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A look back at our college football predictions, plus 5 takes for 2024

Our preseason thoughts on FSU were spot on, but we overrated the Gators and underrated USF.
 
The 2023 Florida Gators underachieved, while FSU football lived up to our expectations. So what about 2024?
The 2023 Florida Gators underachieved, while FSU football lived up to our expectations. So what about 2024? [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published Jan. 16|Updated Jan. 16

With the 2023 college football season in the books and the coaching carousel slowing down, it’s time to take a look back at my predictions. In the interest of accountability, full disclosure and an attempt to keep laughing at myself, let’s continue my annual tradition of revisiting what I got right (more than usual) and wrong (still too much).

What I got right

Florida State won the ACC and went into Selection Sunday as a College Football Playoff contender.
Florida State won the ACC and went into Selection Sunday as a College Football Playoff contender. [ ERIK VERDUZCO | AP (2023) ]

In this column last year, I predicted Florida State would win the ACC and enter conference championship weekend “in the playoff mix.” While I didn’t envision the snub, my lukewarm take was correct. So, too, was my thought that UCF would finish below .500 in the Big 12; the Knights were 3-6 in conference play and 6-7 overall.

Of the 34 voters in the AAC preseason poll, I was one of only three to pick SMU as the champ. I also hit on Memphis as a clear No. 4 and in the second tier.

My view that Georgia wouldn’t win a national title because it’s simply really hard to win three in a row proved correct.

At the start of Week 1, I wrote that no state schools would make coaching changes this cycle (which hadn’t happened since 2008-09). I was right, though Mike Norvell’s situation at FSU made it dicey last week. In August, I said FSU would start implementing an exit strategy from the ACC before the start of the 2024 season. I think a legal complaint against the conference qualifies.

And my needle-in-a-haystack call: I wondered whether Berkeley Prep alumnus Jaylen Harrell would pressure Ohio State’s Kyle McCord “into a season-changing mistake.” Sure enough, Harrell hurried McCord on Michigan’s game-sealing interception.

Partial credit

USF finished the regular season 6-6.
USF finished the regular season 6-6. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times (2023) ]

I initially underrated USF and pegged the Bulls for four wins, but my midseason revision called for a 6-6 regular season that would “inspire confidence in USF’s turnaround.” The Bulls finished 6-6, then crushed Syracuse in the bowl game.

I picked Miami to finish sixth in the ACC but said anywhere from third to ninth was feasible for the unpredictable Hurricanes. Miami finished tied for ninth. I also wrote that the ’Canes should get a statement win; I think victories over Clemson and then-ranked Texas A&M are close enough.

I figured Duke’s turnover luck would end and the Blue Devils would slip to seventh in the ACC. They finished tied for sixth.

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My Penn State skepticism was warranted, but I was still a little too optimistic about the Nittany Lions. I was higher on Texas and Washington than most other voters but still underrated them and didn’t project either in the playoff.

What I got wrong

The Florida Gators didn't improve in advanced metrics or the win-loss column during Billy Napier's second season.
The Florida Gators didn't improve in advanced metrics or the win-loss column during Billy Napier's second season. [ JEFF ROBERSON | AP (2023) ]

I initially wrote the Gators would finish no better than .500 before revising it to 6-6. Florida went 5-7. Worse, I expected Florida to be “significantly better, even if it doesn’t show up in the standings yet.” The Gators slid from 34th to 41st in SP+ advanced metrics, dropped one win in the standings and certainly weren’t significantly better.

I, repeatedly, picked Ohio State to win the national championship. The Buckeyes lost to Michigan (again) and didn’t make the playoff.

I thought former Bucs assistant Jeff Hafley would be on his way out at Boston College. He got (and deserved) another season after going 7-6 with a bowl win over SMU.

Two teams I was exceptionally high on (Wisconsin and Kentucky) both went 7-6. I also had TCU, Texas A&M and Texas Tech in my preseason top 25; none finished better than 7-6.

I picked Pitt to finish fourth in the ACC, one spot ahead of Louisville. The Panthers were 3-9, and the Cardinals made the conference title game.

5 things I’ll regret predicting a year from now

Emeka Egbuka's decision to play another year at Ohio State will help the Buckeyes' quest for a national title in 2024.
Emeka Egbuka's decision to play another year at Ohio State will help the Buckeyes' quest for a national title in 2024. [ NEIL BLAKE | mlive.com ]

· FSU regresses in a rebuilding season but enters November (again) with realistic playoff hopes.

· The Gators finish no better than 6-6, forcing some tough conversations about the program’s direction.

· USF has its best season since 2017.

· After a wild 2023, conference realignment pauses this year to let the dust settle and court cases continue.

· Ohio State finally puts it all together and wins the national title.

• • •

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