MURSCHEL

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS MON­DAY -

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.

Way off

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

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