Less with More: 10 of College Football's Perennial Underachievers
When you say elite, there are some names that come to mind. These teams are the likes of USC, Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Texas.
A little further from them are the nation's perennial winners, teams that put out eight or nine-win teams every year, like Oregon, Oregon State, Texas Tech, and pre-2008 Arkansas.
Then there are the cellar dwellers after that.
College football has some teams that should just be better. Some of these teams are in college football's cellar, some in the elite, but all of them have one thing in common: They should all be much better than they are.
Clemson is an ACC team that thinks they're in the SEC. One thing does set them clearly apart from the rest of the ACC, however: they do less with more than anybody in it.
Clemson hasn't won their conference since 1991. That's bad, but how bad?
Well, last time Clemson won the ACC, Miami, Boston College, and Virginia Tech weren't even in it, and FSU had just arrived. That's how bad Clemson has been.
There's no excuse for their mediocrity. They have one of the most rabid fanbases in the country, they recruit well, and they have a stadium that is easily one of the loudest in college football.
But for some reason, Clemson just can't seem to be very relevant.
Yes, I know Oregon was a perennial cellar dweller for their whole history up until a while ago, but the Ducks should be better.
Oregon has awesome facilities, one of the best stadiums in football, and (I think) great uniforms, but the Ducks seem to be confined to third, and occasionally second place in the Pac-10 every year.
The truth is, Oregon should be competing for national titles every year. They recruit well, and Autzen Stadium is one of the most intimidating places to play.
Combine that with their great facilities, and there's no reason they shouldn't overtake USC as leader of the Pac.
If Oregon can get rid of those annual losses to Cal and the untimely injuries, then they can become elite, and they get that chance in 2009.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Next comes the Fighting Illini of Illinois.
Illinois is the state school in a very talent-rich state, has virtually no competition in recruiting in that state, and possesses a loyal, vocal fanbase, yet they are confined to the bottom of the Big Ten most years. There's simply no reason for that.
Illinois has shown signs of life under Ron Zook, such as a Rose Bowl season in 2007, but followed that up with a dismal 2008 season.
I guess you can't really blame them for going back to the ways they've known for so long...
South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina takes the cake for underachiever status in the state and SEC.
They possess a hardcore fanbase who managed to sell out an 80,000 seat stadium through their abysmal 21-game losing streak.
Not to mention they're actually in the SEC, unlike rival Clemson which helps with recruiting.
All those things alone should warrant at least some seasons with more than eight wins, but South Carolina can't achieve that.
As a matter of fact, they've only won one conference championship in their entire history, when they posted a 7-4 record in the ACC in 1969. If that isn't futility, I don't know what is.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Being an ASU fan, I hate to do this.
Arizona State is one of the most underachieving programs in the Pac-10. The fact that it's rated as the best school for co-eds year in and year out, and the beautiful weather should suffice to make an elite team, but not in Tempe.
Don't get me wrong, this program hasn't been historically bad, just not where they should be.
ASU has shown signs of life, especially in the 2007 season when they posted a record of 10-3, but like fellow underachiever Illinois, they followed it up with a very poor 2008 season.
But there is hope. ASU has recruited well as of late, and with Coach Dennis Erickson at the helm, they could turn things around in Tempe and erase their underachieving ways.
The Arizona Wildcats are year in and year out one of the worst teams in the Pac-10. In fact, most years they battle with Stanford and Washington for last place.
They can't recruit, they can't pick a decent head coach, and they can't win.
All of this in spite of the beautiful weather, a hardcore fanbase, and being one of the best co-ed schools in the country.
Don't let 2008 fool you, that was a down year for the Pac-10 that Arizona took advantage of, barely. It will be more of the same for the Cats, so long as Stoops is there, at least.
Iowa had a nice run from 2002-2004, when they posted a combined record of 31-7. It looked as if Iowa was ready to compete for the national title, but since then It's been a tradition of Irrelevance in Iowa City.
There's no reason Iowa should be a mediocre team, at all. They have little competition in their own state, with college football's loser Iowa State being the only other in-state school.
Plus, Iowa and the surrounding states are football fertile areas. Iowa should at least be posting nine or 10 wins every year, and a Big Ten title every third year or so, but that just isn't happening.
Iowa did, however, post nine wins and a bowl win in 2008, but momentum needs to be built with an even stronger campaign in the 2009 season and the seasons beyond before they can be taken off this list.
There is no one in the Pac-10 as underachieving as UCLA.
The lure of Los Angeles, an historic stadium, a good fanbase, a phenomenal athletic department, and talent everywhere in the state should be enough to make UCLA elite every year, but that isn't the case.
Instead, UCLA is content to post records the likes of .500 or worse every year, and it just doesn't make sense.
The school recruits very well, but that doesn't always mean wins, and that rings truer than ever in Pasadena.
UCLA hasn't won a Rose Bowl since 1986, a game that is played in their own stadium. Compare that to in-city rival USC's dominance of the Rose Bowl Game, and that's a pretty high level of underachievement right there.
Texas A&M Aggies
With an athletic budget that rivals Texas, a fanbase as rabid as they come, and all that tradition, it puzzles me how they can be so irrelevant most of the time.
They sit in the heart of talent-rich Texas, but can't seem to pull in a top 25 class to save their lives.
With a history that boasts one "big four" bowl in the last 55 years, it is an enigma why A&M is so bad.
The Texas Longhorns
A Texas-sized athletic budget, a huge stadium and one of the biggest fanbases in the country, top 5 recruiting every year, and tradition that is hard to beat, yet only two conference championships since 1996 is pretty underachieving to me.
I understand Texas has gone awhile with that 10-wins-a-season streak, and that they won a national title recently, but that doesn't excuse them from not winning their own conference a lot more.
There is simply no reason why Texas shouldn't win it every year, except for Oklahoma, but even Texas should be able to beat out the mighty Sooners every now and then. But it just doesn't happen.