Monday, March 05, 2012

The annual thing where I embarrass myself

I just made the stunning realization that it's March (!), which is fantastic for many reasons but mostly because it means two entire months have been removed from the awful chasm that exists between the end of one football season and the beginning of the next (also known as spring football). The time: It's passing. Hooray for that.

So yeah ... spring football. It starts in like a week. That means many glorious things but also means I should probably go back and do that thing where I look at last year's predictions and how perfectly right/horrifically wrong they were. This will undoubtedly be humiliating but must be done for the sake of establishing just how little attention should be paid to everything I say/write/publish/tweet/whatever.

I did this two years ago and came out at the Lou Holtz end of the accuracy spectrum; I got 4 1/2 points out of 13. Just as a refresher, accurate predictions get one point, sort-of-correct predictions get a half-point and crappy predictions get none. It's not that complicated. It also doesn't seem that difficult but apparently is since going back and reading large chunks of the stuff I wrote in the preseason induces the following reaction:

My disbelief speaks Spanish. I can't explain it.

Anyway ... show? Show.
1. Alabama will win it all. Oklahoma's the safe pick and will probably go undefeated, but I'm going with Bama on the assumption that the quarterback play will be decent, Trent Richardson will be borderline dominant and the defense will reach or exceed its typical level of awesomeness (just look at the depth chart and then think about who the coach is).
Schwing. I deserve some freakin' bonus points for that ridiculousness but will settle for the one point I'm allotted based on the totally arbitrary scoring system I set up.
2. Landry Jones will win the Heisman. I was hinting at this the other day in my post about the modern-day Heisman criteria and the near-exclusive emphasis on guys whose teams end up in the national title game. Landry Jones will put up gigantic numbers as the star quarterback for a team that's starting at No. 1 and will probably stay there all season (or at least until the title game); he's gotta be the favorite. Andrew Luck might be the awesomest quarterback since Peyton Manning or whoever, but I think he's gonna be victimized (for lack of a better word) by the same thought process Manning was back in '97: He's so hyped and so highly regarded that it's gonna be hard to impress/excite people. I mean, it's hard to envision his numbers being any better than they were last year, when he barely edged out LaMichael James to finish second after Stanford went 11-1.
Not so much. I was right about Andrew Luck not winning but was totally wrong about Landry Jones and would've put about 60 guys ahead of RGIII on a hypothetical preseason ballot. Zero points.
3. Texas will bounce back massively. To be specific, Texas will go 9-3. ... Garrett Gilbert will be better, the defense will still be good and the talent will still match up with anybody in the country. With Nebraska off the schedule and only three legitimately good teams on it, I'm seeing a significant turnaround and a top-tier-ish bowl game.
Ehhh ... no. Texas went 7-5 in the regular season, which was at least in part due to Garrett Gilbert being so bad that he got benched and ended up transferring, and any bowl with one mediocre 7-5 team playing another mediocre 7-5 team does not qualify as "top-tier-ish." Zero points.
4. Auburn will be OK. Gotta put my proverbial money where my mouth is: I'll say Auburn finishes 7-5 and somewhere near the bottom of the polls. I just can't envision a nuclear implosion at the level of 5-7, which is what the sports books are saying. Yeah, the schedule is really hard, but all that stuff I wrote about Gus Malzahn and Michael Dyer and Ted Roof has to mean something ... right?
Indeed: Auburn finished exactly 7-5 despite playing a laughably difficult schedule and getting killed by most of the legitimately good teams on it. WOO GIMME A POINT PLZKTHX. Side note: All three of the guys mentioned above are now gone, which is kinda crazy.
5. Michigan will finish 8-4. I came to this highly scientific conclusion by averaging out my worst-case scenario (6-6) and my best-case scenario (10-2). The problem is that anything in that range is entirely possible, because nobody has any idea exactly how much the defense will improve under hypothetical savior Greg Mattison and how much the offense will drop off now that Rich Rodriguez is analyzing stuff on CBS rather than calling plays. My guesses: "quite a bit" and "some but not a lot." ... I'm gonna write a little more on Michigan on Friday, but since it's not Friday and this is the spot for predictions, I'm going with 8-4.
LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL WWWWHHHHEEEEEEEEE!!! BTW, I'm giving myself half a point for the best-case-scenario bit and the stuff about the offense and the defense and basically being right about everything other than the record. I'm satisfied with that trade.
6. Arizona State will go 9-3 and play in the Pac-12 title game. In short, ASU is the best of a mediocre crop in the Pac-12 South. I'm tentatively optimistic about Brock Osweiler and a loaded group of receivers ... the offense will be somewhere between good and excellent. The defense should be fine, but it's depressing to think about how much better it could be with Lawrence Guy (NFL draft), Omar Bolden (torn ACL) and Brandon Magee (torn Achilles). Guh. Anyway, with Arizona having no O-line and just as many injuries on defense, Utah losing a bunch of key pieces on both sides of the ball and UCLA and Colorado being ... umm ... UCLA and Colorado, the division title is there for the taking. I'm calling nine wins, a second loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game and a contract extension for Dennis Erickson (please note that my predictions do not necessarily represent what I think would be best for the program).
Ummm ... no. I was actually right about pretty much everything in the non-bolded portion (especially the "division title is there for the taking" part) but had no idea ASU planned to end its season in October, which made that 9-3 prediction look pretty awful. I don't think I can claim any points for this one.
7. Notre Dame will finish 10-2 and play in a BCS game. Insert Lou Holtz/Beano Cook senility reference here. I've been sold for a long time on Brian Kelly, and I think this is the year he puts it all together at Notre Dame. If Dayne Crist stays healthy and Michael Floyd stays sober, they should both put up ridiculous numbers as the offense takes the Brian Kelly Leap to Dominance. The defense will be slightly improved to the point of being above average, and that should be more than sufficient given the expected offensive awesomeness. Caveat: The first four games are tough (South Florida, under the lights at Michigan, Michigan State and at Pitt). But if ND somehow gets through that stretch 4-0 or even 3-1, a BCS game is a virtual lock. Seriously -- just try to find two losses in the back half of the schedule.
This site shall heretofore be known as Forever Thaturday.
8. Oregon will go 11-1 and win the Pac-12. I'm of the opinion that Oregon is head and shoulders above the rest of the conference, so this isn't exactly a huge leap of faith. To make things a little more interesting, I'll throw this out there: Oregon's one loss won't be to Stanford or LSU. Neither of those teams will be able to keep up. And I've already ruled out ASU, so I'm talking about a legitimate upset, like maybe USC or Oregon State or Arizona (think about how close UA was to winning in Tucson two years ago). The offense will still be really good overall, but consistency will be a little harder to come by this year with a mostly overhauled O-line, and one bad game (like last year's ugly one against Cal) will be the difference between perfection and the Rose Bowl.
Oregon finished 10-2, lost to USC, beat Stanford, won the Pac-12 and played in the Rose Bowl. In other words, I was wrong about the LSU game and right about literally everything else, which is good enough for a point in my book (and my book is the only once that matters since I'm doing the scoring).
9. Wisconsin will win the Big Ten. It's basically a Wisconsin-Nebraska battle unless Ohio State comes together in remarkable fashion or Brady Hoke continues to poop gold at Michigan, and with an absolute juggernaut of a running game and possibly the best quarterback in the conference (must be nice to lose a good senior starter and somehow get better at the position), I gotta go with Wisconsin. ... Running the table isn't out of the question, but there are enough pretty good teams in the Big Ten that I don't see anybody getting through unscathed.
Point me, please.
10. Ohio State will be closer to typical Ohio State than apocalyptic Ohio State. After years of Tresselball and excruciating (for me) wins over Michigan that all seem the same when zoomed out, it's hard to imagine/remember anything different. It is possible that Ohio State will be, like, not good this year: There are only four starters back from last year's defense, the quarterback spot is a complete mystery, the offensive line has underachieved for the past several years and the two biggest offensive weapons are both sitting out the first half of the season. But of those first five games, only two -- at Miami and home for Michigan State -- are even remotely losable, and the rest of the schedule is a bunch of crap along with a road game at Nebraska, a home game against Wisconsin and The Game in Ann Arbor. In other words, 7-5 seems like the absolute worst-case scenario, and 10 wins is probably more likely than seven. My prediction: 9-3. If that somehow includes a loss to Michigan, the celebration at my house will last for months.
I begrudgingly accept zero points. Also: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
11. Miami will be about as mediocre as last season's Miami. I just said this like a day and a half ago, but I'll repeat it here anyway: Miami will be decent. The suspensions are all minor enough that by Week 5 -- when 2-2 is basically the worst-case scenario -- everyone will be available, and the ACC is as mediocre as ever beyond Florida State and Virginia Tech. Miami just needs four wins against the gooey middle of the conference to lock up a spot in a bowl game (any bowl game), which seems totally doable and would be a fine start for Al Golden. That would also slightly delay the debate about whether Miami will actually have a program in 2012 and beyond.
Miami finished 6-6 (and turned down a bowl invite) a year after going 6-6. I'm pretty sure that qualifies as "decent" and am positive it qualifies as "about as mediocre as last season's Miami." One point.
12. Florida State will win the ACC but won't be quite ready for the national title: As mentioned above, the ACC is as uninspiring as ever and should be a cakewalk for Florida State and Virginia Tech in their respective divisions. It's that game against Oklahoma on September 17 (and possibly a trip to Florida in November) that makes things dicey. I love FSU's defense this year, but the offense is a massive question mark; nobody really knows what E.J. Manuel is gonna bring to the table, and none of the skill-position guys jump out. It's hard to run the table without some bread-and-butter options on offense; the only comparable team to win a title in recent history was 2007 LSU, and that required a crazy, not-repeatable string of events that saw a two-loss team get into the national title game. The guess here is that Florida State loses to Oklahoma but then rolls through the ACC, beats Va. Tech in the conference championship game and makes the short trip to the Orange Bowl at 12-1.
Settle down, me. Florida State was actually really close to going 11-1 (there were three devastating ACC losses by a combined 11 points) but instead finished 8-4, which is much closer to "meh" than "rolls through the ACC." Zero points.
13. Arkansas will be this year's (relative) disappointment. Three new starters on the offensive line (including both tackles), a new interior D-line, a quarterback who has basically played one career game and a star running back who's out for the season. According to brilliant people like Rick Reilly, that formula equals national championship. According to me, that formula equals ... ummm ... something well short of a national championship. There are enough tough games (at Alabama, against Texas A&M in Arlington, Auburn and South Carolina at home, at LSU) that I just can't see anything better than 9-3. The official prediction: 8-4 and a mediocre bowl game.
Not so much; Arkansas went 11-2, finished fifth and would've played in a BCS game if not for the two-team-per-conference deal. I'm clearly no Rick Reilly.
14. Boise State will run the table again. As is the norm for Boise, the first game is the toughest one: If they can get past a good-on-paper Georgia team in Atlanta on Saturday, chalk up another trip to the Fiesta Bowl and an honorary seat in New York for Kellen Moore. The Mountain West is a little tougher than the WAC, but it won't matter this year, especially with TCU in somewhat of a rebuilding mode and having to play on the smurf turf on November 12.
Derp. Stupid TCU.
15. Some absolutely ridiculous and sure-to-be-wrong bowl guesses: I have no idea why I'm doing this, but here goes: Wisconsin will play Oregon in the Rose Bowl, Boise State will play Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, Florida State will play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, West Virginia will play Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and Alabama will play (and beat) Oklahoma in the BCS championship game. And then I will cry because it will be eight months until football again.
I absolutely nailed the Rose Bowl and got half of both the Orange Bowl and the championship game; the others weren't even close, although I'm still not sure why Boise didn't get picked for an at-large spot ahead of Virginia Tech. Anyway, this seems like an appropriate spot for a half-point distribution.

So ... the tally goes as follows: 1, 0, 0, 1, 0.5, 0, 0, 1, 1, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0.5. According to the calculator-esque functionality of my brain, that's an amazing six points out of a possible 15, which ... ummm ... I'd rather not think about it as a percentage other than to point out that it's a slight improvement from the patheticness I produced two years ago. So that's nice. There was also the "Alabama will win it all" thing that I'll definitely bring up too often for the next several years.

To reiterate:
... interpret that success/crappiness rate as you will. If it makes you feel any better, I still have complete confidence that what you read here is more insightful and accurate than what you'll get from Lou Holtz and Mark May, which is basically the equivalent of saying "this hamburger isn't filet mignon but is better than dog crap."
That's pretty much my site motto. Gotta set the bar high.


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