It was a disappointing year for the Stanford Cardinal, who finished 9-3. After winning their first three games, which included beating UCLA and USC, the Cardinal suffered their worst loss of the year against Washington (44-6). The Huskies dominated the game and held star running back Christian McCaffrey to just 49 yards on the ground. Returning home against Washington State, Stanford expected to rebound. Instead, they suffered their second straight conference loss (42-16). While Stanford had been white hot winning their last five, anything but a bowl victory would be considered a disappointment in the Bay Area.
Finishing 8-4 on the year, the SEC Eastern Division champion Florida Gators would now be looking to get their swagger back. Although losing to Alabama 54-16 in the SEC Championship didn’t boost the team’s case, making the game at all was akin to a consolation prize.
After some cupcakes wins, the Gators took for granted their first real test, the Tennessee Volunteers. They lost 38-28, snapping an 11-game winning streak. Florida won their next three games before being crushed by Arkansas 31-10. A theme of the season for these Gators was a lack of offense, while defense was this team’s strength: Florida was ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense (17.9 PPG), passing defense (156.3 YPG), and total defense (298.3).
#16 West Virginia
West Virginia reached the double-digit wins mark for the first time since 2011. They finished third in the Big 12 conference with a record of 10-2, and their losses came against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The team is feisty and played with a lot aggression, but in their two losses, they never seem to have gotten started. Various mistakes cost this team an opportunity to play in the Big 12 championship game.
#15 Western Michigan
Winners of the MAC conference, the Western Michigan Broncos had an undefeated season (13-0)- and what a season it was. They rank eighth nationally in scoring offense (43.5 points) led by quarterback Zach Terrell along with wide receiver Corey Davis, the all-time FBS leader in receiving yards. However, except perhaps in their championship game, Western Michigan didn’t play any good teams, so the playoff committee rightfully ranked them outside the top 10.
Finishing 8-4 and second in the SEC West, the Auburn Tigers were a well-balanced team. They loved to control the line of scrimmage as they possessed a strong running game and a dominant defensive line. Auburn led the SEC in rushing, averaging 278.5 yards per game on the ground. The headliner was sophomore running back Kamryn Pettway, who was the only player with over 1,000 yards. When Pettway missed games due to injury, Kerryon Johnson and Stanton Truitt stepped in nicely to make the backfield a three-headed monster. Defensively, Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson were two of the best linemen in the country, having created a lot of pressure as they’ve combined for 21 tackles and 13.5 sacks.
Louisville Cardinals finished the season with a 9-3 record. Lamar Jackson led a stellar offense on his way to winning the Heisman trophy, racking up nearly 5,000 yards of total offense in 12 games and an ACC-record 51 touchdowns. He played like an improved version of Michael Vick with video game-like movement and a big arm.
The problems for Louisville happened when the offensive line couldn’t give Jackson enough time to throw or create running lanes. Another issue was when opposing teams were able to lock up the Louisville receivers, and Jackson became a sitting duck. Defensively, the Cards were at their best when they applied good pressure to the quarterback and limited the big plays.