ing into 2018 were tepid to say the least, especially after a four-win season in 2017. But first-year coach Dan Mullen surprised many, including myself, by leading the Gators to their first double-digit win season since 2015 and a win in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES Where they finished: 10-3 Where I had them ranked:
27 A disappointing eight-win season in 2017 was enough to convince me that Michigan would struggle in 2018, but the Wolverines bounced back nicely by winning 10 of their first 11 games and rising to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings before dropping their final two games to Ohio State and Florida.
WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS Where they finished: 11-2 Where I had them ranked:
48 It was a record-setting year for Washington State, which captured a school-best 11 wins, climbing as high as No. 8 in the playoff rankings before suffering a loss to rival Washington that knocked it out of Pac-12 title contention. East Carolina transfer Gardner Minshew finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting after leading the nation in passing offense.
MIAMI HURRICANES Where they finished: 7-6 Where I had them ranked:
3 Not since I purchased my first pair of parachute pants as a kid have I regretted something as much as I regret picking Miami to finish third in my preseason projections. In my defense, the Hurricanes were coming off their first ACC Coastal Division title and the program appeared to be on the rise, but instead this team dropped five out of its last seven games, leading to coach Mark Richt’s resignation.
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES Where they finished: 5-7 Where I had them ranked:
29 Florida State fans came at me hard after I was one of the few prognosticators not to have the Seminoles ranked in my top 25, but as it turns out, even top 30 was too high for this team. Willie Taggart’s first season was a disaster, with the team going 5-7 and snapping the program’s streak of 36 consecutive bowl appearances. The five wins were the lowest win total in a season since Bobby Bowden’s first year at FSU in 1976.
NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS Where they finished: 4-8 Where I had them ranked:
35 Scott Frost was one of the hottest coaching commodities last season and when he chose to return home to coach at Nebraska after leading UCF to a perfect 13-0 season in 2017, it seemed things were looking up for the Huskers. But as it turned out, Frost and his staff have a much bigger rehabilitation project ahead of them after winning just four games in Year 1.
SYRACUSE ORANGE Where they finished: 10-3 Where I had them ranked:
109 I regret underestimating the Orange, but in my defense, it had been close to two decades since Syracuse football has had a season like the one that it did in 2018. Coach Dino Babers put together one of the most explosive offenses in the ACC thanks, in part, to senior quarterback Eric Dungey. Subscribe and download the College Gridiron 365 podcast on iTunes and Android. [email protected]landosentinel.com. Twitter: @osmattmurschel Facebook: @osmattmurschel
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, right, along with fellow freshmen, ride in the Tigers’ national championship parade Saturday. RICHARD SHIRO/AP