Don't Believe the Hype
At the beginning of the season, I listed three teams that I thought were overrated and would struggle throughout the year. Here is how the predictions went.
Notre Dame Fightin' Irish
Bowl Game: Beat Rutgers Scarlet Knights 29-16 in the Pinstripe Bowl
I didn't think that Notre Dame was going to go defeated this year, but I knew for a fact that there was no way they make it through the regular season undefeated. They simply had too many close calls last year that justified that kind of expectation this year. I wrote this article before Everett Golson was kicked off of the team, but I am surprised by how Tommy Rees played after being so mediocre when he had started. That did hurt them however as they did not have the same dynamic factor at quarterback that Golson provided them while having only decent players at receiver and tight end. TJ Jones had the best season of the receivers, hauling in 70 passes and nine touchdowns, but after that there was a significant drop off in production. Defensively, this team was not able to have the kind of year like it did in 2012. They were relied on heavily and their "bend, don't break" mentality couldn't hold up this year when the offense had struggles getting moving. While they still ranked 29th overall, it was nowhere near where they had previously ranked, giving up an average of almost 23 points a game. In their losses, they were only able to score more than 21 once and gave up at least four touchdowns in all but one of those losses. As I had predicted, they were not able to go on the road and beat either Michigan or Stanford, while they also lost at home to Oklahoma. Teams caught up to them this year, and the Irish undoubtedly played much tougher opponents than they did on their way to a championship berth. Golson could be reinstated to the university and team next year, but they also lose two very talented defensive linemen. Next year will be a bit of a mystery for Notre Dame.
Record: 4-8 (3-5 in SEC)
Bowl Game: None
I actually kind of feel bad about this being correct. I know that the Gators were going to struggle this year, but good god. Florida was historically bad this year, missing out on a winning season for the first time in almost forty years and missing a bowl game for the first time in almost twenty years. A lot of it can be attributed to the sheer amount of injuries that they sustained on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Jeff Driskel was never stellar, but his season ending injury forced in untested sophomore Tyler Murphy who played a few games before getting hurt himself. But even before Driskel was injured, this team never looked like it belonged in the top ten. Their defense ranked 15th in points against at just over 21, but they didn't have the same viciousness recent Florida defenses have had. They gave up 36 to Mizzou, 34 to Vanderbilt, 37 to the Seminoles, and most embarrassingly, 26 to Georgia Southern, an FCS team, at home. The offense simply gave the defense no relief as both the rush and passing attacks ranked worse than 80th. It is honestly amazing that Muschamp was able to keep his job after how awful this year went. He had to can his offensive line coach and offensive coordinator, but unless he can recruit and develop high end talent, the Gators are going to struggle to be competitive in the SEC which saw an offensive explosion this year across the conference.
Record: 10-3 (5-3 in SEC)
Bowl Game: Beat Iowa Hawkeyes 21-14 in the Outback Bowl
I'll admit that this one was definitely a bit more of a reach than the other two, but most of what I had predicted actually came to fruition with this team. Zach Mettenberger really impressed me this year by picking up his play under new coordinator Cam Cameron, and he was really the difference in this team. He completed a much higher percentage of his passes and threw for 22 touchdowns and over 3000 yards. Where this team really struggled was on defense, which had lost a ton of players with starting experience to the draft. The defense still allowed only an average of 22 points per game, but they gave up a lot of points to some of the more quality opponents they played. They were fortunate that their offense did a 180 from last year and averaged 35 points a game, or this team could have lost another two games or so. However, they did struggle against the three teams that I had mentioned they had to play on the road: Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama. Its never easy to win a road game in the SEC, but if they had kept even half the talent that fled for the pros, LSU probably beats Ole Miss and Georgia. And this year won't get any easier with at least the same amount of players already declaring for the draft.