College Football’s 10 Most Disappointing Teams
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Many FBS teams are wondering what went wrong after starting the year with high expectations. We rank the Top 10 Most Disappointing Teams based on how far short of expectations they fell. The postmortem won’t be pretty.
After winning last year's Sugar Bowl, Michigan started No. 8 in the preseason AP Poll and even received a first-place vote. Heisman hopeful Denard Robinson was expected to be a dangerous duel threat in his second season working with OC Al Borges.
Shoelace’s Heisman hopes were dashed in a thumping against Alabama. He never got better as a passer and by season’s end was a glorified, single-wing QB.
If close wins over Air Force, Michigan State and Northwestern had gone the other way, UM would have finished under .500.
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In addition to boasting new gigs in the SEC, Mizzou could also tout the nation’s top overall recruit (WR Dorial Green-Beckham), a Biletnikoff Award candidate (T.J. Moe) and a dangerous duel threat QB (James Franklin). The makings of an offensive power in the nation’s toughest conference, right?
Wrong. Franklin regressed badly and split time with freshman Corbin Berkstresser starting in the third game. Neither Green-Beckham nor Moe exceeded either 40 catches or 400 yards as the Tigers’ once prolific passing attack ranked just 81st in the nation (217.9 yards/game).
What made the Tigers’ 5–7 season (2–6 in the SEC) look worse was the immediate success that its fellow Big 12 transplant, Texas A&M, enjoyed. The Aggies routed Mizzou, 59–29, in their regular season finale with Johnny Manziel (and not Franklin) continuing his star turn as an all-everything star QB.
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A star player can carry a team to heights it wouldn’t dream of without him. The other side of that coin is a severe drop-off in the team’s fortune if and when he’s suddenly (and cruelly) taken away. For the Utes, the latter was the case when they lost cerebral QB Jordan Wynn in the second game of the season.
Utah, a fringe Top 25 team when the season began, never got over Wynn’s career-ending shoulder injury. Its offense slumped to 100th in the FBS in passing (190.7 yards/game) and 95th in rushing (133.7 yards/game). Wynn’s replacement, freshman Travis Wilson, has the physical makeup (6-foot-6 and 230 pounds) to one day be a star. But it wasn’t to be in 2012.
While a 5–7 season isn’t apocalyptic, it was certainly a drop-off for a team that went 8–5 during its inaugural season of Pac-12 play last fall.
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Bulls QB B.J. Daniels was expected to shine in 2012. After accounting for over 3,200 yards of offense in 2011, the senior started this season on watch lists for both the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Awards.
Daniels started strong, with seven TDs — six passing, one rushing — in his first two games. Unfortunately he slowed down considerably after that, with just 12 TDs in his next seven contests. His season came to an early end after he suffered a broken left ankle against UConn on Nov. 3.
More worrying to USF fans and administrators was the ease with which the team went into a tailspin. A 23–13 loss to Rutgers on Sept. 13 was the start of a 1–8 funk to end the season after a 2–0 start. This comes after a 1–7 finish to 2011 after the team had started 4–0 and rose to No. 16 in the BCS. Coach Skip Holtz best watch his back going forward.
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Two years ago, the Tigers ran the table en route to a national title. But in 2012, they weren’t capable of running by or over anyone. In the BCS era, no team has gone from the mountaintop to the pits in such swift fashion.
Auburn started the season just outside the AP Top 25 preseason poll but went 3–9 (0–8 SEC). The Tigers weren’t just winless in the SEC, they were totally outclassed by their opponents. They lost by 18 points to Mississippi State, 17 points to Arkansas, 21 points to Ole Miss, 42 points to Texas A&M, 38 points to Georgia and 49 points to Alabama.
Understandably, Gene Chizik was axed as soon as that loss to the Tide was in the books. Who could’ve foreseen upon his controversial 2008 hiring that Chizik would be both a leader and a loser during his tenure at Auburn?
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Prior to the season, it had been 20 years since a Hokies team had failed to win eight games in a season, including an amazing nine seasons of 10-plus wins in the past 10 years. With the rest of the ACC looking weak outside of Clemson and Florida State, Tech looked prime to perpetuate their past success.
Starting as the preseason No. 16 team, the Hokies endured their worst — and sloppiest — season in recent memory. A four-turnover stinker against Pitt on Sept. 15 sent Virginia Tech tumbling from a No. 13 ranking into a 2–6 midseason funk. The defense, normally so stout, was gashed repeatedly. 48 points allowed against North Carolina. 38 against Clemson. 30 against Miami (FL). 28 against Florida State.
If Virginia Tech wants to return to glory, they’re best off returning to the bruising style of play — running the ball, good defense and special teams — that has been its calling card under Frank Beamer.
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Mark Dantonio's punishing brand of football worked wonders in back-to-back, 11-win seasons in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, the defense was once again stingy (10th best in FBS at 16.3 points/game), and RB Le’Veon Bell rumbled for 1,648 yards and 11 TDs. So how on earth did Michigan State, ranked 13th in the preseason and picked by many to reach its first Rose Bowl since 1988, finish just 6–6?
Bell’s All-Big Ten caliber performance aside, the offense struggled. QB Andrew Maxwell was unable to replace the steady hand of Kirk Cousins, completing under 53% of his passes and tossing a mere 13 TDs. The Spartans’ 20.3 PPG were just 107th in the FBS. In MSU’s six losses, that average dipped to 14.8.
And after going undefeated at Spartan Stadium the previous two seasons, Michigan State was just 2–5 there in 2012, including losses in its last four home games.
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It took two years for Auburn to go from being the toast of college football to a calamity. For West Virginia in 2012, it only took five games.
Following exciting, shootout victories over Baylor (70–63) and Texas (48–45), the Mountaineers rose to No. 5 in the BCS, spurring talk of a national championship and a Heisman Trophy for QB Geno Smith. Then it all came crashing down with five straight losses in which West Virginia allowed an average of 49.6 PPG.
Smith still boasts a sparking 37-to-5, TD-to-INT ratio heading into Saturday’s season finale against Kansas and should be a high NFL draft pick next spring. The long-term future of head coach Dana Holgorsen, on the other hand, seems far less certain with the 'Eers likely headed to the Pinstripe Bowl instead of the BCS National Championship Game.
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Bobby Petrino had cultivated a juggernaut in Fayetteville paced by stars at QB (Tyler Wilson) and RB (Knile Davis). Even after “Motorcyclegate” broke and Petrino resigned, the Hogs were still highly thought of enough under successor John L. Smith that they earned a No. 10 preseason ranking.
Then the Razorbacks suffered a shocking, 34–31 home loss to Louisiana-Monroe. A 52–0 blowout loss at home to Alabama the next week turned John L. Smith into a dead man walking.
With both Wilson and Davis battling injuries throughout the season, the offense regressed mightily. In 2011, the Hogs averaged nearly 37 PPG, including nine games of 30-plus points. This year, Arkansas’ scoring average dipped to 23.5 and they exceeded 30 points just three times.
While a drop-off was expect under Smith, few expected the Hogs to fall off a cliff like they did.
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A team that started the season No. 1 in the AP Poll finished the regular season 7–5. A preseason No. 1 team hadn't lost five games in nearly 50 years (1964 Ole Miss).
USC was soft. Especially in the trenches. Too often this season, the offensive line allowed QB Matt Barkley to be knocked down and/or harassed into hurried throws. On the other side of the ball, the defense proved susceptible to smash-mouth football, allowing an average of 248 yards/game in USC’s five losses.
To say nothing of Lane Kiffin. Let’s look at his blotter: Lied about voting USC No. 1 in the preseason coaches’ poll. Banned a beat writer for reporting on an injury to a kicker. Tried skirting the rules by switching a player's jersey for a PAT and deflating balls for the Oregon game.
An Oscar-worthy season was expected of Hollywood’s team. Instead, USC's campaign was akin to “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”
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