If you were ranked between No. 10 and No. 13 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll last year, then your college football season didn’t work out so well. None of those four teams finished with a winning record, and only one—No. 13 TCU at 6-6—ended up making a bowl game.
No. 10 Notre Dame was the one that received the most public shaming of them all with cheeky jokes about April 8 being Notre Dame Day after it finished the season 4-8. However, at least the Fighting Irish will probably be able to rebound quickly.
No. 11 Ole Miss went 5-7 and won’t be competing for anything over the next half-decade with the fallout from the Hugh Freeze era, while No. 12 Michigan State finished 3-9 and doesn’t figure to compete in the loaded Big Ten East any time soon.
Let’s take a look at some of the teams that might be joining that struggle bus in the 2017 campaign.
1. Michigan Wolverines – The Preseason Coaches Poll for 2017 just came out, and there is little doubt who the most overrated team in the nation is heading into the year. Michigan is ranked No. 9 despite losing more talent than almost any squad in the country. The Wolverines only return five starters from last year’s team and must break in virtually an entirely new defense.
You can see the logic behind it. Michigan won 10 games last season, Jim Harbaugh is a great head coach, Ohio State did it last year, etc. However, Michigan has not recruited at nearly the same level that Ohio State has over the last few seasons. Harbaugh’s last two classes have been good, but the Wolverines’ upperclassmen aren’t anywhere near as great as the Buckeyes’ juniors and seniors were last year.
There are way too many question marks surrounding Michigan. The Wolverines don’t have a quarterback they can rely on, while freshmen and sophomores dot the two-deep. Michigan will be fine at the end of the season, but it won’t be good at the start of the year and aren’t worthy of the lofty ranking.
2. LSU Tigers – How does LSU continually get rated so high? The Tigers started last season ranked No. 5 and ended up losing two of their first four games. Everyone loves head coach Ed Orgeron, but how much has he done to inspire this much confidence? He was 10-25 in three seasons at Ole Miss and went 6-2 as the interim coach at both USC and LSU.
The Tigers lost their five leading tacklers from last season, and the only star from last year that returns is pass rusher Arden Key. It’s hard to imagine they will be better on this side of the ball after four starters were selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft.
LSU also lost its superstar from last season. Leonard Fournette wasn’t healthy for much of the year, but he was a monster when he was 100 percent. Not having him with a still unsettled quarterback situation stings.
3. Louisville Cardinals – The Lamar Jackson that we saw at the end of last season was much different than the one we saw when the season started. The Heisman Trophy winner set the world on fire through the first ten games of the year, but then he struggled in the last three matchups of the season. The book seemed to be out on him after that point.
Jackson is one of just four offensive starters returning from 2016. His O-line is mostly inexperienced and the receiver with the most catches that’s returning grabbed just 27 passes.
Things can go bad quickly. Louisville must play at North Carolina in Week 2 and hosts Clemson in Week 3. The Cardinals could easily start the season 1-2.
4. Miami Hurricanes – It’s time for Miami to do something to prove that the hype that seems to build around this team every August is warranted. The Hurricanes have been in the ACC since 2004 and still have yet to win a division title. They are very talented and return 15 starters from last year, but they have yet to find a quarterback. There’s a very good chance that true freshman N’Kosi Perry starts the season, and that always comes with bumps and bruises.
The Hurricanes haven’t beaten their biggest rival since 2009, and the impact that the game has on the team’s psyche is tremendous. For the past few seasons, Miami has started off strong and built up belief that this is the year it finally knocks off FSU, only to see its hopes dashed. That loss is typically followed by a mini-implosion in which the team quits. The ‘Canes play FSU in mid-September, and a loss that early could devastate them.
5. Oregon Ducks – Willie Taggart has always been a slow starter. He won two games in his first season at both Western Kentucky and South Florida before starting to really turn it around in his second year. We’re not calling for Oregon to win just two games this season, but ranking the Ducks in the Top 25 after finishing 4-8 in 2016 is a little absurd.
Taggart kicked star receiver Darren Carrington off the team in order to set a precedent, and losing your team’s best pass-catching weapon isn’t easy. It will take some time for Taggart and the team to mesh, but when it does the Pac-12 North will once again belong to Oregon.