Going into our season finale blog poll, let’s distill down what makes the Top 25, aside from records: Who has the best offense, the best defense, the best special teams? Who’s done the best coaching job. Who has great line play. How did the rest of the conference look when it stepped onto the national stage. Who’s played the toughest schedule? Who’s done the most with that schedule.
Then we get to W/L.
So, it’s no surprise that the Top 25 is riddled with SEC programs. I will go to my grave maintaining that this lost year should anger people every bit as much as 2010 and 2013. This was the season Alabama fans pointed to back in 2020 as the most realistic shot at a ring. And, lo and behold, even as areas of the team improved over last season, some saw regression — and all of those close games Alabama scraped by with last year instead turned into 50-50 prospects, with Alabama laying two eggs on the road.
Now, Alabama is the only team in the country to face four Top 25 teams on the road, and the only one to play three then-Top 10s away from Coleman. But mistakes lost those games; poor execution lost those games; poor coaching lost those games: Alabama was never out-talented.
This team isn’t going anywhere, provided that it can shore up the interior line, find answers at star and safety, obviously quarterback — and that huge bugaboo, who’s on the sidelines that can work with the talent on-hand. Bill O’Brien is still in Tuscaloosa, yet his contract expires in about 20 days. If that phone doesn’t ring with new staffs (and rumored new staffs) in Boston or Denver or LA or Charlotte or New Orleans, prepare yourself for him to be retained again.
So, it is sanguine to think with that many questions Alabama will be a natty favorite. 2024 is perhaps the more realistic rebuild window. But we said that about 2021, as well. Alabama will be Alabama.
It is who is beneath UGA and Alabama that are far more interesting.
How far will the Vawls drop without the most dangerous receiver in the country and a Super Senior QB — though with a far more daunting road swing in 2023? UGA is losing at least 8 starters, but could be losing as many as 14...before the Portal. They lost 15 last year, and carried on, but as we’ve seen, it only takes 2-3 years of that attrition to deplete the roster. And that was before the Portal. Will the UGA coaching staff remain intact? Continuity — and especially Monken — has saved Kirby’s ass in repeated close games. Is Lane going to angrily stick around Oxford? Why is everyone polishing Hugh Freeze’s nuts: everyone can and will pay players now. Will Jimbo actually let Petrino run his offense in College Station, or will the hayseed hamstring the hornball? How does a State team reeling from losing its captain rebound? Will South Carolina, LSU, and Mizzou continue to leverage the portal to continue their rebuilds?
FSU is perhaps the most dangerous up and comer in the ACC. Maybe not next year, but by 2024, don’t be surprised if the Noles overtake Clemson. Brohm in Luhvl is very dangerous provided he finds some defense. New-look Duke could be a player too. And Pitt has certainly never gone away. Will Mario modern-up in Coral Gables? Is Clemson a spent force? The first game that Cade Klubnik played against a non-ACC team, he looked mediocre. Against the second, he looked awful.
What will the P12 look like without all of those veteran and super-senior players? Did a year through the USC playbook better equip defenses to handle them? Or is the talent differential too stark. Are teams like Washington a flash in the pan? Can Oregon State build on a great but perhaps underperforming campaign? Is Dan Lanning a lot of flash and no substance (my vote is yes).
Will the B1G ever fix its defense and athleticism issue? Maryland can be an exceptionally dangerous team with Locks recruiting at this level and already scaring the big boys. They and Ohio State often look like the only team running schemes generated since the Clinton administration. For that matter, will UM even be there next year? Corum is back, so is McCarthy — but there’s no guarantee Harbaugh will. Imagine the ripples that get set off if the Michigan job opens up. Fickell at Wisconsin and Rhule at Nubber has to be frightening as hell to the rest of the West. Could the West even overtake the East soon?
The Big 12: same ole’ song and dance. They cannibalize themselves then lay an egg on the national stage. True story — TCU’s win was their first as a conference in the Playoffs. And they were badly outgained after the first quarter. If Michigan had not uncharacteristically gifted them five TOs and two defensive scores, the Wolverines run away with that game. As we saw in bowl season, though, this conference is the Pac 12 with worse SEC scores. They’re not fit for purpose.
Can the SBC continue on its red-hot tear as one of the premiere Group of 5 leagues. Will defections from the AAC to the B12 weaken that conference such that they are below the MWC and Sun Belt? It was not that long ago they demanded to be treated as the Power 6. Is Marshall actually back? Who’s going to come calling for Traylor at UTSA soon? Can UAB get back in stride? After a year of parity in the Mountain, and some shaky early starts, we were again left with Air Force, Boise State and Fresno State as the premier MWC teams. That doesn’t look to change either.
Lots of questions, for sure. But we’ll have to wait nine months for the answers to unfold.
2022 Blog Poll Finale
|THIS WEEK||TEAM||LAST WEEK|
|THIS WEEK||TEAM||LAST WEEK|
|TOP 40ish||Air Force, Ole Miss, UTSA, Texas, Maryland, Minn., Ohio|
|JMU, Souf Alabama,|
Most disappointing conference showing in the bowl games?
SEC (because you’re a troll)
A G5 conference, list below
More than one of these, list below
There were no real surprises this bowl season