Hope springs eternal for college football teams from coast to coast as we enter the first full weekend of action. Expectations abound and are especially heavy for squads in the top half of the preseason polls. If history is any indicator, though, a few will be left wondering how they fell so painfully short of expectations.
An examination of the preseason AP polls over the last 20 years yields a cornucopia of underachieving teams. Here’s a look at those epic shortcomings.
Alabama, 2000. Preseason No. 3: Finished 3-8. The Crimson Tide were coming off an SEC Championship under coach Mike DuBose. A lackluster offense only managed 20.7 points per game. Quarterback Andrew Zow was turnover prone, throwing 14 interceptions and just six touchdowns. Both Auburn and Southern Miss posted shutouts against Alabama. DuBose offered to resign but it wasn’t accepted. Complete debacle all around.
USC, 2012: Preseason No. 1. Finished 7-6. The Trojans became the first team since 1964 Ole Miss to start the season No. 1 and finish unranked. Matt Barkley was one of nine returning offensive starters. Lost five of their final six games, including a contentious Sun Bowl filled with locker room acrimony.
Notre Dame, 2016: Preseason No. 10. Finished 4-8. Plenty of NFL talent, including DeShone Kizer. The Irish lost to good teams (USC and Stanford). They lost to bad teams (Michigan State, Texas). They lost to in-between teams (NC State, Navy, Duke). They lost eight times — and won four. The memes are accurate.
Michigan State, 2016: Preseason No. 12. Finished 3-9. Tyler O’Connor proved to be woefully inadequate. The Spartans were torn apart internally along racial lines. The three wins came against Furman, Notre Dame, and Rutgers. Perhaps the most embarrassing display on this list.
Tennessee, 2005. Preseason No. 3. Finished 5-6. One would think the presence of Arian Foster in the backfield would have portended good things. But the two-headed monster of Rick Clausen and Erik Ainge throwing interceptions didn’t help. The Volunteers were 102nd out of 119 in points per game. Phillip Fulmer’s team lost three games in which they allowed a combined 42 points. Not great.
Texas, 2010: Preseason No. 5. Finished 5-7. Mack Brown did not get much production out of Garrett Gilbert. The Longhorns endured a four-game losing streak in which the offense failed to eclipse 22 points in any contest.
Arizona, 1999. Preseason No. 4. Finished 6-6. The Wildcats were coming in hot off a 12-1 campaign. Their sky-high rating looked immediately uncomfortable from the start with a 41-7 drubbing in Happy Valley. On the bright side, Trung Canidate had a spectacular year running the football.
LSU, 1998. Preseason No. 9. Finished 4-7. The Tigers went 2-6 in conference under Gerry DiNardo. Five of the seven total losses were by six points or less, so there was some bad luck involved.
Arkansas, 2012: Preseason No. 10. Finished 4-8. John L. Smith simply couldn’t clean up the mess Bobby Petrino left. The Razorbacks suffered embarrassing losses to Louisiana-Monroe and Rutgers. They were blanked 52-0 by Alabama and suffered a 48-point rout in College Station. The defense failed to show up repeatedly, surrendering an average of 30.4 points per contest.
Ohio State, 1999. Preseason No. 9. Finished 6-6. John Cooper’s Buckeyes were fresh off an 11-1 season. They faltered out of the gates in a nonconference game against Miami and went on to suffer lopsided defeats at home (42-17 to Wisconsin and 46-20 to Illinois).
Honorable Mentions, from most recent.
Georgia Tech, 2015: Preseason No. 16. Finished 3-9.
South Carolina, 2014: Preseason No. 9. Finished 7-6.
Florida, 2013: Preseason No. 10. Finished 4-8
West Virginia, 2012: Preseason No. 11. Finished 7-6.
Texas A&M, 2011: Preseason No. 8. Finished 7-6.
Ohio State, 2011: Preseason No. 18. Finished 6-7.
Florida, 2010: Preseason No. 4. Finished 8-5.
Georgia Tech, 2010: Preseason No. 16. Finished 6-7.
Clemson, 2008: Preseason No. 9. Finished 7-6.
Auburn, 2008: Preseason No. 10. Finished 5-7.
Arizona State, 2008. Preseason No. 15. Finished 5-7.
Louisville, 2007. Preseason No. 10. Finished 6-6.
California, 2007. Preseason No. 12. Finished 7-6.
UCLA, 2007. Preseason No. 14. Finished 7-6.
Florida State, 2006. Preseason No. 11. Finished 7-6.
Miami, 2006. Preseason No. 12. Finished 7-6.
Iowa, 2006. Preseason No. 16. Finished 6-7
Michigan, 2005. Preseason No. 4. Finished 7-5.
Iowa, 2005: Preseason No. 11. Finished 7-5.
Purdue, 2005. Preseason No. 15. Finished 5-6.
Florida, 2004. Preseason No. 11. Finished 7-5.
Kansas State, 2004. Preseason No. 13. Finished 4-7.
Missouri, 2004. Preseason No. 18. Finished 5-6.
Washington, 2002. Preseason No. 9. Finished 7-6.
Nebraska, 2002. Preseason No. 10. Finished 7-7.
Oregon, 2002. Preseason No. 15. Finished 7-6.
Oregon State, 2001. Preseason No. 11. Finished 5-6.
Kansas State, 2001. Preseason No. 13. Finished 6-6.
Northwestern, 2001. Preseason No. 16 . Finished 4-7.
Notre Dame, 2001. Preseason No. 18. Finished 5-6.
USC, 2000. Preseason No. 15. Finished 5-7.
UCLA, 1999. Preseason No. 16. Finished 4-7.
Arizona State, 1998. Preseason No. 8. Finished 5-6.
Colorado, 1997. Preseason No. 8. Finished 5-6.
Notre Dame, 1997. Preseason No. 11. Finished 7-6.
Texas, 1997. Preseason No. 12. Finished 4-7.
Miami, 1997. Preseason No. 13. Finished 5-6.
Alabama, 1997. Preseason No. 15. Finished 4-7.