20 College Football Teams Whose Season Could Be Over by Week 3
The first three games of the college football season mark the first quarter of the season and the beginning of the meat of the schedule.
That first quarter of the season sets the stage for how the rest of the season will unfold, gives us a glimpse at players starting for the first time and helps fans determine which snack food they will continue to consume regularly, and which ones need to go the way of the dodo bird.
The 20 teams on this list, for various reasons, have the potential to find their seasons crashing down around their ears after only week three.
Of course, then fans will have the opportunity to say "wait until next year," which have got to be our least favorite words.
Even if these teams enjoy success following a miserable first three games, their aspirations to success will have fallen into smoldering dreams, especially with the losses each team will suffer within the conference.
20. Texas State Bobcats
Schedule: at Houston, Texas Tech, bye
Operating under the belief that on 0-2 start sounds the death knell for a team's season, the Bobcats are in trouble.
Houston, despite the loss of Case Keenum at quarterback, is still loaded with talent and will beat up on the Bobcats in their first FBS game.
Then it only gets tougher with Seth Doege and company coming to town.
Even so, Texas State will likely consider this season a success even if it loses every game just by virtue of the fact that it is now now in the FBS.
But those first two meetings will not be pretty.
19. Miami(OH) Redhawks
Schedule: at Ohio State, Southern Illinois, at Boise State
The Redhawks are set up for a big, big season in the MAC.
Quarterback Zac Dysert is back, and receiver Nick Harwell has the ability to dominate games with his physical style of play and speed.
It just appears as if the Redhawks have bitten off a little more than they can chew in their first three games.
The season opener at Ohio State is ridiculously tough, and week three at Boise State will be no cupcake, either.
Even with eight returning starters on either side of the ball, Miami is going to have a tough time hanging with the Buckeyes and Broncos.
18. Iowa State Cyclones
Schedule: Tulsa, at Iowa, Western Illinois
It's true, the Cyclones are not exactly pushovers anymore, hanging around the .500 mark last season.
Just ask Oklahoma State.
Paul Rhoads has this program headed the right direction.
Their first two games next season are not cupcakes, as Tulsa has plenty of talent, more than you might expect, and Iowa, led by a solid defense, will be out for revenge after last season's overtime loss to the Cyclones.
I fully expect them to split the first two games, but a 0-2 start would not be surprising and an absolute dagger to the Cyclones' chances of having a great season.
The Big 12 is just too tough for them to win more than four or five games in the conference this season.
17. Michigan State Spartans
Schedule: Boise State, at Central Michigan, Notre Dame
Let's be frank here: The Spartans are one of the best defensive teams in the nation heading into 2012, in spite of some key losses.
Where the question marks lie is with the offense, which lost its top three receivers and quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Andrew Maxwell, Cousins' replacement, has been around the program long enough to grasp the offense, but still has limited options at receiver, and will need to adjust to game speed.
If those question marks are resolved, the sky is the limit for Mark Dantonio's squad in 2012.
Boise State has made a name for itself knocking off ranked opponents from BCS conferences early in the season, while Notre Dame is never easy.
The Spartans should be able to navigate through these three games with minimal difficulty, but the possibility of two losses is not something to ignore.
16. LSU Tigers
Schedule: North Texas, Washington, Idaho
I know, LSU, Really?
While they are still a very tough defense, Tyrann Mathieu's departure from the team means both All-American cornerbacks that returned kicks and terrorized opposing receivers are gone.
Before LSU fans freak out, let's keep in mind there are very talented members of this team still on the field.
However, if those same fans think that losing Mathieu will not impact this team, they will find themselves sadly mistaken.
In the Tigers' game against a potent Washington offense in week two, we will get a glimpse of how solid, or weak, the secondary will be, and therefore, what the level of expectations should be this season.
15. Arizona State Sun Devils
Schedule: NAU, Illinois, at Missouri
This Arizona State squad has running back Cameron Marshall and not much else going for it in Todd Graham's first season at the helm.
Vontaze Burfict is gone, the defense is talented, but inexperienced, and a new quarterback takes over behind a suspect offensive line.
While the game against the NAU Lumberjacks is not really one to pose too many problems for the Sun Devils, both Illinois and Missouri pose significant barriers to starting the season on a good note.
14. UConn Huskies
Schedule: UMass, N.C. State, at Maryland
UConn gets the lovely task of welcoming UMass to the world of FBS football.
After that, it gets interesting.
N.C. State is going to be a very solid squad this season, led by the underrated Mike Glennon at quarterback.
Maryland, despite its difficulty with uniforms, is not a pushover this season, and the game is on the road for the Huskies.
At least one loss in the first three games is in the cards for Paul Pasqualoni's squad, probably two.
13. East Carolina Pirates
Schedule: Appalachian State, at South Carolina, at USM
Ah, the Pirates.
Has anybody else ever stopped to ponder those colors on a pirate?
I mean, is the color scheme of purple and black something you can see Blackbeard sailing around wearing?
Anyway, the Pirates are going to be absolutely devastated by South Carolina in Columbia, and following that up with a trip to Southern Miss is no picnic.
A loss in each of those games would put ECU behind the eight-ball with two losses overall and one in the conference after only three games.
12. Navy Midshipmen
Schedule: Notre Dame, at Penn State, VMI
In case you are wondering, it's not VMI on this list that Navy should be concerned about.
The Navy received a beating at the hands of Notre Dame last season, 56-14, after beating the Irish in each of the previous two meetings.
Penn State obviously has issues of its own and plenty of talent has left, but the game is in Happy Valley and that's not usually a pleasant place for opponents to visit.
A 2-0 start, though not the end of the world for Navy, would be a difficult way to start a bowl campaign.
11. Syracuse Orange
Schedule: Northwestern, USC, Stony Brook
Fortunately for Syracuse, it gets to host its first three games.
Unfortunately for the Orange, this is football, not basketball, and two of the first three opponents are FBS teams.
Northwestern has been working hard in recent season to shed the perception that it flat out sucks at football and has only had one losing season out of its last five.
Even if the Orange handle Northwestern, things are almost certainly going to get ugly against USC.
The Orange don't have close to the defensive prowess to hang with the Trojans' potent passing attack.
10. Oregon State Beavers
Schedule: Nicholls State, Wisconsin, at BYU
The last time, in 2011, Oregon State faced Wisconsin, the Ducks were coming off a loss to an FCS team, and their punter struggled to say the least.
Wisconsin, while not quite as potent as last season, still boasts Montee Ball, the best running back in the nation, and a talented set of linebackers in Mike Taylor and Chris Borland.
This game is going to be a tough one, even at home for the Beavers, and they follow that up with a trip to BYU.
The Broncos are no pushover, featuring a stout defense and a rising young star, Riley Nelson, at quarterback.
The Beavers, rather than experiencing progress through their first three games, are going to find themselves 1-2 coming out of the first three weeks of play.
9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Schedule: Liberty, North Carolina, at Florida State
The Demon Deacons started last season with only two losses in their first seven games.
This season is going to be a much different story.
Liberty is practically a pushover, and Wake Forest should have little difficulty winning that one by at least four touchdowns.
Then it gets ugly.
North Carolina is loaded in the backfield with Gio Bernard running the ball and Bryn Renner playing quarterback, and will give the Demon Deacons all kinds of trouble.
Chalk that one up as a loss.
As if that isn't going to be a tough enough proposition, they follow that up with a trip to Florida State.
The Seminoles are going to compete as one of the top three teams in the ACC and will give Wake Forest its second conference loss of the season.
8. BYU Cougars
Schedule: Washington State, Weber State, at Utah
It's not really the end of the world for the Cougars, but two losses out of their first three games is tough.
Washington State is underrated, especially on offense, with Marquess Wilson at wide receiver putting on a clinic in every game on how to be explosive.
Even so, Washington State is winnable.
It's the game against Utah, the "Holy War" that should have BYU worried.
The Utes host the contest and feature John White at running back and one of the best defenses in the Pac-12.
The Cougars have some talent on the field, but they will be severely challenged by both Washington State and Utah.
7. Boise State Broncos
Schedule: at Michigan State, bye, Miami(OH)
The Broncos have floated by in recent seasons by virtue of one early season win per year over a BCS conference team and then 10 more over cupcakes.
This season, they may not have the opportunity to make a move toward the top of the BCS rankings.
Facing Michigan State in East Lansing is not fun.
Michigan hasn't won there in its last two tries.
Wisconsin struggles to win there, and Boise State is going to find it no picnic either.
A loss in the opener pretty much seals their fate laboring outside of the BCS for yet another season.
6. Pitt Panthers
Schedule: Youngstown State, at Cincinnati, Virginia Tech
Pitt is in the middle of a transition with former Wisconsin offensive coordinator, Paul Chryst, taking over as head coach.
The Panthers have plenty of talent with Ray Graham coming back as running back.
Even so, Cincinnati returns much of the talent that led them to the Big East title last season, and following that up with a meeting with the Hokies is a tough proposition.
Logan Thomas and company are primed for a solid season and will be ready to visit the Panthers.
It's going to be some tough sledding against both the Bearcats and the Hokies.
5. Virginia Cavaliers
Schedule: Richmond, Penn State, at Georgia Tech
Look, somebody has to lose.
The Cavaliers shouldn't to Penn State, but it's a very real possibility.
They shouldn't at Georgia Tech, but again, it's a possibility.
Mike London and this team are on the upward swing and have plenty of talent, especially on defense, to make themselves a nuisance against anyone they face.
The prospect of facing a Penn State team that is likely to be somewhat overlooked, and then traveling to Georgia Tech should scare any fan of Virginia, as their squad is not exactly known for its consistency.
4. Penn State Nittany Lions
Schedule: Ohio, at Virginia, Navy
Although the competition in each of Penn State's first three games presents its own unique challenges, the matchups the Nittany Lions face are not the reason the season could be over early.
The transfers of key players following the NCAA sanctions handed down in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky mess will have more impact than the level of competition.
Losing Silas Redd, among others, will have a huge impact, regardless of the number of "loyal" players that stayed with Bill O'Brien and the Nittany Lions.
This will leave the Penn State vulnerable to an underrated Ohio team, a resurgent Virginia team and a persistent Navy squad.
While I fully expect the Nittany Lions to win at least one of these, it won't be more than that.
3. Vanderbilt Commodores
Schedules: South Carolina, at Northwestern, Presbyterian
Vandy finished the season last year not on the bottom of the SEC, which is nearly as surprising as it would be if the U.S. swept the table tennis medals at the Olympic Games.
The Commodores are a talented bunch on defense, and they get to host South Carolina.
However, that Gamecocks' defense is ridiculous.
Follow that up with a deceptively difficult trip to Northwestern, and the team that started 3-0 in 2011 will find itself 0-2 in 2012.
2. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Schedule: at Virginia Tech, Presbyterian, Virginia
Georgia Tech is in trouble.
That game against Presbyterian is the only one of the first three they will win.
Any trip to Lane Stadium is tough, but trying to beat the Hokies in a season opener at Lane Stadium is no easy proposition.
Virginia is up and coming, and Mike London's team has a defense that is extremely intimidating and makes plays with startling regularity.
The Yellow Jackets have their work cut out for them in those two games.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Schedule: Michigan, Western Kentucky, at Arkansas
Before the Tide's multitude of insanely loyal fans absolutely blow up, hear me out.
It's been a while since a team has repeated as national champs, and the Tide are not set up to do so this year.
Michigan is being discounted by fans as "weak," "overrated" and other such adjectives, simply because the Wolverines are from the Big Ten and Denard Robinson is their quarterback.
That's not entirely accurate.
Robinson is going to be in his second season in Al Borges' system, and will have his best season yet.
Meanwhile, Alabama is replacing starters all over the place on both sides of the ball.
Do I think the Tide should win?
Would it surprise me a bit if they don't?
That's followed up with a cupcake in Western Kentucky and finally with Arkansas.
That trip to Fayatteville is going to be interesting, as Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis will give the Tide defense all it can handle.
Alabama has the talent and potential to win the title again, but may not have time to gel before these meetings with Michigan and Arkansas.