A quick synopsis of the offseason storylines you'll be reading in the coming months: Jimbo Fisher's $75 million deal might be a steal. Nebraska is about to upend the Big Ten's power structure. And, of course, Texas is back.
With seven months to kill between the last of the bowl games and the start of fall camp, the college football vacuum is inevitably filled with talk of the rising powers, the hot teams, the surprises seemingly everyone sees coming.
So when the Aggies won the most buzzed-about game of the season in seven overtimes against LSU, their fate was sealed. Look out, SEC West. Texas A&M is coming in 2019.
When Scott Frost halted a losing streak that felt like it dated back to the Bill Callahan era by winning four of his final six at Nebraska, it was obvious the Cornhuskers were going to be everyone's favorite 2019 dark horse.
And then there's Texas, whose return to prominence went from punchline to promise with an upset victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Like the annual song of the summer, the offseason narratives are catchy, then fun, then overexposed, then hated, then remembered with a hint of nostalgia by early October when it seems quaint that anyone was picking against Alabama or Ohio State in their respective conferences. In other words, Nebraska is college football's "Blurred Lines." A&M is our "Call Me Maybe."
"If you finish on a strong note, it can carry some positive energy into the offseason program," NC State coach Dave Doeren said. "But all the seniors are gone, and you're building a new team either way. Once you get past the first three or four days, it doesn't do much other than the stories written in the media."
Doeren's NC State team was the hit of the 2017 offseason, returning a crew of NFL-caliber defensive linemen, an explosive offense, and seemingly nipping at Clemson's heels in the ACC Atlantic. The Wolfpack proceeded to lose Game 1 to South Carolina in inexplicable fashion, piling up double the Gamecocks' yardage and still losing by a touchdown. So much for momentum.
The abrupt end to all the NC State love two years ago wasn't unique, however. Momentum, if it exists at all, tends to end the moment the calendars flips to a new season.
For example, big bowl wins -- like Texas thumping Georgia -- help create a good offseason narrative. But over the past five seasons, bowl winners have averaged one fewer victory the next season. In fact, Power 5 teams that lost bowl games in 2017 actually performed better, on average, in 2018 than the teams that won them.
As we all know, however, bowls are a tricky thing to diagnose. Stars sit out. Teams simply don't come to play. What's really telling is a team that finishes the season hot, then uses the bowl game as an exclamation point, right? Ah, not so fast.
Over the past five seasons, Power 5 teams that won at least four of their final six and capped it with a bowl victory, as Texas A&M did, haven't seen that energy carry over into the next season with much consistency, again averaging about one additional loss.
That all makes some intuitive sense, though. After all, hot teams that win bowl games have more room for decline than improvement, right? So let's look at a case like Nebraska. The Huskers were bad, figured some things out, and ended red hot. That's got to be a good indicator of future success, right?
Here are the 2017 Power 5 teams that showed the most improvement from the first half of the season to the second half: Kansas State, Northwestern, Boston College, Florida State and Missouri. Not exactly a murderer's row of playoff contenders.
So if momentum doesn't mean much, what does give us some hints about who'll make a big leap forward in 2019? Let's try a little reverse engineering by looking at the teams that improved the most from 2017 to 2018: Florida, Syracuse, Baylor and Kentucky. What do they all have in common?
The answer: None was a true contender. While all four made big strides from the previous season, none really pushed for a playoff spot, and by the start of November, there wasn't much optimism they'd win a division title. Finding the diamond in the rough, the next big thing? In the playoff era, it really hasn't existed. Over the past four seasons, Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma have accounted for 11 of the 16 playoff spots, which means there's not been much room for newcomers.
In the end, all that 2018 momentum does have some impact, though. While the climb to the top can be more of a slog than a rocket ride, that momentum can provide an essential foundation.
"It does help," Doeren said. "Anything positive helps. It does some things with recruiting. It feels good, it lets you talk about a lot of things that are positive, but at the end of the day, you're still developing a new team."