On the Matt: Preseason fact or fiction

Published 11:18 am Thursday, November 17, 2022

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By Matt Cizek

A 47-21 loss after trailing 47-7, coming off a 4-5 season.

That was the reality faced by the Mt. Prospect High School football team in Illinois in 2005.

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After winning the state championship in years prior, the team had taken what some might consider a fall and – it seemed – hit rock bottom in their season opener against then-defending state champion Downers Grove North High School.

Then, somehow, the team surprised everyone, rattling off 13 consecutive wins en route to their third and – to date – last state championship win.

Third place in the division after finishing in second place each of the last two seasons.

That was the pick many people had for the Chicago White Sox baseball team in 2005 after they completely changed philosophies and moved from a power-heavy offensive squad to one that would rely more on pitching and solid defense.

Yet no critic was laughing in the end, as the Chicago White Sox not only won the World Series that year but also went “wire-to-wire,” leading their division from the first day of the regular season until the last.

Back-to-back national champions.

That suggested how the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers would end up after winning their first national title under Tom Osborne in 1994.

Though you might expect to hear something else, this rang true.

The Cornhuskers repeated as National Champions in 1995, ending the year undefeated, with their closest margin of victory being a 14-point win against Washington State.

The best team in the American League

That’s what Sports Illustrated called the then-Cleveland Indians just before the start of the 1987 season, though their playoff drought lasted over 30 years.

Perhaps they were trying to offer hope rather than make a serious prediction.

If not, it was a miscalculation.

The 1987 team finished a paltry 61-101, the worst record in baseball that year.

What do these all have in common?

They are stories of teams as predicted just before or immediately after the start of the season.

As a writer, I enjoy analyzing new teams and making predictions.

Yet if there’s one thing I’ve learned, whether in sports or outside, it’s that predictions can always be changed because of unpredictable factors.

Sometimes, everything fits just right.

Such was the case with the 1995 Nebraska team, who clicked on all cylinders from day one and never looked back.

Sometimes, something gets overlooked.

While the 1987 Cleveland Indians baseball team featured the strength of two returning 30+ home run hitters from the previous year (Joe Carter and Cory Snyder), many overestimated its pitching staff – who wouldn’t perform exceptionally well during the season.

Underestimating can be a cause for error as well.

Still, perhaps the exception to the rule is why many coaches advise taking every opponent as seriously as the last.

One can never be too sure what the year will bring or what might happen the next time two teams take the field.