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Revisiting our college football predictions and 5 bold takes for 2023

After being (sort of) right about the Gators and Seminoles, here’s what we think of their prospects for next season.
Billy Napier's first season with the Florida Gators went a little worse than we expected.
Billy Napier's first season with the Florida Gators went a little worse than we expected. [ MARK HUMPHREY | AP ]
Published Jan. 13

Though most college football fans have turned their attention to next season, I want to take one final look back at 2022 to continue my annual tradition of exploring what I got right and wrong — with a heavy emphasis on the last part.

What I got right

Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis became the star the Seminoles envisioned.
Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis became the star the Seminoles envisioned. [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP (2022) ]

I called my preseason ballot the “most perplexing jumble” I’ve experienced because rosters were so fluid. That was correct. Fifteen teams on my preseason ballot failed to make my final rankings including, somehow, every team from 15-23. That’s the same miss percentage as the rest of the voters in a historically inaccurate year. Yes, I am trying to turn my whiffs into a win.

I viewed Florida State as a wild card and called LSU, Louisville and Florida toss-up, tipping-point games. The Seminoles won them all by a combined 12 points. I also wrote that if quarterback Jordan Travis played as well as his teammates thought, FSU could get to eight or nine wins and help convince fans the program can be great again. Travis was a star and led FSU to a 9-3 regular season.

Not completely wrong

Our preseason thoughts on the Gators were fairly close. Especially if you ignore what we predicted for the Utah game.
Our preseason thoughts on the Gators were fairly close. Especially if you ignore what we predicted for the Utah game. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP (2022) ]

I consistently predicted 7-5 for Billy Napier’s first season at Florida, and the 6-6 regular-season finish wasn’t far off (I did not see the Vanderbilt loss coming). I missed badly on some of the details, like saying Utah would beat Florida by at least a touchdown and doubling down on a Utes victory. UF won by 3.

I was immediately skeptical of the idea that USF would/could hire Jon Gruden, and I didn’t see Deion Sanders leaving Jackson State “for anything other than a Power Five job.” He’s at Colorado. I also mentioned the coach the Bulls eventually landed, Tennessee offensive coordinator Alex Golesh, at least twice and had him on my initial list of candidates. I was still caught off guard when he was hired.

I thought Clemson would revert to its pre-2012 form after losing both coordinators. The Tigers didn’t dip that much, but they wobbled and weren’t a serious national title contender. Relatedly, I called North Carolina State the team “most likely to make me look clueless” because I picked the Wolfpack to win the ACC. Clemson won the league, while North Carolina State and its backup quarterback finished unranked to, indeed, make me look clueless.

What I got wrong

Our 2022 expectations for USF were, in hindsight, too optimistic.
Our 2022 expectations for USF were, in hindsight, too optimistic. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times (2022) ]
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The preseason media poll had USF finishing ninth in the AAC, but I picked the Bulls eighth. I was overly optimistic. USF went winless in conference play.

I called Alabama an “easy choice” to win the SEC West. It was also the wrong choice, because LSU won (I had the Tigers finishing fifth in the division). I bought into the Texas A&M hype, ranking Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies fifth on my preseason top 25 — one spot higher than the poll consensus — because of their elite talent. Fisher went 5-7.

Miami was the only state team on my preseason ballot and, as I wrote, “no others were close.” Instead of being the state’s best team, the Hurricanes ended up being fourth, behind FSU, UCF and the Gators.

I acknowledged the buzz around Tennessee but chose not to buy into it by leaving the Volunteers off my preseason ballot. My mistake.

Vols fans have reminded me often about something I wrote in 2021 with this headline: “Can former UCF coach Josh Heupel turn Tennessee around? Don’t bet on it.” It’s a good thing I didn’t make a wager; I underestimated Heupel. I also wrote that his new job “will soon become worse than his old one” at UCF. Because of subsequent conference realignment, I’m unsure about how I’d rank them. Ask me after next season, when Tennessee has a year without quarterback Hendon Hooker and UCF gets its first taste of the Big 12.

5 way-too-early thoughts I’ll regret a year from now

Mike Norvell and the Seminoles will have a lot to celebrate during the 2023 season, if our early predictions are right.
Mike Norvell and the Seminoles will have a lot to celebrate during the 2023 season, if our early predictions are right. [ STEPHEN M. DOWELL | Orlando Sentinel (2022) ]

1. FSU wins the ACC for the first time since 2014 and enters conference championship weekend in the playoff mix.

2. The Gators end the regular season no better than 6-6.

3. USF shows improvement but falls well short of a bowl.

4. UCF finishes below .500 in the Big 12.

5. Ohio State wins the national title.

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