The 2016 college football regular season is all but over. Here are the 10 most disappointing programs.
Michigan State Spartans: Mark Dantonio’s track record indicated a high floor. Multiple TBL writers had the Spartans returning to the playoff. Instead, MSU went 2-9 vs. FBS teams with wins over Rutgers and Notre Dame. Their defense was leaky. Their offense was stale. They cycled through quarterbacks. The highlight of B1G play was not winning against Michigan or Ohio State at home. One could set the entire season from Wisconsin onward to Curb Your Enthusiasm music.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish: The Irish played many disappointing teams and lost to just about all of them, finishing 4-8 with a 1-7 record in one-score games. Horrific defense. Offensive outages. Turnovers. Notre Dame kept it interesting with multiple ways to lose. The lead storylines were Brian Kelly throwing people under the bus, NCAA sanctions for academic misconduct, and profoundly dirty play.
Oregon Ducks: The preseason polls looked like they were underrating Oregon. Instead, they overrated the Ducks, by a wide margin. Inept quarterback play. Porous defense. Oregon ended up 4-8 overall, dead last in the Pac 12 North. Giving up 70 at home to Washington was a particular lowlight for Brady Hoke. The season may cost Mark Helfrich his job.
UCLA Bruins: Star quarterback getting injured. Glaring weaknesses on the offensive line and elsewhere. Substandard coaching. UCLA found a way to lose against every non-moribund team it played. Once a hot coaching commodity, Jim Mora has lost 11 of his last 13 against Power 5 teams and appears to be hanging on by his $15 million buyout clause.
Cincinnati Bearcats: The riverboat gambler lost and kept losing. Gunner Kiel went from Top 20 in passer rating and yards/attempt as a junior to third-string as a senior. The Bearcats went 1-7 in AAC play and lost seven of eight to close the season. Cincinnati lost by about three touchdowns to every decent opponent. Incredibly, they gave up 20 points and 400 total yards against UConn.
Ole Miss Rebels: Explosive, erratic offense. Consistently ineffectual defense. Ole Miss nearly beat Bama, crushed Georgia, and upset Texas A&M. They also lost by 21 to Vanderbilt and 35 to a 4-7 Mississippi State team in the Egg Bowl to close the season. The Rebels can look forward to an offseason of contemplation and NCAA sanctions.
Texas Longhorns: Texas found a quarterback. They had the nation’s most productive running back. But, the bottom fell out on defense. Five of the Longhorns’ losses were by one score, but so were three of their wins. Players pledged fealty to Charlie Strong. When his job was on the line, they lost to Kansas. A second-half collapse against TCU secured their third-straight losing season.
Tennessee Volunteers: The Vols had a raft of injuries. They didn’t look that great when healthy and should have lost to Appalachian State. This was the most talented team in a putrid SEC East. They couldn’t beat South Carolina and Vandy to salvage a division title or a Sugar Bowl nod respectively. Butch Jones is fortunate Tennessee has to figure out its AD situation before addressing him.
Georgia Bulldogs: This was not an auspicious debut for Kirby Smart. Georgia had a solid defense and a below average offense. Losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech. Near losses to Nicholls and Missouri. The Bulldogs did not give a single convincing performance. The schedule lined up well for them to take advantage in the SEC East, but they couldn’t.
LSU Tigers: Top five talent coming back. Top five coaching staff expenditure. Nowhere near a top five finish. Whether it was under Miles or Orgeron, an LSU offense with two NFL running backs and a boatload of talent elsewhere could not produce points in its four games against quality defenses. The Tigers did not beat an FBS team with a conference record better than .500.