The season is over, the confetti has fallen and Alabama has regained its throne atop the college football world. A surprise? Not really. It’s hard to find a preseason prediction that didn’t have the Crimson Tide at least making the College Football Playoff. That pick was easy. But what about the other predictions?
It’s no fun to be 100% chalky before and during the season, which means there are some really bad takes that need to be called out — by me. No, this isn’t a story about my colleagues who had ridiculously bad takes. This is about self-accountability.
It’s time to rip myself to shreds in my favorite story of the year — End of the Season Accountability.
That’s right … I said that exact phrase on my SiriusXM show after the first week of the SEC’s regular season. In fairness, Georgia had just turned to quarterback Stetson Bennett IV after D’Wan Mathis was benched against what we thought was a bad Arkansas team. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix had just tossed three touchdowns and zero interceptions against a Kentucky team that typically has a good defense.
That didn’t turn out well at all. “Road Nix” threw one pick, completed only 52.5% of his passes and the Tigers rushed for 39 yards. I swear that I won’t leap to conclusions after one week of the 2021 season (OK, that’s a lie).
The bad: Ohio State will win the national title
Not only did I predict this before the season and the week prior to the Big Ten’s season cranking up, I tripled down the week of the College Football Playoff National Championship vs. Alabama. This, despite watching Alabama every weekend as part of CBS Sports HQ and SEC-centric coverage for CBSSports.com. Why? Well, I thought that Ohio State found its identity against Clemson and Justin Fields would go nuts against a Crimson Tide team that had struggled against tempo.
Instead, running back Trey Sermon got injured on the first drive of the game, Fields didn’t find a groove and Heisman Trophy-winner DeVonta Smith had a record-setting day on the biggest stage of his promising career … in just one half of play.
The good: Kyle Trask’s record-setting year
Going into the season, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask wasn’t exactly a superstar. Sure, he stepped in for Feleipe Franks during the 2019 season and had success, but it was nearly impossible to see this coming. “Nearly” being the operative word.
My bold prediction before the season was, and I quote, “Florida’s Kyle Trask will lead the SEC in passing en route to the SEC East title and a berth in the SEC Championship Game.” What did he do? Led the SEC with 356.9 yards per game, led his team to the division title and wound up in “virtual New York” as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
The ugly: The overrated Tar Heels
I thought that North Carolina was the 2020 version of the 2019 Nebraska Cornhuskers. You know … that team that was pretty solid the prior year but was receiving unnecessary hype and was more sizzle than steak. Yikes.
The Tar Heels feasted on opponents this season — especially on offense. Quarterback Sam Howell led the ACC in touchdown with passes with 30 and the Tar Heels earned a New Year’s Six bowl bid against Texas A&M in the Orange Bowl. I apologize, Mack Brown. I won’t doubt you and Howell in 2021. The Tar Heels will be the biggest threat to Clemson in the conference next year (save that comment for this story next year).
The bad: Baylor underrated
Baylor made the Sugar Bowl in 2019, picked a tremendous in Dave Aranda to replace Matt Rhule and had a veteran quarterback in Charlie Brewer. The Bears appeared ready to contend in a Big 12 that seemed wide open in 2020. I was so bullish on the Bears that I listed them as the most underrated team in the conference prior to the season.
Yeah, about that …
Aranda’s crew went 2-7, lost five straight games after a season-opening win over Kansas and lost Brewer to the transfer portal. Yikes.
The good: Michigan overrated … again
I’m glad the world caught on to Michigan and coach Jim Harbaugh being the biggest frauds in college football. It took long enough. No, Michigan wasn’t exactly everybody’s darling headed into the start of the season. But it was picked to finish third in the Big Ten East by Cleveland.com, which is the outlet of record for the conference’s predicted order of finish.
What happened? The Wolverines finished 2-5 and tied with Michigan State — which beat the Wolverines — in wins. Technically, they finished one spot ahead of the Spartans in the final standings since they went 2-5 instead of 2-4. But let’s be real … they finished in the cellar.
It was the most overrated team in the conference by far — just as I predicted.
The bad: Pac-12 success
My bold prediction for the Pac-12 season was that the conference title game would serve as a de facto College Football Playoff quarterfinal between USC and Oregon. I got the teams right (even though the Ducks played in it because Washington was forced out due to COVID-19 issues), but there was no way that either would sniff the CFP even with a win.
Sure, USC was undefeated heading into the Pac-12 Championship Game. But the No. 13 ranking made it nearly impossible for the Trojans to get a shot at the national title had they topped the Ducks.
I said that the Bearcats were the most overrated team in the American Athletic Conference in our preseason predictions despite having a veteran quarterback in Desmond Ridder, a coach on the rise in Luke Fickell and a conference that was as wide open as any in college football. Sheesh … that’s awful. How awful? They, of course, went undefeated, had as legitimate of a shot at making the CFP as any Group of Five team in this era, and took Georgia to the final seconds of the Peach Bowl before the Bulldogs hit a game-winning field goal with two seconds left.
I will never doubt you again, Fickell.