It’s Time to Reassess Those Preseason Picks
For the last 14 years, the Philadelphia Daily News has taken an off-beat look at the upcoming college football and basketball seasons by spotlighting 50 things to watch.
Check out one of the first items, published on Aug. 23, 1999:
“Michigan coach Lloyd Carr still is undecided on who his starting quarterback will be. Senior Tom Brady led the Wolverines to a 10-1 finish last season (after an 0-2 start) and is the logical choice. But sophomore Drew Henson, who has spent the last two summers as a Yankees farm hand, is more athletic and the fan favorite.”
This year, we’re taking a look back at some of college football’s preseason storylines that were highlighted in our 50 things report to see how they played out over the last three months.
Then: Stanford’s preseason No. 4 ranking is its highest ever.
Now: Things were going so well for the Cardinal until the loss to 5-7 Utah in Week 7. They bounced back by beating then-No. 2 Oregon only to lose the following week to unranked USC. The Cardinal won the Pac-10 title, but were never in the national title hunt.
Then: Mark Helfrich, Chip Kelly’s replacement, understandably said he wasn’t planning many changes at Oregon.
Now: “It hurts,” Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota said after an awful 42-16 loss at Arizona the week before Thanksgiving. “I haven’t been blown out like this in my life.”
Then: Braxton Miller will be in the Heisman conversation as long as Ohio State wins.
Now: Uh, wrong. Ohio State started 12-0, but Miller missed two games with a sprained knee, including one in which replacement Kenny Guiton threw a school-record six touchdown passes. The Buckeyes gagged away a trip to the national title game when Miller was outplayed by Michigan State’s Connor Cook in the Big 12 title game.
Then: New Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said the Tigers “will run our offense at a two-minute pace the entire game.”
Now: The Tigers went from 3-9 last year to 12-1 this season and a stunning berth in the BCS title game.
Then: “We’re not settling for a 7-5 or 6-6 bowl game ... “ said Indiana linebacker David Cooper. “We’re looking to be a 10- or 11-win championship type team.”
Now: Cooper led the team in tackles, but the Hoosiers went just 5-7.
Then: Fresno State was in for a big season with Derek Carr back after throwing 37 TD passes in 2012 despite being nagged by a sports hernia.
Now: Fresno State was 10-0 before a loss to San Jose State sank any hopes of a New Year’s Day bowl. Carr has thrown for 48 TD passes in 12 games as the Bulldogs settled for the Las Vegas Bowl; not that a Vegas trip is a bad consolation.
Then: Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton had as many sacks in 2012 (13) as Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina’s more-heralded defensive end.
Now (Part I): Sutton had just four sacks in 2013, but was disruptive enough to become just the second guy to win Pac-12 defensive player of the year honors.
Now (Part II): Clowney had three sacks. His season got off to a rough start when he seemed winded in the opener. Clowney, who needs surgery to remove bone spurs in his right foot, still will be a top NFL draft pick.
Then: Nebraska finished 2012 by giving up 115 points in its final two games. Improving the defense was the primary focus for coach Bo Pelini entering the season.
Now: In their two games against ranked opponents, the Huskers lost to UCLA, 41-21, and to Michigan State, 41-28. The lowlight was losing at home to Iowa in the season finale, 38-17.
Then: For extra motivation, Alabama placed Texas A&M stickers around its weight room and ran videos of the 2012 game, the only one Bama lost.
Now: Alabama had its hands full again, but outlasted A&M, 49-42, in September. As wonderful as that game was, it is merely a footnote in the Tide’s 2013 season.
Then: Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison was suspended for the first game of the season after he was arrested and charged with barking at a police dog over the summer.
Now: Dogs everywhere enjoyed the Gators’ 4-8 season, which caused them to miss out on a bowl game for the first time since 1990. Morrison was Florida’s leading tackler before sustaining a season-ending knee injury against Vanderbilt in Week 10.
Then: Butch Jones is Tennessee’s fourth coach in six years.
Now: The Volunteers went 5-7, but the highlights were stunning then-No. 11 South Carolina and a near-upset of then-No. 6 Georgia.
Then: Clemson, at No. 8, entered the season with its highest ranking since being No. 4 in 1984.
Now: The Tigers were disrobed by Florida State, 51-14 — in Death Valley, no less — on Oct. 19 and lost to rival South Carolina for the fifth consecutive time.
Florida State, 11th in the preseason, is now the No. 1 team in the nation and favored to win the national championship. And its true freshman quarterback, Jameis Winston, is probably going to win the Heisman on Saturday.
You know, just like we all thought back in August.