Dooley: 13 things to take away from ’13 season

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) scores a touchdown as Duke safety Jeremy Cash (16) defends in the second half of the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31 in Atlanta. (AP Photo)

Published: Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 7:21 p.m.

The end of a college football season is like a fine wine — you have to breathe a little bit before truly being able to enjoy it. Never having tasted a wine finer than one that costs $15 a bottle, I’ll take this recommendation-turned-cliche at its word.

I do know that during the days since it all ended it has been fun to look back at what we thought we knew when the season started, what we knew we knew at the end of October and what we hope we know now.

It has been a crazy few days with hirings and firings and players declaring for the draft and some surprisingly staying for another year. So before we turn our attention completely to college basketball (I heard the NBA started as well), here are 13 things about the 2013 college football season that I will remember.

1. It was a terrible season for the SEC. The league struggled all year and its dominance of the sport ended. Oh, wait. It finished with four of the top seven teams in the final Associated Press poll? It won seven bowl games? I have to stay off Twitter. I know that things tend to get measured by national championships, but it’s not like the SEC fell off the planet because it lost one game in the last 13 seconds. Half of the league was in the top 25 in a year when Georgia and Florida had uncharacteristically bad seasons. It’s still the best league in the country and it’s still not close.

2. There is no doubt Florida State was the best team in the country this year, and we felt that way throughout much of the season, especially after the Seminoles clubbed Clemson. I know there are fans of the SEC who watched the national title game and screamed, “They’d never have gone through the SEC unbeaten.” It’s a moot point. They don’t have to. It’s why they chose the ACC in the first place. Let me ask you this, if you had a choice of driving through green lights instead of red lights, which would you do?

3. I started to pick a top 25 for next season, but I backed off because the college football landscape looks so uncertain. FSU is going to be the preseason No. 1 because it has so much talent returning, but the schedule toughens up next year. I know that teams lose players every year, but there seem to be so many key players either graduating or going pro. Still, expect the usual cast of characters in the preseason poll.

4. You have been hearing that one thing Charlie Strong will bring to Texas is toughness, and I do not doubt that. And anyone who has watched Texas knows the Longhorns need it. I also know Will Muschamp and Mack Brown clashed over the issue in Muschamp’s last year with the Longhorns. I also know it takes more than toughness to be successful.

5. Really, how did South Carolina lose to Tennessee? I watched it back in October and I still don’t get it. The Gamecocks finished fourth in the country despite losing to the Vols and a Georgia team that finished the season unranked. That’s college football.

6. Even with that game and a couple of other results that were difficult to fathom, I kind of lost my way this fall. College football let me down in October. It just wasn’t that good. Games that you were anticipating turned out to be laughers. And I fell for the NFL parity party. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. But hopefully, the four-team playoff (and inevitable move to eight teams) will force teams to schedule better.

7. I also promise to never again say, “No way.” I know that anything is possible. I should have learned when Steve Spurrier took a job to coach against Florida nine years ago. But I didn’t. Now Bobby Petrino is back at Louisville. He is Chris Brown to Louisville’s Rihanna.

8. Please, do not give credit to the BCS for the last game of its era. It matched up two teams that were deserving and staged a great game. But if it had matched up Arkansas and Colorado it might have turned into a great game. Instead, go read the column written by Dan Wetzel, Jeff Passan and Josh Peter, who earlier wrote the book “Death to the BCS.” It will remind you what a corrupt and stubborn system this was. And, by the way, in 16 BCS title games, there were only six games decided by 10 points or less. The BCS is thankfully gone, but if it wasn’t for Alabama and LSU matching up two years ago, we might still be stuck with it.

9. I’ll miss Johnny Manziel. He may be a loose cannon, but he was the most amazing college football player I ever watched. I don’t know if he was the best. Herschel Walker and Tim Tebow might argue that. But he was the most fun to watch. I hope he’s as good in the NFL. By the way, my brain has a hard time wrapping around the notion that Ronald Powell is going out early and LSU’s Jeremy Hill is not.

10. It’s easy to pick on the voters now, but I thought it would be interesting to point out that both polls had Florida ranked ahead of FSU in the preseason.

11. Another thing that has taken me a long time to grasp because I’m a little slow: Coaches are employees, just like you and I. And they are only devoted to the schools where they work and only until they no longer work there. Especially assistant coaches.

12. One more thing about the SEC — it was by far the most entertaining league. Think about the 10 most entertaining games of 2013. Georgia probably played in half of them.

13. Oh, one thing I forgot to include from my trip to three bowl games on Jan. 1 — SEC Media Days will be four days this year instead of three. I’m sure the haters will enjoy an extra day of ESPN’s wall-to-wall coverage.

That wraps up the year. If you are a recruitnik, enjoy it. If you like spring games, there’s one around the corner. But for me, college football seems so far away right now.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

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