is better than I thought the Mountaineers would go, but now they have a lot of rebuilding in the offseason to do. Next year will be the first true test of Stewart's tenure - will he be able to put together a team that challenges for the BigEast title again? I'd like to say yes, but I have my doubts.

clemson9. Clemson: lower = There's no real undisputed toughies on the Tiger's schedule (yeah, Alabama, yeah, Florida State, yeah South Carolina - they're all hit or miss usually though). At the same time, they often lose a game or two that they shouldn't. I'm not sold on them just yet.

Actual Final Rank: not ranked (good call - 7 for 9)

Yeah, the Tigers. Another year, another lackluster performance. But the Tigers have a lot to be hopeful about, since Dabo Swinney went 4-3 down the stretch after being named head coach. Not bad, especially considering that four of those games were against bowl teams. I think they'll be fine next year, mainly because the expectations won't be so high.

texas10. Texas: higher = The Longhorns should be 5-0 heading into the showdown with Texas, and I think McCoy will probably be one of the top QB's in the nation this year. A BCS game? Maybe as an at-large. I can see it.

Actual Final Rank: #4 (good call - 8 for 10)

No, I didn't see the collosal snafu that was the Big12 south. But it's becoming a safer and safer bet that the Longhorns are gonna have double-digit wins each year, a big testament to Mack Brown. This year it was their turn to get screwed by the BCS - it happens. But take heart, Texas fans. In 2000 Miami got screwed - in 2001 they were undefeated and won it all. In 2003 USC got screwed - in 2004 they were undefeated and won it all. If McCoy comes back, you're gold.

auburn11. Auburn: higher = Another Tiger mascot? This is getting a bit out of hand, really. But all of Auburn's toughest games are at home (sure, West Virginia will be a test, but they should win that one). They miss Florida, but get the Dawgs, LSU, and Tennessee - if they can win two of those three, they'll be top 10.

Actual Final Rank: not ranked (bad call - 8 for 11)

Any way you slice it, this was a bad call on my part, but who foresaw the Tigers' total collapse? And the whole Tuberville - Chizik drama... things are not looking good on the plains. If they go .500 in the SEC next year I'll be shocked.

wisconsin12. Wisconsin: higher = If the Badgers can make it through weeks 3-6 of the season relatively unscathed, they're BCS bound.

Actual Final Rank: not ranked (bad call - 8 for 12)

Another miss. The Badgers went 1-3 in those middle weeks, sealing their fate for the season. They just haven't been able to get to the very top of the Big10, which isn't good because of the negative light the conference as a whole has recently been seen in. But still, they're solid more often than not and are usually good for at least 7-9 wins a year.

kansas13. Kansas: lower = Last year was magical for the Jayhawks. I hope they enjoyed it while it lasted, 'cause it's gonna disappear this year. Poof.

Actual Final Rank: #37 (good call - 9 for 13)

For Kansas, 8-5 is still a great season. I know people fell in love with Mangino last year, but they just aren't a year-in, year-out team. A lot of next year will depend on if Reesing comes back, but I still see them in the middle of the Big12.

texas tech14. Texas Tech: lower = A lot of people have the Red Raiders as a team to watch out for this year, but I'm not a believer. They've got the usual cupcake non-conf schedule, sure, but Harrell & Crabtree a top 15 team do not automatically make. Maybe if their D steps up. Maybe.

Actual Final Rank: #12 (bad call - 9 for 14)

I know, I was down on the Red Raiders at the beginning of the season, but they showed that they are finally able to hang with the big boys. Kudos for proving me wrong. Will they be able to do it again next year? Maybe... but their usual cupcake non-conf foes made some waves this year - they've got bowl winners Rice and Houston in September, which actually might be interesting.

virginia tech15. Virginia Tech: higher = I like the Hokies chances this year. The schedule is pretty friendly, and the Beamer Boys should be able to stay atop the ACC.

Actual Final Rank: #15 (good call - 10 for 15)

Even though they ended up where they started, I'll count this as a good call because they won the ACC again as I thought they would. The Hokies have solidified themselves as the rock of the ACC, which was the most competitive league by far this season. If you're gonna win the conference, you've gotta go through them. I don't see that changing next year.

arizona state16. Arizona State: lower = The Sun Devils missed out on a BCS game last year, and I have a feeling that's going to add some oomph to their game this year. They should be solid, but USC, Georgia, and Oregon are probably three losses right there.

Actual Final Rank: not ranked (good call - 11 for 16)

What happened to the Sun Devils this year? A lot of people thought Rudy Carpenter would finally turn the corner this year, ala Carson Palmer in 2002, but it just didn't happen. They weren't even solid, as I thought they'd be. Now they have a lot of catching up to do in a Pac10 that seems to be rising.

byu17. BYU: lower = The Cougars are being touted as a BCS-buster this year, but the schedule is a bit rough. If they don't win both of their games against the Pac 10, they have no shot.

Actual Final Rank: #25 (good call - 12 for 17)

Well, they won their games against the Pac10, but UCLA and Washington ended up being two of the worst in their league. It was their in-conference MtnWest rivals that knocked them down, but to be fair Utah & TCU were juggernauts this year. A great year overall.

tennessee18. Tennessee: lower = The Vols should do okay this season, and I doubt they'll lose more games than they did last season, but I don't see the SEC title game or a BCS bowl happening this year.

Actual Final Rank: not ranked (good call - 13 for 18)

As we know, the Vols did lose more games than last year, punctuated by some really horrible losses to UCLA and Wyoming (at home, nonetheless). Fulmer is gone, and the Kiffins and Orgeron are in - USC East, if you will. If they can perform as well as the Trojans did when Kiffin and Orgeron were there, they'll be stellar. But in the SEC... it's gonna take a while if it happens. Certainly not next year.

illinois19. Illinois: lower = The Illini bring back Mendenhall, and the schedule isn't too bad, but I'm sensing a down year. They had the Rose Bowl to work for last year, and that didn't work out so well.

Actual Final Rank: not ranked (good call - 14 for 19)

The Fightin' Zookers took a big fall this season, not even making it to a bowl game. Was last year just a blip on the screen, or can they work their way back up in the Big10? I think they're a good upset team that you shouldn't sleep on, but week-in week-out, I wouldn't put money on them.

oregon20. Oregon: higher = The Ducks were reeling at the end of last season without Dixon, but still managed a solid bowl win that should set them up nicely for this year.

Actual Final Rank: #10 (good call - 15 for 20)

Bellotti did a stellar job this year riding through the QB turmoil they faced. But they found their guy in Masoli, and he's going to be a nightmare for opponents next year. Whether or not Bellotti is the one doing the coaching remains to be seen, but since they've already named a replacement, the transition, whenever it happens, will be smooth.

south florida21. South Florida: higher = The Bulls had a great run for a while last year before some uncharacteristic losses brought them down. They'll be more solid this year and will weather the storm better.

Actual Final Rank: not ranked (bad call - 15 for 21)

Going 2-5 in the BigEast wasn't what the Bulls had in mind for 2008, I'm sure. But they had a solid bowl win and might make waves again next year. They're always a tricky pick though, so I'm curious to see how they rebound from this down season.

penn state22. Penn State: lower = The Nittany Lions aren't looking so hot to start the season. I'm not sure this will be Paterno's final year, but I don't think it'll be a successful season, which won't help his situation.

Actual Final Rank: #8 (bad call - 15 for 22)

Bad, bad call. Remind me never to doubt JoPa when people have counted him out. Penn State just continues to roll, somehow just getting the job done every year. With the Big10 being maligned, at least the Nittany Lions win most of the non-conference games to boost the conference up. (Non-conference non-USC games, that is. By now, shouldn't we just give the Trojans the Big10 title as well? They've probably earned it.)

wake forest23. Wake Forest: higher = The Demon Deacons have had two great seasons in a row - can they sustain their high level of play? I don't see an ACC championship game in their future this season, but they should be top 25 still.

Actual Final Rank: not ranked (bad call - 15 for 23)

Close - 8-5 is still a good season for the Deacs, and with the ACC the way it is, they'll probably be in the mix again next year.

michigan24. Michigan: lower = This ranking is all about Rich Rodriguez, but he needs time to make a program stellar. Not this year, Wolverines.

Actual Final Rank: not ranked (good call - 16 for 24)

Maybe not next year either, considering how awful the Wolverines were this year. Still, I think RichRod was a good hire, and I see him elevating the conference with big non-conference wins in the next few years. He'll help change the culture of Big10 football so that they eventually become more competitive with the other, now-powerful conferences. Maybe. We'll see.

fresno state25. Fresno State: higher = I like the Bulldogs and their football philosophy - always have. If they can make it through the first four weeks of the season (@ Rutgers, Wisconsin, & @ UCLA), they're going to be something special.

Actual Final Rank: not ranked (bad call - 16 for 25)

Well, they went 3-1 in the first week, losing only to Wisconsin, but it was the WAC teams that did them in. And if you can't beat teams in the WAC, you're not gonna get any love.


Missed out on 4 of the last 5, but other than that a pretty decent job, especially in the Top 10. I'll take it.

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