Now that the bowl season is set, we prepare for all the showdowns with a quick look back at the regular season. It was a great year, especially watching Texas and USC beat all comers, all year on their road to the Roses. The BCS got it mostly right this year, but the inclusion of Florida State makes me hate those conference title games. Still, all four games have intrigue, and the ratings will soar in the Fiesta and Rose Bowls.
Marcus Vick was the player of the year, leading Virginia Tech all the way to the ACC title game and the best conference record before getting knocked off by FSU. Hard to believe he had not started a college game before this season, at least after watching the Hokies dismantle many good defenses. Coach of the year honors go to Frank Beamer, for many of the same reasons as Marcus above. Beamer has proven everybody wrong who thought VT wouldn't be able to compete in the new superpower by bringing home the best conference record two years in a row. Expect Beamer to see more success in years to come, but Miami will not lie low for long.
Surprise of the year has to be Florida State knocking off Virginia Tech to go to the BCS. Disappointment of the year was FSU, but given their Orange Bowl appearance, I'll give this honor to Miami. Out of the big three, Miami was the only one to not make the ACC title game, and it happened because of bad losses to Georgia Tech and FSU. Had Miami taken care of business anything like they did in Blacksburg, they would be in the Orange Bowl playing Penn State.
Vince Young has been a Heisman candidate all season, and if not for Reggie Bush, he might have locked it up with that drive at the Horseshoe in September. He will get his chance for revenge (assuming Bush takes home the hardware) against the last two Heisman Trophy winners in the Rose Bowl, as the Horns try to end USC's bid for a three-peat. Mack Brown gets coach of the year for finally bringing home his first conference title in 22 years and a second straight Rose Bowl appearance for a non-Rose Bowl affiliated school. He finally won the big ones, knocking off Oklahoma and Ohio State, and now he has one more huge hurdle.
Surprise of the year is the revival of Adrian Peterson after Oklahoma was off to a dismal 2-3 start. If not for some bad review against Texas Tech, OU would be the second best Big XII team with a six-game winning streak. The Sooners showed more heart of a champion this year with a 7-4 record than they did in last year's 12-0 season leading up to the slamming by USC. Disappointment of the year is Iowa State. For the second straight year, the Cyclones let the division title slip away in the last game. This year is especially painful, as ISU lost three of four conference games in overtime. They have to win the close ones against weak North teams to get a chance at the conference title, and they better hurry before the North finds a good team again.
Player of the year is Steve Slaton, and coach of the year is Rich Rodriguez. WVU did tie for the conference crown the past two years, but this year everybody said Pittsburgh and Louisville would smash the young Mountaineers. All WVU did was go 7-0 in conference and make the BCS with only one loss, that to a good Virginia Tech team on the road. Certainly this Sugar Bowl will be a tough challenge, but don't count out these young kids who may have a few more BCS berths in their future with play like this season.
Surprise of the year was Louisville squandering a 24-7 lead to WVU in the fourth quarter to lose in overtime 46-44. This was also the game of the year, as it would have given Louisville a BCS berth had they won. Disappointment of the year is a split between Louisville (with their high expectations) and Pittsburgh, but I give the nod to the bowl-ineligible Panthers. Guess those losses to Nebraska and Ohio University (the 4-7 Bobcats, not the BCS Buckeyes) hurt a little more now don't they?
Player of the year is A.J. Hawk of the co-champion Buckeyes. Sometimes high expectations are too hard to meet (see Ted Ginn Jr. for a Buckeye example from this year) in Columbus, but A.J. Hawk was the best defensive player in the country this season. The statistics are amazing, and Hawk is all over the field, either chasing down quarterbacks or running down receivers and running backs. Coach of the year is easily Joe Paterno. Only a year or two years removed from people saying he is too old for the college game, Paterno lead the Nittany Lions to their first conference title since 1994 and their first ever BCS appearance. One second in Michigan Stadium saved the BCS from the certain controversy three undefeated teams would have brought this season.
Surprise of the year was Purdue starting 0-5 in conference play, despite many people picking them to win the conference. Disappointment of the year could be Purdue, but I'll take the meltdown of Michigan State to miss bowl eligibility. They had Ohio State down 17-7 and the field goal unit on the field with a chance to really put a dagger in the Buckeyes going into halftime when they rushed the kick and only had ten men on the field. The ensuing block was a big part of the Buckeye's eventual 35-24 victory, and OSU did not lose another game while MSU won only one game, against lowly Illinois, the rest of the season.
Player of the year is D.J. Shockley from Georgia. If not for an injury and missing the Florida game, Georgia might be in the top five this season. With a big victory over LSU in the SEC title game, Shockley gets to end this season with two big games in Atlanta, the second the Sugar Bowl there in January. Coach of the year could go to Les Miles for sure, but Steve Spurrier gets the nod for making South Carolina a contender in his first year back at college. The Ol' Ball Coach has a lot of work to do, but Georgia and Florida have a lot of work to do if they hope to keep up in the future SEC East.
Surprise of the year was just how good LSU, Auburn, and Alabama were this season. Auburn is the best non-BCS team this season (sorry Oregon), and Alabama rode their defense to their best season in a decade. LSU overcame Hurricane Katrina and all the distractions to win the West and put the pride back in Louisiana. Disappointment of the year was Tennessee. Steve Spurrier's return always heralds bad news for Philip Fulmer, but usually not this bad. Tennessee lost bowl eligibility at the hands of their rival Vanderbilt; how the mighty preseason top five Volunteers fell from grace!
This season had a lot of great games. USC-Notre Dame, Ohio State-Texas, Ohio State-Michigan, Penn State-Michigan, Penn State-Ohio State, USC-Fresno State, Georgia-Auburn, and many others will fill our memories through the bowl season and off-season. I'm looking forward to a great bowl season!
Fitzy's Top 10 - Pre-Bowl Edition