Cus Words: College football end-of-season musings

Another college football season is in the books, and so it’s time to look ahead to another college football season.

But first, what did we learn from this one?

  • I got a text during the national championship game from a friend that Ohio State was probably better off not being in that game. Hard to disagree. What Alabama and Georgia were doing on defense did not look much like what Ohio State has been doing the past two years. Well, Ohio State actually wanted to have a similar structure, but I mean the finished product. The Georgia defense lived up to the hype with stars throughout, and while that was not a vintage Alabama defense, they played downhilll and had a star to erase mistakes in Will Anderson Jr. Ohio State has been missing that kind of player since Chase Young left town.
  • Those defenses — especially Georgia — just played so much faster and more physical than Ohio State it’s hard to fathom.
  • The game also offered a counter to the (probably correct) notion you have to have a high-powered offense to win it all, though the outcome was heavily impacted by the fact Georgia was elite on defense the way few teams are anymore and Alabama was really short on skill players by the end of the night.
  • And so we have a new national champion — but the South still rules college football. Georgia was viewed as the best chance for a breakthrough for the past four years or so, and it will be interesting to see how getting over that hump impacts the Bulldogs. Can they continue to meet such a standard, or is this a one-year blip?
  • Nick Saban has built an incredible program in Tuscaloosa, but their domination of the playoff era has been helped by the decline of much of the rest of the SEC. The depth of that league was ridiculous 10 years ago, but Saban is the last man standing from a group of great coaches who elevated it. Now surviving the league isn’t as much of a challenge, and winning it all is a matter of being good at the end of the year — just being better than the team across from you that day.
  • That Georgia won with a so-so quarterback is a bit of a narrative breaker. I have been saying for a few years that a great quarterback can be worth a few spots in the recruiting rankings, as was the case for Clemson and Oklahoma. That’s probably still the more realistic formula than recruiting as many good players as Alabama, but then of course Ohio State seems to be trying to do both.
  • I haven’t really looked deeply at who has what coming back, but Ohio State has the potential to win it all next season because the offense could be literally unstoppable, as the 2020 Alabama unit was, if the offensive line is more consistent. That Crimson Tide group had no weakness despite losing a great receiver early in the year. There was no way to defend them because they could run you to death with a five-star talent and stud offensive line if you backed off or kill you all over the field with an accurate, smart QB and great receivers. The offensive line should be at least average, and it could be better than that.

  • The defense is truly an unknown. For the first time in a decade, they are going to run a scheme instead of just trying to win 11 matchups across the field most plays. That’s a good idea, but how long will it take to click? I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a full year or more, but getting it late in the season might be soon enough as long as they can get to December with no more than one loss.
  • Ohio State should have enough options to find players at every position on defense, but I thought that last year and it didn’t happen. The reason for that remains hard to pin down. Was it a lack of development? Faulty mindset? Poor scheme? Injuries? Some players just not as good as they looked coming out of high school? Probably a little bit of everything.
  • The Buckeyes were pretty young — thanks to some older guys not panning out in some cases. Some of the veterans of the 2021 team just couldn’t get on the field, and some who did were among the most disappointing players. Those who return will have a chance to change the narrative this year, though, and some of the youngsters who bit as pups last year also represent reason to get excited.

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