College football preseason predictions gone wrong, plus Ryan Day vs. James Franklin

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We’re looking back at our preseason predictions today. And to fully capture the devastation of being wrong, we included some shocked reactions from fans themselves. (Note: None are as fantastic as the viral Chargers fan.)

Here’s what’s happening in college football Until Saturday …

Predictions Revisited

Where we were wrong (and maybe right?)

As the midseason hits, it’s time to take a look back at our preseason predictions and point out where we were wrong. In a college football season that has welcomed uncertainty … that happened quite a bit.

Probably wrong: None of the realigning teams will win a conference championship.

Justin Williams, staff writer: Well, Oregon State is still among the top of the Pac-12, and there’s a critical game in the Big 12 standings on Saturday between, uh … Oklahoma State and West Virginia? The obvious truth is that Washington and Oklahoma are dancing all over this take, to say nothing of Oregon, Utah, USC and Texas. So yeah, this one seems unlikely to hit, but it’s still mathematically alive. Long live the Pac-2.

Mitch Sherman, Nebraska writer: This isn’t trending well. Washington and Oklahoma lead their respective conferences, having won first-half classics against the teams that look like their biggest obstacles to league titles — Oregon and Texas, respectively. So that’s troublesome in all ways for my prediction. But I’ve not entirely lost hope. Oregon State and Utah are legitimate contenders in the Pac-12. In the Big 12, I don’t feel good about this. I expect to see a rematch of Red River in December. Still, it would take only a couple of upsets to prove this one right.

Still possible: Alabama will lose three games.

David Ubben, senior writer: When Alabama slopped through a 17-3 win at South Florida, I wondered if 9-3 might have been overestimating the Crimson Tide. But their recommitment to Jalen Milroe and building more of the offense to suit his strengths (as well as his development as a passer) has put the Crimson Tide on the right side of proving me wrong. Tough games still await with Tennessee, LSU, Kentucky and an always tricky trip to Auburn, but this is a tough team with a defense better than I suspected and an offense that has had its moments.

Stewart Mandel, Editor-in-Chief: This still could happen but not in the manner I imagined. I saw the Tide going 9-3. It turns out, I was absolutely right about them having a “down” year, but I did not anticipate the same would be true of most of the SEC. Alabama is vulnerable and sloppy enough to lose one game it shouldn’t, perhaps at Kentucky, but still win the SEC West, lose to Georgia and finish 10-3 before the bowl season. Most every program in America would kill for that to be a “down” year.



So far, so good: Michigan will win its first outright national championship since 1948.

Scott Dochterman, Iowa writer: Michigan is rolling. The Wolverines have given up a touchdown or fewer in every game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that trend continues in their next two games against Michigan State and Purdue. I like Michigan against Penn State and Ohio State. The Big Ten championship might have a three-touchdown betting line, and Iowa has lost its three most important skill players to injury. But if anyone knows how to keep a game close — especially against Michigan — it’s Kirk Ferentz.

Pete Sampson, Notre Dame writer: We’re halfway through the season, and any prediction about Michigan winning it all feels … empty? The Wolverines won’t play a ranked team until Nov. 11, then face Penn State and Ohio State in a three-week span. I’m still not betting against Jim Harbaugh, but it has been tough to feel confident (or leery) of this prediction just yet.

Not happening: Clemson will lose to South Carolina but win every other game and make the CFP.

Joe Rexrode, columnist: See, what I meant to say was, Clemson will lose a few games and be a non-factor in the Playoff race, but Dabo Swinney’s Tigers will resume beating up on rival South Carolina. Both teams have been disappointing, although Clemson has rebounded from a 28-7 thumping at Duke in the opener and had a chance to beat Florida State and re-enter the conversation. But Miami, Notre Dame and North Carolina all could be tough before the finale. South Carolina will be hard-pressed to make a bowl game at this point, and that’s a big downer — although Shane Beamer didn’t have to break a foot over it.


Possible: Texas will make the CFP.

Ari Wasserman, senior writer: Some people viewed it as a hot take before the season, but now that everyone has seen Texas play, it isn’t all that crazy. The Longhorns lost a heartbreaker to Oklahoma, but they are very much still in the Playoff race. Texas has to avoid doing what it has done quite a bit in the past — losing to lower-tier teams in the Big 12 — and it’ll get another shot at the Sooners in Dallas. Making the CFP is still on the table, but the Longhorns’ CFP run must begin now.

No way: LSU wins it all.

Audrey Snyder, Penn State writer: Well, there’s being wrong, and then there’s my bold prediction that LSU was going to win it all. I was banking on LSU having a potent offense, and it does — averaging 45.3 points per game, the third-highest average nationally. But LSU has one of the worst defenses in the country (113th), surrendering 423.9 yards per game. Defense wins championships, or in the case of my bold prediction, make me look bad for being overly optimistic about the Tigers.

Mandel’s Mailbag

Ryan Day vs. James Franklin

This weekend’s top-10 showdown between Ohio State and Penn State should be epic. James Franklin is 1-8 against the Buckeyes, while Ryan Day is trying to prove that his team is tough enough. Which team and coach need a victory more? — Rob W., Columbia, S.C.

I say Day. Penn State fans will be frustrated if the Nittany Lions lose to the Buckeyes again, especially considering this may be Franklin’s best team since the Trace McSorley-Saquon Barkley era. But Penn State is not expected to win in Columbus. If it beats Michigan at home in a few weeks, it still can go 11-1 and possibly win the conference, depending on how a tiebreaker might fall. Penn State has not gone 11-1 in the regular season since 2008.

For Ohio State, losing at home to Penn State, which it has beaten six straight years, would not go over well in Columbus.

It feels like Buckeyes fans are already a bit on edge. While undefeated, this team has not looked as dominant as in past years, and a loss would lead to even more scrutiny of Day. Of course, the Buckeyes would salvage their season if they turn around and beat Michigan, but the pressure going into that one will be through the roof. Day will be trying to avoid three straight losses to the Buckeyes’ hated rival and avoiding a third-place finish in the Big Ten East in a year when the league is the weakest it has been in some time.

Note, there would be no actual consequences for these coaches if they go 0-2 in these “Big Three” games. Franklin is as entrenched as it gets in Happy Valley, and Ohio State is not going to pay $46 million to fire a 10-2 coach. It’s more about which coach would get more heat for losing. Clearly, it’s Day.

Read the full mailbag here.

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