Saturday, January 10, 2009

College Football Wrapup 2008

Well, it was a great college football season.  It included some slight disappointments, like early season favorites Clemson and Georgia.  It included some refreshing surprises, like Utah and Alabama.  And it ended predictably, with yet another variant of intense BCS controversy.

Let's review the major conferences first:
  • SEC - As expected, the SEC was strong.  What was unexpected was the strength of Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, and the collapse of Tennessee.  But the SEC continues to be what I love about football - incredible athletes with tough defenses and hard-fought battles every week.
  • ACC - Clemson was a highly ranked preseason favorite that ended up having a mediocre season, but teams like Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Miami had pretty good seasons.
  • Big East - The Big East was a fairly weak conference, with only one team, Cincinnati, nationally ranked at the end of the year, and that team lost their bowl game.
  • Big 10 - The biggest Big 10 disappointment had to be Michigan, who had one of their worst seasons ever.  Many Big 10 teams held higher rankings than they earned all year, based primarily on their name, history, and prestige.
  • Big 12 - The Big 12 was a tale of two subdivisions.  The Big 12 North was comprised of one good team, Missouri, and five other also-rans.  The Big 12 South looked all year like the toughest conference in all of NCAA football, but they went 1-3 in their bowl games, so it makes you wonder.
  • PAC 10 - As everyone expected, USC was really good, and as everyone expected, they lost one game to a conference opponent that they should have won.  But the PAC 10 has some truly awful teams, like Washington.
  • Bonus: Mountain West - I think it's past time that we stop considering the Mountain West a mid-major conference.  The Mountain West went 6-2 against the PAC 10 this year, Wyoming beat Tennessee in Knoxville, and is probably stronger overall than the ACC or the Big East.  Playing a Mountain West schedule shouldn't penalize a teams strength of schedule anymore, and I think if we are going to keep this BCS nonsense, it is time for the Mountain West to have an automatic berth like the others - they've certainly shown over the past several years that they are good enough.

Let's review my bowl picks:
  • Las Vegas Bowl - Correct.  I said whatever team Max Hall played for would win.  He went back and forth but ended up helping Arizona more than BYU, so Arizona won.  Can someone explain to me how BYU ended up nationally ranked at the end of the year and Arizona didn't?
  • Poinsettia Bowl - Correct.  I picked TCU over Boise State.  They had me worried for a while but ended up pulling it off.
  • Meineke Car Care Bowl - Correct.  I picked West Virginia and was right, although they were worrying me a bit also.
  • Citrus Bowl - Correct.  Florida State was way too much for an overrated Wisconsin team to handle.
  • Emerald Bowl - Correct.  Cal beat Miami in a good game.
  • Alamo Bowl - Correct.  Missouri tried to let Northwestern win this one, but in the end they just couldn't give the victory away.
By this time I had gone 6 for 6 and I was having visions of getting all of my picks perfectly right.  Alas...
  • Holiday Bowl - Incorrect.  I'd seen Oklahoma State play a number of times during the year, and I really thought they were better than that.
  • Sun Bowl - Incorrect.  Oregon State surprised me.
  • Chick-Fil-A Bowl - Incorrect.  Apparently LSU in disintegration mode is still better than Georgia Tech at their best.
  • Citrus Bowl - Correct.  Finally I got another one right.  My SEC didn't let me down.
  • Rose Bowl - Incorrect.  Penn State simply made too many mistakes to win.
  • Orange Bowl - Incorrect.  Wow, was Cincinnati disappointing!
  • Cotton Bowl - Incorrect.  Not to take anything away from Ole Miss, but I really thought Tech's offense would be too much for the Rebels to handle.
  • Liberty Bowl - Correct.  East Carolina still is not a state.
  • Sugar Bowl - Incorrect.  And happy about it.  But still, you have to admit that it was a surprise.
  • Fiesta Bowl - Correct.  Ohio State played well but what an awesome drive by Texas to pull it off at the end.
  • National Championship - Correct.  Oklahoma played Florida much better than I thought, particularly on defense.  The whole game came down to a handful of very key plays, and Florida won those key plays.
  • Toilet Bowl - Correct.  ND C&D positively owns this bowl and this year was no exception as they destroyed Western Kentucky by the score of 3 to -17.
So overall, I correctly picked 11 of 18 games, or as my cynical friend said, about the same as picking them at random, which made me feel a lot better.  So what do we take from all of this?

  • The BCS is a complete joke.  Each year it very successfully proves its own illegitimacy, and this year was no exception.
  • The Big 12 South was not nearly so good as they seemed to be.  The high-flying offenses that seemed so amazing only seemed that way because the defenses were so lousy.
  • The PAC 10 is better than we thought, which also means the Mountain West (6-2 against the PAC 10 this year) is better than most people think.
  • This year's national champion, Florida, barely beat an Alabama team that Utah controlled well.  Florida is the national champion, but Utah is the best team this year.