Monday, January 26, 2015

The Last Top Ten

1) Ohio State Buckeyes (14-1)
Post Season: Beat No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl 42-35; 
Beat No. 2 Oregon Ducks 42-20 in National Championship Game

2) TCU Horned Frogs (12-1)
Post Season: Beat No. 9 Ole Miss Runnin' Rebels 42-3 in the Peach Bowl

3) Oregon Ducks (13-2)
Post Season: Beat No. 3 Florida State Seminoles 59-20 in the Rose Bowl
Lost to No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes 20-42 in National Championship Game

4) Alabama Crimson Tide (12-2)
Post Season: Lost to No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes 35-42 in the Sugar Bowl

5) Michigan State Spartans (11-2)
Post Season: Beat No. 5 Baylor Bears 42-41 in the Cotton Bowl

6) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (11-3)
Post Season: Beat No. 7 Mississippi State Bulldogs 49-34 in the Orange Bowl

7) Florida State Seminoles (13-1)
Post Season: Lost to No. 2 Oregon Ducks 20-59 in the Rose Bowl

8) Wisconsin Badgers (11-3)
Post Season: Beat No. 19 Auburn Tigers 34-31 in the Outback Bowl

9) Georgia Bulldogs (10-3)
Post Season: Beat No. 21 Louisville Cardinals 37-14 in the Belk Bowl

10) UCLA Bruins (10-3)
Post Season: Beat No. 14 Kansas State Wildcats 40-35 in the Alamo Bowl

Biggest Surprise: Ohio State winning it all
I'm not trying to sound like a homer here, but in all honesty, did anyone who isn't an insane OSU fan really think they were going to win the championship this season? Even before the injury to Braxton Miller, I thought that the Buckeyes had a good shot of making the playoffs but still lagged a bit behind other teams like Florida State and Alabama. Clearly, I underestimated just how much of a genius Urban Meyer is. Like most people who were alive for the Kennedy assassination, I remember exactly where I was when I found out Braxton was done for the season. I remember rationalizing with myself that they could still win nine or ten games and that would be a successful season. My optimism waned after the Virginia Tech loss, but the coaching staff really came together and improved every facet of the team starting up front with the offensive line. A unit that was abused by the Hokies became the strength of the offense. Redshirt freshman quarterback JT Barrett had all the time in the world to throw while running back Ezekiel Elliot was running through lanes that an 18 wheeler could fit through. In his first season, JT Barrett thrived in Urban's system by throwing for 34 touchdowns and rushing for another 11 to set the B1G record for touchdowns in a season. After his injury against Michigan, the offense transitioned seamlessly to Cardale Jones who won of the biggest games of Urban's tenure at OSU. Considering this team was starting around a dozen underclassmen, no one thought that this team would be ready for the level of success that they achieved this season. With no underclassmen declaring for the draft, the Buckeyes could be utterly dominant in 2015.

Biggest Disappointment: Oklahoma Sooners
There were a few teams that I thought were worthy of being here, but it ultimately came down to Oklahoma or Auburn. I was leaning towards Auburn because I thought that they could beat out Alabama for a spot in the playoff, but looking back at the preseason rankings changed my mind. Oklahoma was ranked fourth in the country and actually had garnered two first place votes. Expectations for the Sooners were high after they dismantled Alabama in the previous year's Sugar Bowl. People thought that they were almost a lock for the playoffs. Things were looking like they were going according to plan through the first four games before they suffered their first loss at TCU. After that, this team was never able to put together a string of convincing games and lost four more throughout the rest of the season, including a crushing loss to Clemson in the Citrus Bowl. They also lost consecutive home games to both Kansas State and Baylor in horrific fashion. Kansas State won when Oklahoma's kicker missed an extra point that Kansas State capitalized on, one of the worst possible ways to lose a game. Baylor, on the other hand, came into Norman and scored 38 unanswered points to win 48-14. They were equally embarrassed by Clemson, losing 40-6 and gaining a mere 275 yards to cap off a pretty unspectacular season. This team returns a lot of talent in 2015, but they won't win many more games unless they see the improvement out of Trevor Knight they expected to see this year. Knight only threw for 2300 yards and 14 touchdowns against 12 picks and had games where he looked like he had never played before. They will probably rely on Samaje Perine heavily next season, but this team can be in contention next season if Knight makes the necessary improvements in his third year.

Most Surprising Top 10 Finish: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech was an afterthought in the ACC this year, but they had their best season in five years  as they made it to the conference championship game and won the Orange Bowl against Mississippi State. Two back to back losses to Duke and UNC in the middle of their season derailed a playoff bid, but the way they closed out their season was incredible. They dominated Clemson, lost by two points to a Florida State team riding a 28 game win streak, and beat a team that was ranked first for a few weeks this season. Not only that, they beat their instate rival in overtime in an incredibly unlikely way for the first time in years. No one expected this team to get double digit wins this season, and they have set themselves up nicely for next season.

Team to Look Out For: TCU Horned Frogs
TCU is going to be ranked in the top three to start next season based on how they ended their season and the fact that they bring back a lot of young talent. The most important will be quarterback Trevone Boykin, who finished fourth in the Heisman voting this year and could be set up nicely for a huge year next season. TCU definitely had a case for the playoffs this year, but as of now it definitely looks like the committee made the right selection. They were way more deserving than Baylor was at least. They likely won't have a lot of competition in the Big 12 next year either. Baylor has to replace their leading receiver and break in a new quarterback while Oklahoma is a bit of a mystery and Texas is still a few years away. They open the season at Minnesota, but that will be before it starts snowing by the foot in Minneapolis. TCU should be able to outgun the Gophers in that game and won't face much of a challenge until late November in Norman. However, with the possibility of there being another split championship, TCU can't afford too many slip ups in conference play.

Best Player this Season: Wisconsin Running Back Melvin Gordon
My choice for this accolade came down to Gordon and Amari Cooper, but I decided to go with the running back for a few reasons. First of all, I think that Gordon was more deserving of the Heisman than Mariota was (I'll have an article on that later). Gordon was the face of the Badgers this year and is essentially the main reason why Wisconsin finished with double digit wins. He started the year off strong with 140 yards on 16 carries against LSU, but had to sit out the second half of the game with a hip injury. Once he took a seat on the bench, Wisconsin could not generate any sort of offense and eventually lost as LSU completed the comeback. He only got better as the season progressed and amassed a jaw-dropping 2587 yards and 29 touchdowns while maintaining a yards per carry average of 7.5. In fourteen games, he rushed for more than two hundred yards six times and had a legendary performance against Nebraska. He broke Ladainian Tomlinson's record for yards in a game by netting 408 yards on 25 carries. It was like a kid playing Madden set on rookie mode in that game. He was truly a man among boys, but did not get to relish in the feat for too long as his record was broken the next week by Oklahoma's Samaje Perine. Perine took more carries to do it and also played deep into the fourth quarter while Gordon was done after the third quarter. Outside of the Western Illinois game when he was still nursing an injury, the only time that he was held under one hundred yards was against Ohio State. When it became evident that the Buckeye defense was too athletic for Wisconsin's front to open lanes, the game was over. Gordon's ability to take over games is the reason Wisconsin made it as far as they did, and his name will go down in the record books behind only Barry Sanders.

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