The Dumb Fun of Preseason Predictions is Part of What Makes College Football Great

By Johnny Ginter on August 5, 2022 at 10:10 am

Nostradamus was kind of a moron.


Kicked out of med school, he peddled fake cures for the plague before figuring out his real talent in life: making up weird cryptic poetry (most of which he just cribbed from other sources) and being an astrologer to the rich and famous. This is an example of one of his famous quatrains:

A colonel with ambition plots,
He will seize the greatest army,
Against his Prince false ambition,
And will be discovered under his arbor

Holy shit! Well, clearly "arbor" refers to Ann Arbor, and working backwards we can understand that "Prince" means "employer", "greatest army" means an NFL team, and this "colonel" is clearly Jim Harbaugh.

That's right, friends: in the mid 1500's, Nostradamus predicted that Jim Harbaugh would attempt and fail to leave Michigan for the NFL.

Of course, we're not all so lucky to be touched by the gods with the power of prognostication that a gouty weirdo from hundreds of years ago received, so every year we dutifully trudge to the content mines to wring a few preseason predictions out of the college football that may or may not come true.

I'd like to think that I have a fair bit of knowledge about that particular sport, at least in a general sense, which in a fair and just world would lead me to be able to make somewhat accurate guesses as to what is about to transpire in the next four months or so. And there are some hits! I predicted that Ohio State would lose to Virginia Tech in 2014, I was confident that the Buckeyes would smoke everyone on the Big Ten schedule in 2019, and I knew Urban Meyer would absolutely flame out in the NFL almost immediately.

But man, there are some misses.

Here's me taking Florida State to win the 2017 national championship (they finished 7-6). Here's me in that same year saying that Ohio State would "become a pass first team that utilizes four wide sets for hilariously long stretches of games and looks way more like something Mike Leach would field", right before a season where the Buckeyes absolutely did not do that and ran the ball 57% of the time. Here's me picking Trace McSorley to win the 2018 Heisman, which, yikes. And here's me picking Oklahoma to win last year's national championship with Spencer Rattler as their Heisman-winning QB.

A lot of that can be chalked up to me being dumb and wrong, and I guess if you want to leave it at that you could. On the other hand, it's also possible that college football is a wondrously mercurial sport that defies most attempts to rein it in via metrics and data and educated guesses.

I picked Florida State to win the national championship in 2017, for example, in part because they were a the preseason No. 3 team in the country. Oklahoma was also the preseason No. 3 last year, and Spencer Rattler was the betting favorite to win the Heisman before, you know, getting benched and transferring later on.

And yes: maybe this entire article is just to justify some really garbage, half-assed hot takes that I'll perfunctorily trot out in a few weeks, but also maybe the thing about college football that's so appealing is that it often defies prediction.

This is obviously a weird thing to say coming from the fan of a team that thrives on a hegemony over an entire football conference, but sports are more fun when they're less predictable. The promise of March Madness is right there in the name; even though it's ultimately much less Mad than we hope for, crazy upsets and last minute drama are why we watch so religiously every year. The last two national championship-winning seasons for the Buckeyes are firmly imprinted in our brains, not in the least because of how those championships were won in heart-stopping, improbable fashion.

Some people do attempt to wrangle in the ridiculousness that is this sport that we agonize over every year, and God bless guys like Bill Connelly for trying. But hell: maybe in this insane, goofy yearly exercise we call college football, it's ultimately better not to know.

One last quatrain from our friend Nostradamus.

All eyes will be on the field in the eleventh month
As the sun reaches its apex, a wolverine cries
Nutty tree and root strangles its rival
Go Bucks, Michigan sucks

Wow, okay, there you have it, Ohio State beats Michigan 52-21. You heard it here first.

View 25 Comments