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A letter from January 2015 — how the college football world has changed

AP Photo/Ryan Kang

Date: January 13, 2015

Dear Matt,

This is your 21-month-younger self. In a moment of distress, I wanted to write to you to ease my soul, knowing that however bleak the future might be, life goes on, and we’ll try to make sense of it.

Thank you for reading this letter and following the instructions to open the envelope after Week 5 of the 2016 college football season. Was there something magical or supernaturally resonant about Week 5 in 2016? What about Week 8 in 2017 or Week 2 in 2019?


I assure you, older Matt, that it was purely a random choice. I suppose I didn’t want too much of the future to slip away — that might have been a subconscious wish — but there was no intentional, mathematical, structured process at work. It was a “what the heck, who cares” kind of moment, the opposite of something planned.

Very simply, I am depressed.

I just watched this game last night, January 12, 2015:

NCAA FOOTBALL: JAN 12 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State -- Icon Sportswire

NCAA FOOTBALL: JAN 12 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship – Oregon v Ohio State — Icon Sportswire

No offense intended to Ohio State or Alabama, but college football is going to be pretty boring in the coming years. Urban Meyer and Nick Saban are going to remain the two best coaches in college football. One of them will continue to make and win the College Football Playoff. Crazy things happen in this sport, but Meyer and Saban are so far ahead of the curve that Jim Harbaugh will need time to catch up at Michigan.

Saban and Meyer having two of the four best teams in college football, year after year, doesn’t seem like much of a stretch at this point. I’ve given up, in this winter of early 2015, on the idea that the College Football Playoff will be marked by diversity on a consistent basis. Maybe this is my situational depression talking, but that’s how I feel the day after Ohio State ran away from Oregon in JerryWorld.

We know that Saban or Meyer (or both) will lord themselves over the college football kingdom. I am also convinced, (Older) Matt, that UCLA will continue to fall short of its potential and that Pitt will continue to blow fourth-quarter leads. I don’t have to worry about such trends ceasing to exist.

Part of my depression flows from the realization that other realities won’t change. Maybe Ohio State and Bama have the playoff on lockdown, but wouldn’t it be a change of pace — and make college football writing more compelling — if some plot twists occurred?

I lament that college football won’t bring about overhauls of the social order.

I lament that we won’t see North Carolina make good on its potential in the ACC Coastal. After another failure in 2014, it’s pointless to give the Tar Heels the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure, Older Matt, as you read this letter in early October of 2016, that UNC got crushed by Florida State. The Noles won their third straight ACC title a month ago (in December of 2014), so that’s an obvious call to make, especially in Tallahassee.

I lament that Houston and South Florida won’t become formidable teams anytime soon. Boise State might win four consecutive Group of Five New Year’s Six bowl berths at this rate, building off the Fiesta Bowl win two weeks ago against Arizona. I love Boise State, but can’t we have a change of pace? I don’t see it.

Tom Herman did really well roughly two weeks ago in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama, but Kevin Sumlin never got Houston to a BCS (now New Year’s Six) bowl. Why would Herman be that much better?

Willie Taggart came to Tampa with so much promise, but as he ends 2014 and looks ahead to 2015, what reason is there for hope at USF?

It’s not as though the Bulls — almost certain to start 2015 on the wrong note in September — will turn things around later in the 2015 season and beat Cincinnati twice by an average of over 30 points per game in 2015 and 2016.

OCT 1, 2016: South Florida Bulls running back D'Ernest Johnson (2) carries the ball during the game against the South Florida Bulls and the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. South Florida defeated Cincinnati 45-20 after winning by 38 the previous year. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

OCT 1, 2016: South Florida Bulls running back D’Ernest Johnson (2) carries the ball during the game against the South Florida Bulls and the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. South Florida defeated Cincinnati 45-20 after winning by 38 the previous year. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

There won’t be any real changes in other parts of the college football landscape, either, Matt.

Art Briles will continue to coach at Baylor and win big. It’s not as though Baylor will get taken to the wire by Iowa State or anything…

Michigan State and Mark Dantonio. Florida State and Jimbo Fisher. Gary Patterson and TCU. They’ll just continue to motor along — you can count on those coaches every single year at this point. As you open this letter after Week 5 of 2016, they might have one loss combined. It would be a scene from an alternate universe if they all had two losses early in the 2016 season. Like THAT’S going to happen, right?

I like those coaches, by the way, and have nothing against them. I just cringe at the lack of variety that seems to be more a part of FBS college football today. The future’s not going to be any different. I can feel it.


Stanford, Oregon, Stanford, Oregon, Stanford, Oregon. It’s just not going to be very interesting in the Pac-12 North the next two years. Yes, Chris Petersen might get things turned around at the University of Washington, but he might need four more years instead of only two, given the way his 2014 season unfolded in Seattle.

Washington beating Oregon in 2018? Maybe, if everything goes right. As you read this letter in early October of 2016, Matt, I’m sure your older self isn’t living in a world where Washington is, say, an 8.5-point road favorite heading into Autzen Stadium. There’s a zero-percent chance of that happening. Mark Helfrich just made the national championship game. He rocked Florida State and Jimbo in the Rose Bowl.

He seems to know what he’s doing.

I believe in Chris Petersen, but this is a long-term fix at Washington. He’ll win a North Division title in Seattle, but not until 2018, maybe 2017 at the earliest. Oregon will put another pasting on U-Dub in 2016 in Eugene…


Yes, a lot of things change in college football from year to year. It IS true, for instance, that Iowa and Northwestern will be really good in a single season and then will go back to being mediocre the next few seasons. THAT, like Meyer and Saban being the best coaches (and UCLA failing, and Pitt blowing leads), will remain intact. Yet, more of the FBS seems dominated by stasis and stagnation.

Come on, Matt — you know that members of the underclass such as — oh, let’s say South Alabama — won’t beat San Diego State two years in a row or something wild such as that.

You know, for instance, that Eastern Michigan will stay in the cellar of the MAC. What, you’re gonna tell me in 2016 that EMU can beat Bowling Green, which is currently (in January of 2015) making the MAC East its rental home? That’s a funny joke. We know that will never come to pass.

The next thing you’re gonna tell me, Northern Illinois won’t be good anymore. Suuuuuuuuuure.

Oh, and I’ll bet Wake Forest is going to go 4-0 and Notre Dame will start a season 2-3, losing to (let’s see here and grab an unlikely candidate)… Duke, yes DUKE at home.

I hope I’m making you laugh with these outlandish scenarios I’m tossing out to you in my state of all-encompassing ennui.

See, I love writing about college football, but for all the ways in which each season is exciting and interesting, I deeply fear that patterns and realities in this sport will continue to be entrenched.

You know I’m right about Saban and Meyer and UCLA and Pitt and Iowa and Northwestern, so of course I’m going to be right about everything else, especially what I said about Oregon and Washington.

Well, at least I got this off my chest. Maybe in 21 months — in early October of 2016 — I’ll feel better about the state of college football.

Yours truly,


PS — Speaking of things never changing, it feels as though the Cubs will wait another 100 years to win the World Series. This youth movement they have going on — seems like just the kind of thing to maybe peak at 90 wins if things really go right. It’s not as though a Cubs team will ever win 103 games or anything. See, baseball and college football are headed in the same direction. — M.Z.

A letter from January 2015 — how the college football world has changed

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