GOING BOWLING OR GOING HOME? CFB REGULAR SEASON COMES TO AN END
By Simon Carroll
Navy’s victory over Army on Saturday marked the end of the 2019 College Football regular season. In a rather self-indulgent move, Simon takes a look at the power five conferences and how he fared with his predictions back in August:
Great start here as I nailed the two division winners of the ACC. Clemson was a no-brainer – last year’s National Champs sputtered out of the gate but still managed to go unbeaten, despite being taken to the wire by North Carolina. The Tigers got stronger and stronger as the season progressed and nobody will take them for granted in the playoffs.
I take a lot more pride in my pick for the Coastal Division. There have been six different winners of that half of the ACC in the last six years, and The Cavaliers taking it this season made it seven in seven. OUT OF SEVEN TEAMS. Virginia were tough competition for most throughout the year, and their win over in-state rival Virginia Tech saw them to the championship game, where they inevitably got walloped by Clemson.
Elsewhere in the ACC, Mack Brown’s return to Chapel Hill saw a rollercoaster season for The Tar Heels, who seemed to win or lose on the last play of every game. Louisville were expected to be the whipping boys but finished second behind Clemson in the Atlantic Division. And Syracuse, who had a great 2018, fell flat and won just two conference games all year.
Another conference where I get no bonus points for naming the correct champion, despite all the pre-season bleating about this being Michigan’s year. Ohio State dominated from start to finish, the transition from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day seamless. In Justin Fields and JK Dobbins the Buckeyes have two dynamic playmakers that together are almost impossible to control.
In the West, Wisconsin prevailed in a tight division. They took advantage of a heartbreaking end from Minnesota, who had the whole of the college football world rooting for them as they raced to a 10-0 start. The Badgers had a midseason slump before getting back on the horse and riding Jonathan Taylor to the championship game, where they provided Ohio State’s toughest test of the year but still fell short.
The state of Michigan will quickly forget 2019. Michigan State, normally so feisty, stumbled their way to a 4-5 conference record, whilst Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverine faithful really had big dreams. A slow start killed off any hope before finishing strongly – maybe 2020 will be the year in Ann Arbor?!
Those pesky Sooners proved too good once more in the Big Twelve, despite dropping a game to Kansas State mid-season that prompted a rocky patch of form. Jalen Hurts had up and down moments all year, but ultimately the talent-laden roster came good and two victories over Baylor in the last three weeks saw them crowned division champs. Their one-loss season was enough to see them into the playoffs.
The Baylor Bears offered a season almost as romantic as Minnesota did. They similarly flew out to a 10-0 record before losing to The Sooners in a dramatic collapse, then being beaten by them again in overtime in the championship game. Head Coach Matt Rhule has turned that program around and may be on his way to the NFL.
I don’t wanna talk about the Longhorns. You can mention their young roster and the ridiculous number of injuries, but ultimately they just weren’t good enough. The coaching changes have begun in earnest, although Tom Herman will be retained. A quick nod to the Sunflower State, where Les Miles had an immediate if not inconsistent impact with new team Kansas. The Jayhawks won three games and took another three close, their best season for some time. And Chris Klieman, a legend with North Dakota State at FCS level, had a very promising start to his career with Kansas State.
Back in the game with my predictions here, although the championship game didn’t quite go to script. Oregon did very well to keep themselves in the conference equation despite an early loss to Auburn and dropping a clanger late on to Arizona State. Justin Herbert’s senior year offered more questions than answers as he buckled against the better defenses, but The Ducks prevailed with a big win over Utah.
The Utes were so close! They’ve never won the PAC-12 before and fell at the final hurdle. Had they won, they would have offered the CFB Playoff Committee food for thought regarding the final spot. But they got behind early against Oregon and never recovered. A roster filled with NFL talent, be prepared to see some of these guys on your televisions on Sundays next year.
Mike Leach is a character isn’t he?! In a season where they really didn’t hit the heights of 2018, he provided any missing entertainments with his rants during press conferences. Herm Edwards continues to defy logic by winning at least some games with Arizona State. And a tip of the hat to Jonathan Smith over in Corvallis, who was very close to having Oregon State bowl-eligible, despite The Beavers being heralded as a two win team prior to the season’s kickoff.
Where else to finish this season review than in the biggest conference of them all? Before a ball was snapped you’d be forgiven for not knowing the name of LSU’s quarterback. But Joe Burrow has been untouchable this year, and won the Heisman Trophy with a record number of votes on the way to an unbeaten season. So far anyway – Ed Orgeron’s Tigers will have grand plans on bringing a Natty back to Baton Rouge before all is done.
Georgia lost to South Carolina. Mighty embarrassing, but they salvaged the season and ended up in the conference championship game, where they were easily handled by LSU. Jake Fromm may reconsider heading to the NFL after a campaign that seriously hurt his draft stock, but this Bulldogs defense along with running back D’Andre Swift still racked up an impressive eleven win season.
It might sound silly to call Alabama a disappointment, but any time the Crimson Tide have two defeats and no SEC title game on their resume is a bad year. Legendary head coach Nick Saban can point to the cruel injury to star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as a key reason for their downfall. But in truth, they dropped a game to LSU before that and their amazing ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory every time they face Auburn in The Iron Bowl is astonishing. Don’t worry though Bama fans – you’ll be back in the mix next year.
Feature Image Credit: BannerSociety.Com
previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.