College Football's 5 Most Overrated Preseason Teams, 2008-2012
The Associated Press released their annual preseason college football poll today, exactly 14 days prior to the first Saturday in college football. I have met very few people (outside of fans of teams ranked in the Top Five) who really enjoy college football preseason rankings. They use words like "useless," "inaccurate," and best of all, "overrated."
The last word on the list is really what chafes most people. Sure, you have your Ohio State fans who will gripe about where Michigan lands no matter the circumstances, and LSU and Alabama fans will always say their team is better. What I'm talking about are the teams people just look at and say, "Really? Again?"
These are, in my opinion, the top five most overrated preseason teams from 2008 until now.
All polls via Associated Press and obtained at collegepollarchive.com.
No. 5: Georgia Bulldogs
Average preseason ranking: 12th (2008-2012)
Average postseason ranking: 26th (2008-2011)
Georgia was the SEC team to beat in 2007. Many thought, with their returning talent, which included quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno, they would contend for the national championship in 2008.
They started the season No. 1 for the first time in school history and played very well against meager competition (Georgia Southern, Central Michigan, a 7-6 South Carolina team and a 5-7 Arizona State team), but they met their match against much better competition.
They lost to Alabama and rivals Florida and Georgia Tech, one of which was a 49-10 beatdown by the eventual national champion Gators), before finishing the season 10-3 (6-2) after beating Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. They finished the season ranked No. 13—a long way from where they expected to be.
The Bulldogs were ranked No. 13 to start the 2009 season, but abruptly dropped to No. 23 after losing their opener at Oklahoma State. Close wins over South Carolina, Arkansas and Arizona State put Georgia at No. 19, but a subsequent loss to LSU dropped them from the rankings.
They fell further after taking a 45-19 pounding at Tennessee, which finished the season 7-6, the following week. A rebound over Vanderbilt and a bye week had Georgia set to avenge their previous year's defeat to Florida, but the result was much of the same, a 41-17 shellacking by the Gators.
They were able to pull themselves together and finish the season on a 4-1 run, including victories over rival and No. 7 Georgia Tech and Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl. Their 8-5 record still wasn't enough, though, and the Bulldogs ended the season unranked for the first time since 1996, when they finished 5-6.
Enough voters believed Georgia was good enough to be ranked at the start of the 2010 season, though, and pegged them No. 23. They were gone after just two weeks, though, and dropped four consecutive games to South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Colorado.
They did string together three wins over Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky even their record at 4-4, but unranked Florida made it three wins in a row over the Bulldogs with a 34-31 overtime win.
Two wins out of their last four games (over Idaho State and Georgia Tech) allowed the Bulldogs to go to a bowl game, but a late-season loss to Auburn and a defeat to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl left them with a 6-7 (3-5) record. Their record versus ranked teams: 0-4.
Head coach Mark Richt kept his job and was given time to turn the program around in 2011. After somehow (we must believe it was on conference brand alone) starting the season No. 19, the Bulldogs started the season 0-2 with losses to Boise State and South Carolina. Those losses stunned Bulldog fans, and calls for Coach Richt to be fired were rampant.
Georgia pulled together, though, and didn't lose again until the SEC championship game, where they were trounced 42-10 by LSU. Another loss, this time to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl, gave Georgia a 10-2 (7-1) record on the season and a final ranking of No. 19, exactly where they started. Their record versus teams that finished the season in the Top 25, though, was 0-4.
Georgia begins the 2012 season as the No. 6 team in the nation. That baffles me and puts them directly at No. 5 on my list of overrated preseason teams.
No. 4: Florida Gators
Average preseason ranking: 11th (including 2012, which is five years)
Average final ranking: 18th (2008-2011, four years)
I found it difficult to put the Gators on this list, but their credentials alone allow them to be there. There is no doubt that Florida was great in 2008 and 2009. Their drop off after that, point, however, was what doomed the Gators.
After starting off ranked No. 4 in preseason 2010 polls, the Gators finished the season out of the Top 25 and No. 31st overall. The ranking fall was bad enough, but their overall losses were simply bad.
They lost 31-6 at Alabama, 10-7 to Mississippi State, 36-14 to South Carolina and 31-7 at rival Florida State. Their 33-29 loss to LSU at home was the closest the Gators came to being relevant in 2010. Final record: 8-5 (4-4).
Florida was under new management in 2011, and probably by name and conference affiliation alone, started the season ranked No. 22. The season seemed to start off fairly well, and the Gators were 4-0 and ranked No. 12 heading into a prime-time matchup with Alabama.
Nobody seemed to notice the teams that Florida had wins over were Florida Atlantic, UAB, Tennessee and Kentucky (combined 14-34 record).
Alabama took notice and trounced the Gators 38-10 in Gainesville. LSU made similar work of the Gators in Baton Rouge the next week, winning 41-11. Rival Georgia then upended Florida 24-20, and just like that, they didn't have a win in October for the first time since 1979. Of course, they also didn't win a game in 1979, finishing 0-10-1.
Season-ending losses to South Carolina and Florida State were sandwiched around wins over SEC doormat Vanderbilt and FCS foe Furman. Bet you didn't know Furman's nickname is the Paladins, did ya? Anyway. Florida finished the season 7-6 (3-5) after a win over hapless Ohio State in the Gator Bowl. Their record vs. Top 25 teams in 2011: 0-5.
Florida begins the season at the No. 23 spot and will have several tough games to win in order to not fall out of the rankings altogether again.
No. 3: Oklahoma Sooners
Average preseason ranking: 3rd (2008-2012)
Average postseason ranking: 13th (2008-2011)
The Oklahoma Sooners are a good team. Let's not get that wrong. Sometimes, they're a great team. It seems like no matter how they do the previous season, they're always starting in the Top Five. Only one time since 2008 have the Sooners started lower than fifth: 2010, when they started No. 7. Even then, they still received one first-place vote.
Oklahoma was good in 2008. Really good. They scored more than 60 points five straight games in a row, scored more than 50 points nine times and scored fewer than 35 points only one time: in a 24-14 defeat to Florida in the BCS national championship game. They started the season No. 4 and ended No. 5. Their only losses were to Texas and Florida.
Building off their 2008 campaign, it was no surprise to see Oklahoma ranked No. 3 to start the 2009 season. It didn't go as planned, though. Quarterback Sam Bradford was knocked out of the game in a season-opening 16-13 loss to BYU in Dallas. After two victories over overmatched Idaho State and Tulsa, they lost at Miami.
After defeating Baylor at home, they lost to rival Texas and had a 3-3 record for the first time since head coach Bob Stoops took over in 1999. Two straight convincing victories over Kansas and Kansas State seemed to start a turnaround, but they floundered against Nebraska, throwing five interceptions in a 10-3 loss to the Cornhuskers.
It was the first time Oklahoma hadn't scored a touchdown while Stoops was head coach, and the Sooners fell out of the polls for the first time 2005. The Sooners rebounded by whooping Texas A&M 65-10, but then fell on their faces in a 41-13 loss at Texas Tech.
They ended the season by defeating Oklahoma State and Stanford to finish 8-5 (5-3) and unranked in the final poll for the first time since 2000.
Even after they finished the season unranked in 2009, Oklahoma, somehow, found themselves as the No. 7 team in the 2010 preseason rankings. They looked good heading into Week 7 at Missouri, unranked and having beaten rival Texas for the first time in three years.
Then, they went 2-2 over the next four games, beating Iowa State, losing to Missouri in Columbia, defeating Colorado at home and then losing to Texas A&M on the road. The Sooners managed to win their final five games, including the final Big 12 championship game over Nebraska and a resounding defeat of Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl to finish the season 12-2 (6-2).
Even after the SEC had won five national championships in a row, pollsters still found reason to put the Sooners in front of defending national champion Alabama and SEC heavyweight LSU.
Oklahoma looked to defend their ranking, though, and started the season off a strong 6-0, including a defeat of then-No. 5 Florida State in Tallahassee (the Seminoles would finish the season 9-4 and ranked No. 23).
Even after being upset at home by Texas Tech, Oklahoma was in command of their own destiny by walloping No. 8 Kansas State and Texas A&M. Then, they lost to Baylor. After defeating Iowa State, they were blown out 44-10 by No. 3 Oklahoma State.
They were able to salvage a victory by defeating Iowa 31-14 in the Insight Bowl to finish 10-3 (6-3) and finish the season No. 16, but it was nowhere near where they were expected to be.
So, after a No. 16 finish, one would expect the Sooners to be around 15-10 in the polls. That's not the case, though. You'll find these guys at No. 4, with one first-place vote, in the 2012 preseason polls.
No. 2: Florida State Seminoles
Average preseason ranking: 12th (2009-2012)
Average postseason ranking: 23rd (2008-2011)
Florida State wasn't ranked to start the 2008 college football season, but they finished No. 21, which was good enough for them to be ranked 18th in the 2009 preseason poll.
Florida State 2008 with an impressive 9-4 record, including a win over Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl. Why is that impressive? Well, they finished 2007 with a 7-6 record.
However, the Seminoles only played three teams that finished the 2008 campaign in the Top 25: Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and eventual national champion Florida. Their record versus the Top 25 was 1-2, and losses to Wake Forest and Boston College further marred their record.
For the Seminoles, though, 2009, should have been the year. They started the year No. 18 before promptly losing to Miami to fall out of the polls again. Wins over Jacksonville State and BYU put Florida State back into the polls at No. 18, but they lost three straight to South Florida, Georgia Tech and Boston College to drop to 2-4 on the season.
They rebounded with wins over North Carolina and North Carolina State, but a bad 40-24 loss at Clemson dropped them to 4-5 on the season. They avenged their previous season's defeat to Wake Forest and narrowly defeated Maryland before being pummeled 37-10 at Florida.
Winning one for coach Bobby Bowden became the mantra for the team as they prepared for the Gator Bowl, and the Seminoles dispatched No. 16 West Virginia to finish the season 7-6 (4-4) and allow Bowden to ride into the sunset with a win in his last game as head coach.
Even with a 7-6 record the previous season, Florida State managed to pull in a modest No. 20 ranking in the 2010 preseason polls.
They began the season as expected with a resounding victory over Sanford, but the game that was supposed to announce their arrival back onto the national scene never materialized as the Seminoles were whooped 47-17 at Oklahoma.
Seven of those points came on the last play of the game. After the defeat, they won five in a row, but never rose to anywhere higher than No. 16. The world soon found out why: back-to-back losses to unranked NC State and North Carolina.
They turned around and defeated Clemson, Maryland and Florida before losing to Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game. After accepting an invite to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Seminoles defeated No. 20 South Carolina 26-17 to finish the season 10-4 (6-2).
After their 2010 campaign, Florida State somehow started the 2011 season ranked No. 6 in the country. Yea, that didn't last. Victories over Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern were forgotten after another loss to Oklahoma. This one was closer (23-13), but it altered the perception of the Florida State program again.
It seemed to rattle the cages of the Seminole players as well. They lost their next two games to Clemson and Wake Forest and had a 2-3 (0-2) record heading into the middle of the season.
The good news for Florida State: the middle of their schedule included Duke, Maryland, NC State, Boston College and Miami combined for 23 wins. They won each game, mostly rather easily, but lost at home to Virginia a week after defeating Miami.
They beat Florida again and defeated Notre Dame in the Champs Sport Bowl to finish the season 9-4 (5-3) and have a No. 23 final ranking.
After all that, you'd think the pollsters would have the 'Noles somewhere around No. 17-25. Nope. Florida State comes in right at No. 7, just behind No. 6 Georgia and No. 4 Oklahoma. I do not know why.
No. 1: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Average preseason ranking: 24th (four years)
Average postseason ranking: 39th (four years)
Really, is there any other school you expected to see here? You can argue all you want that maybe West Virginia should have been included on the list (and you'd have a valid point) or that you don't see how Georgia and Florida should be on the list (again, fair), but nobody can argue that Notre Dame doesn't belong.
They are always somewhere in the preseason, Lou Holtz is always talking them up, they're always on TV and they have, admit it, the most god-awful alternate uniforms this year. That doesn't start to compare with how they fare after preseason rankings, though.
Notre Dame wasn't in the preseason rankings in 2007. I mean, how could they be? They finished 2007 with a record of 3-9. When they started 2008 with a winning record of 4-1, in which their only loss was to Michigan State and they defeated Michigan at home, the Irish fanbase was thinking success could be just around the corner.
Then, reality set in. They lost to North Carolina. Sure, the victory over Washington was good, but that Husky team was one of the worst in recent memory. They had consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Boston College, the latter being a 17-0 shutout.
Their victory over Navy paled in comparison to their loss to Syracuse and their 38-3 blowout loss at USC. Their 49-21 victory over Hawaii helped them limp to a 7-6 record.
The previous season meant Notre Dame couldn't possibly be ranked in the preseason, right? Wrong. When the 2009 preseason poll was released, the Irish stood at No. 23, just in front of Big 12 members Nebraska and Kansas. The honeymoon lasted all of two weeks. After defeating Nevada, the Irish lost at Michigan and dropped out of the polls.
They did win their next three games to make an appearance at No. 25, but a 34-27 home loss to USC knocked them back out. Wins over Boston College (their first in six years) and Pac-10 doormat Washington State had them sitting pretty at 6-2 and No. 19 in the nation.
Then, the wheels fell off. They lost four consecutive games to finish the season 6-6. Although eligible for a bowl, the Irish were not invited and sat home for the holidays.
The Irish were not ranked during the entire 2010 season. They finished the season 8-5 after defeating Miami in the Sun Bowl.
Coming into the 2011 season, the Irish found themselves in a regular situation: ranked for no reason. They hadn't beaten a team that finished in the Top 25 in almost two seasons. They had a quarterback controversy and a defense with question marks. However, they were ranked No. 16.
Yea, the bottom fell out of that one with season-opening losses to South Florida at home and Michigan on the road. The Irish did rebound and beat Michigan State (something Michigan couldn't seem to do, even though they could beat Notre Dame) to start off a four-game winning streak before losing to USC at home.
After winning four more in a row and rising to as high as No. 23, they lost 28-14 at Stanford and were defeated 18-14 by Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. Their record vs. teams that finished in the Top 25 in 2011: 2-4 (I add the USC loss even though they were on probation).
Their record versus teams that finished with a losing record: 6-0. The verdict: Six of the eight teams they defeated finished with a losing record.
Notre Dame again (for some reason) finds themselves in the Top 25 in the preseason. The Fighting Irish check in at No. 24. I wouldn't worry, though. If the recent past has taught us anything, it's that the Irish will fall out of the rankings before September is over.
They also face four teams that should still be in the Top 25 when the Irish come calling: Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC.
Tradition? Yes. Overrated? Always.
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