Just how bad were my preseason college football predictions?

Spoiler: With one major exception, they were not good. Not good at all.
Florida State football coach Willie Taggart accurately sums up staff writer Matt Baker's predictions from last season. [ MONICA HERNDON | Times ]
Florida State football coach Willie Taggart accurately sums up staff writer Matt Baker's predictions from last season. [ MONICA HERNDON | Times ]
Published January 10

Even though we're already looking ahead to 2019 college football predictions, let's take one more look back at the 2018 season to see just how right and very, very wrong my preseason and midseason thoughts were.

What I got right

From my SEC championship prediction: Alabama over Georgia. Again, at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Kirby Smart will get the better of his mentor, Nick Saban, but this isn't the year. The Crimson Tide will roll, again … all the way until it loses to Clemson in the College Football Playoff. Allow me one moment to bask in this, because things are about to get really ugly here.

I didn't have USF in my preseason rankings, and I thought the Bulls looked flimsy, even during their 7-0 start. I didn't necessarily expect an 0-6 finish, but I never bought USF as a top-25 team.

With one notable exception (which we'll get to), the top part of my preseason rankings held up pretty well. Eight of the teams that started in my top 12 finished in my top 12. I had Clemson and 'Bama at 1-2 in the preseason and the postseason. Georgia, Ohio State and Michigan also finished pretty darn close to where they started on my ballot. My top preseason teams from the SEC (Alabama), ACC (Clemson), Pac-12 (Washington) and Big 12 (Oklahoma) all won their leagues.

Partial credit

UCF is still tops in the AAC, but I expect growing pains with the transition to first-time head coach Josh Heupel. The first part was right, and UCF technically took a step back with the Fiesta Bowl loss. But the Knights were better than I expected, so I was mostly wrong.

I correctly picked UF to finish third in the SEC East, which is the only sliver of credit I deserve here. The Gators outperformed my prognostications with a top-10 finish. I also wrote this headline from SEC media days: Dan Mullen's old team will be better than his new one. That's a good thing. Mullen's old team was pretty good. His new team, obviously, was better than that in Starkville and throughout the season.

What I got wrong

Make yourself comfortable. This will take a bit.

I alluded to a huge miss near the top of my preseason rankings. That's the Badgers, who started third on my ballot and finished well outside the top 25. Oof, Wisconsin.

Miami is No. 10 overall and my top team in the state. I'm still not sold on quarterback Malik Rosier, but I think he'll look a lot better with a fully healthy Ahmmon Richards at receiver, and his defense should again be one of the best in the country. The defense was great, but the offense struggled. Although I couldn't have predicted Richards' career-ending injury, that's not an excuse for whiffing so badly on the Hurricanes.

Florida State's roster remains loaded, and I think new coach Willie Taggart will make the most of it with his offense. FSU finished No. 113 nationally in scoring (21.9 points per game) and No. 110 in yards per play (5.12).

The (LSU) Tigers will start off the season with a non-conference loss to the Hurricanes in Arlington, Texas. I'm not sure they'll recover, which is bad news for coach Ed Orgeron. I picked LSU to finish fifth in the SEC West. The Tigers finished sixth in the country. That's almost the same, right?

And perhaps my biggest miss of them all: I was all aboard the Lane Train and had Kiffin's Owls as my No. 24 preseason team in the country. Florida Atlantic finished 5-7.

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