You, the fans, deserve what you asked for. The offseason — talkin’ season, according to Steve Spurrier — is a glorious time when we all make predictions for the upcoming season and then get ripped to shreds by all of you who not only think that we’re wrong, but believe we hate your team due to long-tenured personal bias.
If you had that reaction, this column’s for you.
The world severely lacks accountability these days, but I won’t stand for that. I write and end-of-the-season accountability story every offseason, condemning myself to a life of despair due to my dumb preseason predictions — well, except I do have to pat myself on the back a little bit as well.
It’s been a great college football season, so here’s my parting gift as we head into the new talkin’ season.
The ugly: Unbridled love for LSU
I picked LSU to win the SEC West and suffer its second loss of the season in the SEC Championship Game, which would eliminate the Tigers from the College Football Playoff. Yes, that same LSU team that would go on to finish 6-7, fire coach Ed Orgeron and suffer a remarkable crash back down to Earth after winning the 2019 national title.
It was one of the first times in my life — I’m 41 years old — that I have ever put faith in the Tigers. I apologize. It won’t happen again. Well, at least not until Brian Kelly gets things headed into the right direction.
The good: False hype for Texas A&M
The Aggies stunned the college football world when they upset Alabama in early October, but they still managed to finish the regular season 8-4 — the third time in four seasons that coach Jimbo Fisher has finished with four or more losses. The preseason hype for Texas A&M was predicated on a stout defense, incredible depth and versatility at running back and a program that nearly made the CFP last season.
I didn’t buy it.
I had the Aggies as my most overrated team in the SEC heading into the season, and absolutely refused to believe that they were a threat to Alabama in the SEC West. It turned out that they were a threat to Alabama but remained an afterthought in the division title race.
The bad: Michigan’s success
This seemed like a hinge year for Michigan going into the fall, and I, like many, didn’t think the door would swing in this direction. I had the Wolverines finishing fourth in the Big Ten East, and no member of our staff had them finishing higher than third.
“Michigan will again look like an average Big Ten team with no real shot at winning the division,” I wrote. “As a result, [coach Jim] Harbaugh and the Michigan administration will come to an agreement to move in a new direction that doesn’t include Harbaugh in the mix. It’ll be like an amicable divorce between two people who just fell out of love with each other.”
It turns out the Wolverines did finish third … in the nation in the final AP Top 25.
The ugly: Where did you go, Spencer Rattler?
I, like many, picked the former Oklahoma quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy in 2021. His poor play early in the season earned him a spot on the bench, and the word “former” is the key word in the previous sentence.
Rattler threw two picks in the nail-biter against Tulane in the opener and a total of five INTs in five games before freshman Caleb Williams took over. Now, listen, Rattler was the Heisman Trophy favorite going into the season, so it wasn’t exactly a hot take to say that he’d hoist college football’s most prestigious prize. But, man, that pick crashed and burned fast.
The good: Georgia’s national title
The Bulldogs were expected to be a contender, but I pegged them to win it all in our national prediction story.
“The joke around the country is ‘1980’ — the last year that the Bulldogs won the national title,” I wrote. “That joke will be outdated on Jan. 10 when the Dawgs hoist the national championship trophy in Indianapolis.”
It was a crazy ride to get there, but the 2021 Georgia Bulldogs earned this title after their performance all season long.
The bad: Cincinnati’s stellar season
I wasn’t buying into the Cincinnati hype. In fact, I was the only member of our staff who didn’t pick the Bearcats to win the American Athletic Conference.
“Look, I don’t think the Bearcats are going to be bad,” I wrote. “In fact, I think that they’re going to be pretty darn good. But it seems like the entire college football world just assumes that they’ll waltz through the AAC and into their second straight New Year’s Six bowl game.”
It turns out that I massively underrated them as they earned the first CFP berth in Group of Five history.
The ugly: Clay Helton saving his job
I thought the annual offseason criticism of now-former USC coach Clay Helton was unwarranted. Maybe I should have recognized that it didn’t really matter what I thought.
“Helton’s backside has to be on fire after sitting on the hot seat for three years,” I wrote. “He’ll get off it by leading his Trojans to the Pac-12 Championship Game with a spot in the CFP on the line.
Well, he was fired after just two games of the 2021 season, leading USC to make a monumental splash by luring Lincoln Riley away from USC.