Five Things We've Learned from 2014 (That Will Matter in 2015)
1. Florida State isn't going anywhere.
If the Seminoles were ever going to fold, it was this year. Jameis Winston has not lived up to his Heisman campaign of a year ago and is a weekly distraction. Against Clemson, Winston was suspended, the running game produced 0.5 yards per carry, and the quarterback, Sean Maguire, produced 304 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions as Jimbo Fisher secured a victory. How he did it is still unclear.
Once, it could be said that Winston's mechanics were the team's weakness, if a pass rush could unseat him. Against Louisville this past Thursday, though, Winston proved he could throw from any part of his drop-back and find his hot reads with ease. It's one example of how quickly Fisher closes those windows of opportunity whenever there is a weakness to his team.
2. Competition strengthens conferences.
The death of the Big Ten and ACC may be exaggerated, but there's no denying the Pac-12 and SEC are getting tougher top to bottom. Big games and dramatic endings entice recruits, and athletic directors are able to assess more immediately what their football team is missing and what kind of coach they need to take that next step. Coaches are put in positions to succeed, just as players are.
3. The Big 12 will struggle to regularly get a team in the Final Four.
The round-robin scheduling of the Big 12 is the primary reason why, despite the talent it has, it might not land a team in the CFP. But that's not the only reason. There's more talent on offense than defense, which leads to some wild shoot-outs, and there's also enough diversity with teams like Texas, a more power-oriented team, TCU, with its air raid, and Kansas State, with a spread power-I. No team has the defenders to handle all of those attacks.
4. The secret is out about great coaches.
Teams are snatching up great coaching minds, making it harder for blue-bloods who missed a seat in Musical Chairs to buy their way in. Meanwhile, more programs than ever have a realistic hope during the off-season that they might become a champion.
5. Smaller is becoming better on the defensive line.
Up-tempo offenses are forcing defensive coordinators to find schemes that are simple but flexible; that way, defenders aren't asked to do things they don't have extensive practice in. In this way, defenses can manage to mostly stay true to their roots. One change that offenses force, though, is that defenses have to be more aggressive and make plays at the same level as the offenses they're facing. Turnovers, sacks, and tackles for loss have grown in importance. Up front, this has given rise to smaller defensive linemen who can both leverage the run game and force quick throws in the pass game.
Penn State's Anthony Zettel moved to the interior this season, and quickly become the team's most disruptive player. Michael Bennett is one of the best pass rushers in the Big Ten, and Iowa's Louis Trinca-Pasat has gotten as many sacks as Randy Gregory. Great defensive lines aren't strictly immovable, but they're stout and hectic for quarterbacks.
Hitting the Links Has A Swagger
A four- to five-star athlete that some have pegged as a wide receiver, Gibson gives the Big Ten a badly needed gold chip commit - and one from the state of Florida, to boot. Gibson chose Ohio State in part for their promise to keep and develop him at quarterback. I'd say I look forward to beating him several times over the next several seasons, but..... Ah, screw it. I look forward to seeing him lose to Michigan regularly over the next five years. (Now make this happen.)
This was too entertaining to keep out.
Only twice this year did he throw for under 400 yards in complete action. He finishes the year with 3,873 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
The Michigan offensive lineman is deciding between Michigan State, the Buckeyes, and a number of others that are not Maize and Blue. He is a borderline four-star in what is growing into a strong 2016 class in-state. On name basis alone, I'm also a big fan of Michael Jordan and Matt Falcon.
Amara Darboh and my favorite Iowa safety make the list.
The West will be very entertaining to watch over the coming weeks. A battle with Michigan State or Ohio State awaits.
It was an eventful week in ACC football, and this has all the analysis.
TCU-Kansas State is shaping up to be the game of the year for the Big 12; both teams were in the first top 10 last week, with the Horned Frogs #7 and KSU #9. They face off this week on FOX at 6:30.
Their gritty win against Penn State came at a cost: Stefon Diggs will not see action against Michigan State after UM comes off its bye.
While we're on the subject of Les Miles, here was a funny moment from a press conference earlier this year.
Stat of the week: There is a five-way tie for first place in the AAC, between Houston, East Carolina, UCF, Cincinnati, and Memphis.