How I Did With My 2008 Predictions

Before I get into much that looks forward to 2009, I figure it’s worth taking a look at how I did with my 2008 predictions to see what I can learn from it. After all, so many people toss so many forecasts around without ever going back and letting you know if they were good or bad.

Consider this some full disclosure before I predict anything about 2009.

Overall

My catchphrase for 2008 was “A Season of Titans.” I meant that we would not see another chaotic season where good but not great teams struggled to lay weak claims on the title as we did in 2007. I foresaw at least one undefeated BCS conference champ and maybe more. I saw a possibility of another undefeated team in the Mountain West or WAC too.

It turned out that only Utah was undefeated team going into bowl season, and I did single out the Utes as a candidate for perfection. Even so, it was a season on titans. Once again there were a bunch of great teams all fighting for a chance to play for it all.

In 2007, we ended up with Ohio State in the BCS title game basically by default and LSU in it because no one was quite sure who else to put there. In 2008, we finished the year with no fewer than four teams that felt they had a legit claim to the title, and three of them received at least one vote in the final AP poll.

I claim this one as mostly right, because the BCS controversy was caused by having too many elite teams, not too few.

Team-Specific

Florida will pound Hawai’i. I predicted this in May, got some flak from an angry Hawai’i fan, and Florida ended up winning 56-10. It was similar to how I dismissed FAU as a credible threat in 2007, got flak from an angry Owl fan, and Florida ended up winning 59-20.

Why I keep making predictions about UF beating down opponents in guarantee games is probably the biggest question here. Is it too early to predict that the Gators will eviscerate FIU in 2009? Anyway, this was right.

FSU is a six-win team. I made the headline intentionally a little misleading, but I meant that the Seminoles would win six games against I-A competition. I didn’t explicitly say it, but I also meant specifically in the regular season because bowl season is often a crapshoot.

As it turned out, FSU won eight regular season games with two coming against I-AA teams. I didn’t get all the details right (Florida State didn’t lose to Clemson, for instance), but I nailed the win total. They got six wins against I-A competition in the regular season.

Paul Johnson will do better than 7-5. This piece was mainly just background information on Johnson’s career, but I did make a prediction at the end: “Paul Johnson’s track record indicates he should do better than the 7-5 records that Chan Gailey put up seemingly every year.”

Georgia Tech went 9-4 in 2008. This one was also correct.

Next, I put together detailed predictions for the ACC and Big 12 before rolling everything else into one mega-post. So, let’s take them piece by piece.

ACC

I predicted the top three in the Atlantic would be Clemson, Wake Forest, then Maryland. It ended up being Boston College and FSU at 5-3, then the rest of division tied at 4-4. I think Maryland technically ended up third since the Terps beat all of the three other 4-4 teams.

So, I got one of three correct. I obviously bit on the Clemson hype, but I figured if it was ever going to happen for the Tigers, this was the year. Instead, they quit on their coach after one week and slumped to another mediocre year. BC also out played my expectations; I wanted to put them higher but talked myself out of it. Oh well.

In the Coastal, I went Virginia Tech, UNC, then Georgia Tech. Swap the Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets and that was the actual order. Not bad for the chaotic ACC.

Then again, I did have Clemson winning the conference. Oops.

Big 12

In the North, I picked the top three as Missouri, Kansas, and then Nebraska. Switch the Jayhawks and Huskers, and you’ve got the actual order. Really though, picking anyone else in the top three of this division would have been a big stretch.

Down South, I had the order Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and then Texas. Again, picking a different set of three would have been risky. I’m not sure who technically was second or third. UT and Tech were tied behind Oklahoma, and Tech beat Texas. Does that count as correct? I say close enough.

Like with Clemson, I figured that if greatness ever happened for Texas Tech, this would be the year. I’d say an 11-2 record qualifies, but they unfortunately didn’t get a BCS bid.

I had Oklahoma over Missouri in the title game, and that was precisely what happened.

Big East

I called for the order to be West Virginia, Cincinnati, and then South Florida. Cincy won it, and then there was a three-way tie between WVU, Pitt, and Rutgers who all went 1-1 against each other.

The USF pick was rotten, but having Cincinnati in the top two was pretty good considering the consensus had the Bearcats fourth.

Big Ten

I had Ohio State first and Michigan State second. My reasoning was that Ohio State should have been one of the country’s best teams, and I still feel like they should have been. The MSU pick was mostly out of the necessity of picking a team out of left field, and with the Spartans ending up third, it wasn’t so bad.

I also specifically called for Wisconsin (preseason consensus No. 13) and Illinois (No. 20) to fall off from 2007 and not be that great. That was right on.

One huge problem though: “I have little faith that Jay Paterno’s ‘Spread HD’ will amount to much.” That’s about all I have to say about that. It really speaks for itself.

Pac-10

Honestly, I didn’t do a whole heck of a lot of thinking about the conference when making my picks. I defaulted to USC as first just like everyone else, and I banked on a second year bump under Dennis Erickson to keep Arizona State in second place.

I think if I remember correctly, I wanted to put Oregon State second, but I talked myself out of it like I did with BC in the ACC. Since I have no written proof of it, I can’t really take credit for it though.

SEC

In the East, I had Florida over Georgia. That happened, so rock on. In the West, I had Auburn over LSU. I could have sworn I ended up picking LSU, but I guess I changed that at the last second.

I was clearly flummoxed by the West division, much like the Gators who have lost to a team from it every year since 1999. I did pick Florida to win the league though.

BCS

I predicted that there would be no non-BCS teams in the BCS, so that right off was wrong. Even so, I had the Big East and ACC getting only one bid, and that was right. I also predicted that the Big 12 South would have two teams, and while I got the non-champ wrong (I said Texas Tech), I didn’t pick Missouri as many did.

The other at-larges I picked were Arizona State, Georgia, and Michigan State. Whoops. My title game was half right, with Oklahoma and Ohio State being the selected teams.

I used some trends to make predictions. One was to predict that only one of the 2007 BCS at larges would make it back in 2008. It turned out that not a one made it back.

I also said we’d have six BCS teams that were picked to be first in their division/conference, two that were picked second, one that was picked third, and one from all the rest. This part was based on the preseason consensus.

Four consensus first place teams made it: Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and USC. Three that were picked second made it: Texas, Utah, and Florida. Two that were picked third made it: Penn State and Alabama. That leaves one from the rest, and that was Cincinnati, who was picked fourth. That’s not spectacular, but it’s not bad either.

Heisman

“For what it’s worth, I also expect Ohio State’s Chris Wells to win the Heisman, followed by Chase Daniel, Tim Tebow, and Pat White.”

Injuries and team underachieving kept Beanie from having a shot, but I did correctly have Tebow third. Hooray? Not really, and honestly I don’t care. The Heisman is a popularity contest graded on a scale that is not intuitive to me, so yeah, I blew it, but I’m not that upset about it.

Overall

I got a couple divisions pretty wrong (ACC Atlantic, SEC West), but overall I think I did well. I slipped up most spectacularly in giving Clemson the benefit of the doubt and believing that Ohio State had one more good run in them. I did best in predicting better things for Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, and Michigan State than the consensus did.

I think my biggest trapping was getting too caught up in that consensus, and falling prey too much to conventional wisdom when I wasn’t sure what to do (like the Pac-10 below USC). It’s probably impossible to avoid that entirely, but my biggest missteps came from when I conformed too closely and not the other way around.

Periodically during the off season I will be doing some things that both look back and look forward. Hopefully they will culminate in a better set of predictions for 2009.

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