In August, we think we know everything. After a few weeks of the season, we know even more. Or so we think.
By the end of the season, everything we thought we knew in the first few weeks of the season is generally proven wrong. What did we believe early in the year that we know to be false now?
Texas A&M was a national contender
Remember the old days when South Carolina was a top-10 team and the Aggies rolled into their house and gave them the business? Good times, good times. That win over an overrated Carolina team propelled Texas A&M up into the top 10 themselves, setting off a chain reaction throughout the SEC.
In a jiffy, A&M went from rebuilding team to would-be contended. When they were beaten by Ole Miss and Mississippi State in back-to-back weeks, it somewhat artificially inflated their national rankings. Everyone soon realized what the Aggies were: a no-defense team with a one-dimensional and too-young offense.
Georgia would run away with the East
Once South Carolina fell on opening night, the East was Georgia’s for the taking. The Bulldogs had the second-best offensive weapon in the SEC in Todd Gurley and a deep and talented backfield behind one of the best offensive lines in the country, a quarterback who wouldn’t kill them with mistakes and enough talent on either side of the ball to compete with anyone.
All of those things remained true by season’s end, but Georgia did what they’ve done for the last several years: lost games they shouldn’t have. It started in Week 3 against the Gamecocks, when the Bulldogs had an opportunity to seize the game at the goal line late in the fourth quarter and mystifyingly didn’t give the ball to Gurley. When Gurley was suspended, Nick Chubb stepped right up in his place, putting up impressive performances one after another, and Georgia looked in good hands.
Then the Bulldogs lost to a Florida team that would go on to fire Will Muschamp just weeks later, costing themselves the driver’s seat position in the East and ultimately losing out to a Missouri team that couldn’t lose down the stretch, one that the Dawgs beat 34-0 in Columbia, Mo. Georgia may have been the best team on paper, even without Gurley, but they didn’t have the grit of Mizzou.
Dak Prescott would run away with the Heisman
It’s not that Prescott’s performances early in the season were fool’s gold; on the contrary, they showcased what a talented player he is, although all of Mississippi State’s three wins in a row over ranked teams look a little worse now that we look back on the season. The impressive dual-threat performances he put up started to become less frequent and marked by inconsistency and turnover issues as the season wore on. Prescott and the Bulldogs vaulted from unranked to No. 1 in a matter of weeks, and no one knew if a regression was coming. It did, and Prescott finished far out of the Heisman race.
Alabama would have a down year
There were a few falsehoods we believed about Alabama early in the season. So many called for Jacob Coker to start, and they were all made to look foolish as Blake Sims matured into one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country. It’s easy to see how the idea of Alabama not being up to par came to be.
The Crimson Tide looked rough in their opener against West Virginia, dealt with turnover issues in their SEC opener against Florida, couldn’t execute in their loss to Ole Miss, then barely squeaked by Arkansas. The win over the Razorbacks was what jump started the season for Nick Saban’s crew, and while their playoff bid looked in jeopardy on several occasions — the overtime win on the road over LSU, falling behind by 12 against Auburn — we can look back at the Arkansas win and see that Alabama had the guts to rise above the SEC West all along.
Dan Mullen would go to Florida
Mullen said all fall that he believed Mississippi State to be a marquee job as good as any in the country as the Bulldogs rolled along at No. 1, but come on. When a national powerhouse like Florida comes calling, coaches are supposed to pick up the phone. At the same time, coaches are supposed to say they don’t want to leave, and the public is supposed to dismiss those comments.
That’s how it went with Mullen, and everyone assumed he’d at the very least consider going back to the Swamp, where he was once offensive coordinator. Mullen wasn’t pulling any punches, though, and it really seems like he never considered leaving State, just as he kept insisting. When he said that defensive coordinator Geoff Collins taking the same job at Florida was a “lateral move,” we really knew how Mullen felt about the Gators job.