Football Year in Review for 2013-14

Football season is over.  And while I won’t be having withdrawals due to the presence of college basketball’s stretch run and golf’s early season events, as well as the NASCAR and baseball seasons looming on the horizon, there will still be a small void, as the season of the most watched and most talked about sport in American culture has ended.

That being said, it was a great season, both in college football and the NFL.  While the season ended with an abysmal Super Bowl, with the Seahawks beating the Broncos 43-8, there were some fantastic games and moments throughout the season leading up to the end.

The excellence reached its peak in the NFC Championship, my choice for the NFL’s best game of the year, with the Seahawks beating the 49ers, 23-17, after scoring a touchdown late before intercepting Colin Kaepernick’s potential game-winner in the end zone with :22 left.  The year’s best player was, without a shadow of a doubt, Broncos QB Peyton Manning.  While many criticized his Super Bowl performance, Manning and the Denver offense weren’t solely responsible for allowing 43 points to the mediocre Seattle offense.  While a handful of turnovers, as well as a safety on the game’s first play, helped Seattle, Peyton’s tough night came after a record-setting season which may have been the greatest single season by a QB in NFL history (if it’s not, it’s among the top 2 or 3).  And he did all that at the age of 37.  While Panthers coach Ron Rivera was awarded the AP’s Coach of the Year award, considering this post is taking the entire season and postseason into account, I have to say my coach of the year is the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll.  Carroll came to Seattle after an ultra-successful run at USC, and inherited a team that had previously appeared in the playoffs 5 out of 7 years, but was beginning to fall off the map.  In 4 years, Carroll has won 2 NFC West titles, made 3 playoff appearances, won at least 1 game in each playoff appearance, and now has won the NFC and Super Bowl titles this year.

As for the Super Bowl itself, if I had had an official MVP vote on Sunday night, I would have broken the rules and given the MVP to the entire Seahawks defense.  While Malcolm Smith, who won the MVP after an interception, which he returned for a touchdown, as well as a fumble recovery, certainly contributed to the Seattle blowout win, it was simply an unbelievable performance by the entire unit who held the best statistical offense in NFL history to 8 points, and those 8 were scored once the game was out of hand.

As is, Smith is the first defensive player in 11 years to win Super Bowl MVP.  Although James Harrison of the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII and Tracy Porter of the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV both made major contributions to their team’s victories (both had interceptions returned for touchdowns), it had been since Super Bowl XXXVII when Dexter Jackson of the Buccaneers, who had 2 interceptions against the Raiders, that a defensive player won MVP.  The last linebacker to win MVP was Ray Lewis 2 years earlier, in the first of a pair of Ravens Super Bowl victories with Lewis.

As part of this year in review, I will look back at my weekly picks, made in both college and NFL games throughout the year.  The picks did not begin until the 3rd week of the college season, and Week 2 in the NFL, as that is when I began this blog.

First here is a week by week look at the college season:

Weeks 3-15 of the Regular Season:  3-2, 3-1, 2-2, 2-3, 3-2, 2-3, 2-3, 3-3, 1-4, 4-2, 1-4, 5-1, 3-4

Regular Season Total:  34-34

Bowl Week 1-2:  3-3, 6-3

BCS Bowls:  2-3

Bowls Total:  11-9

College Overall Total:  45-43 (.511 win percentage)

Now here is a breakdown of my college picks by category:

Game of the Week:  10-6

Big Game Guarantee:  16-17

Upset of the Week:  12-11

Closer Than The Experts Think:  7-9

While I naturally aim for perfection with these picks, I acknowledge that some of these categories, particularly the “Upset of the Week” and “Closer Than The Experts Think” categories, are difficult to pick.  With upsets, my realistic goal at the beginning of the season was a .500 record, and it turns out I ended up 1 game over .500.  As for the “Closer…” picks, a win or loss in my records were measured by both the outcome of the game and the spread.  I was, after all, saying that the underdog would lose the game but beat the spread, so wins and losses were measured as such.  So, I was aiming for a .500 record there too, but fell just short.  Highlight upset picks include both of my BCS upsets being correct (there were others I didn’t pick, but the ones that I did pick were right), correctly picking Michigan State’s upset of then #2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, correctly picking Duke’s upset of Miami (which eventually led to their division title), and predicting the Ole Miss upset of then #6 LSU.  There were, of course, some other upset picks I would like to have back, but that’s easy to say in this capacity here at the end of the season.  One highlight “Closer…” pick was in the Auburn-LSU game in Week 4, in which I said Auburn was an “up-and-coming” team, but that LSU would be too much.  That proved to be very true, as Auburn beat the spread but lost by 14 before going on their run of destiny all the way to Pasadena.  Other highlights included correctly picking the Texas A&M-Ole Miss game to be very close, and picking Duke to play Texas A&M very closely.  In that Texas A&M-Ole Miss game, the “Closer…” pick was a gamble, as the spread was just 6 points, but when Texas A&M won by 3, it counted as a personal win.

As for the “Game of the Week” and “Big Game Guarantee”, obviously the criteria was simply correctly predicting the outcome of the game.  I began the season winning 5 straight “Game of the Week” picks, before averaging a .500 mark the rest of the way.  The “Guarantee” was designed to be the pick of a game that most people thought was a toss-up, but I thought was a practical guarantee for one team to win, hence the name.  As the season went on, it became clear that my “guarantee” pick was anything but, as the teams picked in the category were under .500 on the season.

For a more thorough college football season in review, read my “College Football Postseason Power Rankings” post at https://stilesonsports.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/college-football-postseason-power-rankings/.

Here are the year’s NFL picks:

Regular Season by Week (I did not do picks every single week):  1-0, 0-1, 0-1, 0-1, 3-0, 2-0, 1-0, 3-2, 3-2

Regular Season Total:  13-7

Playoffs by Week (Wild Card, Divisional, Championship, Super Bowl):  1-3, 2-2, 2-0, 0-1

Playoffs Total:  5-6

NFL Overall Total:  18-13 (.581 win percentage)

While I know much more about the college game than the pro game, this year’s game picks show otherwise, as I did better picking NFL games, particularly during the regular season.  The highlight of my NFL picks was picking not only the outcome, but the 24-20 score correctly in the Panthers-Patriots game.  A couple of lowlights were picking the Bears to beat the Eagles before watching them lose 54-11, and going 1-3 in the NFL Wild Card Round (and the 1 win was only because of the Colts coming back from a 38-10 deficit to win 45-44 over the Chiefs).

So as we wrap up football until we see college games again in late August and pro games in early September, looking back on the season the focus should be on the champions.  The Seattle Seahawks are Super Bowl champions for the first time ever, and the city of Seattle has their first major professional sports title since 1979 (they have won a pair of WNBA titles, but this is the first major title).  Florida State won the final BCS title (before the start of the new College Football Playoff in 2014), for their first title since 1999.

And now, let the games continue, with (as mentioned) college basketball, golf, NASCAR, and baseball either in season or coming soon, and the Olympics beginning tomorrow.

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