The 10 Biggest Flops in the 2012 College Football Season
It's been a unceremonious fall from grace for some very prestigious programs thus far in the 2012 college football season.
Common themes plaguing the forthcoming programs in this piece?
A lack of discipline, uninspired play, poor coaching, peculiar circumstances and, in most cases, a gross amount of preseason hype that wasn't warranted.
Let's take a look at 10 programs that have flopped considerably at this point in the season.
It's been a weird past year for the Arkansas football program.
The Bobby Petrino infidelity fiasco has been chronicled to no end. With Petrino outed for his extramarital affair with an employee of the football program, Arkansas athletic director Jeff David made a peculiar hire, selecting John L. Smith as the interim head man.
Smith was a low-profile hire, so the Fayetteville fanbase could hardly predict what was to come.
After looking pedestrian against Jacksonville State at home in the opener, the Razorbacks lost at home to Louisiana-Monroe in overtime. The following week, Arkansas was blasted by Alabama by a score of 52-0 (followed by this odd press conference). A few games later, the Razorbacks were ripped by Texas A&M by a score of 58-10. Remember, this was a preseason top-10 team.
It's not as if Smith inherited a team with no talent. All-SEC performers Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis returned, and the team had multiple returners on defense.
The firing of Petrino shocked the entire program. It's not a huge surprise to see his dismissal plaguing the program. However, a team with this type of talent shouldn't be struggling to finish with a .500 record.
The SEC is a "what have you done for me lately" type of league.
Two years ago, Gene Chizik captained the Auburn ship that won a national championship. Fast forward two seasons, and the fanbase is calling for Chizik's head.
Auburn currently sits at 1-6 overall with an 0-5 record in conference play. This matches the worst start for the Tigers in 60 years. What's the cause for the precipitous fall?
For one thing, the coaching hasn't been great. There's a general lack of energy when watching Auburn play this season. The Tigers have looked truly uninspired and unprepared throughout the first seven games this year.
From a player-personnel standpoint, the athletes haven't developed. Auburn has recruited extremely well the past few years, but many of those players just haven't panned out like they were projected to.
Quarterback play from Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley has been porous—to say the least. Auburn ranks 117th nationally in passing yards per game with 154.4. They also are 121st nationally with an anemic 15.7 points per game. The most startling stat is that Auburn ranks 119th nationally in total offense.
The schedule doesn't get any better for Auburn. Remaining on the schedule for the Tigers: Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama.
It doesn't appear that "War Eagle" will be in Chizik's vocabulary for much longer.
Head coach Jeff Tedford and the word "underachieving" are becoming to be synonymous with one another.
Cal has resources that many universities would drool over. As an academic institution, Cal is ranked as the top public school in the nation. Berkeley is a mere 10-minute drive from San Francisco, and the program just completed a renovation of California Memorial Stadium—in addition to the creation of a state-of-the-art football facility.
Tedford is the winningest coach in Cal history, and he did resurrect a program that was lifeless. As of late, however, the Cal program has fallen into a malaise of mediocrity.
The program has good talent, but Tedford has been far too conservative in his play-calling. He also looks like he lacks a drive—or even the energy. It might be a stoic personality, but it also might be someone who's burned out.
Cal is sitting at 3-5 and doesn't look as if a bowl appearance is feasible. Tedford is still owed a big chunk of money, but it might be time to pull the plug and start fresh with a younger, more energetic option.
The embattled Cal coach also put his house up for sale at the start of the season. If that's not an ominous sign, I don't know what is.
Being one of the flagship schools for the entire Big Ten, Michigan was slated to be a potential national title contender—or at minimum playing in the Rose Bowl.
In a season-opening tilt against Alabama, the then-No. 8 Wolverines were outclassed considerably. Denard Robinson reverted back to the raw, turnover-prone quarterback, and Michigan had a lack of team speed when compared to the Crimson Tide.
The defense has been stout throughout the season, but offensively, Robinson's inability to throw the football down the field against good competition has crippled this team. In a 13-6 lost to Notre Dame, Robinson mustered only 138 yards in the air.
The season isn't lost for Michigan by any means. It's still conceivable that the No. 20 Wolverines could make the Rose Bowl, especially considering that Ohio State is ineligible for postseason play. A win versus fellow Legends Division foe Nebraska will potentially make that goal more of a reality.
Regardless, many supporters of the Wolverines expected a more competitive effort against Alabama and a winning effort against Notre Dame.
When Michigan State opened the year with a victory against Boise State on national television, it was viewed as a marquee win for Mark Dantonio's team. Running back Le'Veon Bell rushed for 210 yards and vaulted to the top of the early Heisman Trophy list. In addition, the Spartans had the look of a potential Rose Bowl contender.
Now, in Week 8 of the college football season, "Sparty" is sitting in the doldrums of the Big Ten with a .500 record, a massive disappointment for Dantonio's team.
Heading into the season, lots was made about the chemistry that the team had and how the overall depth had been much improved. Defensively, the team has lived up to its lofty press clippings. A unit led by William Gholston has allowed only 15.3 points a game—good for 11th nationally in the category.
Ultimately, it's been subpar play from quarterback Andrew Maxwell that has the Spartans sitting in fifth place in the Legends Division. Michigan State ranks 109th nationally in points per game with a paltry 19.6 average.
Skip Holtz and his South Florida Bulls were projected to be one of the top contenders for the Big East crown this year. Thus far, the team has failed to live up to the lofty expectations.
This team, led by QB B.J. Daniels, was supposed to take the next step this season and put together a consistent effort on both sides of the football. But after winning their first two games, the Bulls have dropped five in a row, including losses to Ball State and Temple.
With the athletes on this team, it's absolutely inexcusable that USF sits at 2-5 overall and winless in conference play (0-3).
This was the year that Texas was supposed to get back on track and contend seriously in the Big 12.
Quarterback David Ash was to command an offense with great running back depth that included the likes of Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray.
Young, upstart defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had an embarrassment of riches on the defensive side of the ball. The D-line appeared particularly stout with Jackson Jeffcoat, Alex Okafor, Ashton Dorsey and others.
That perceived strength has struggled considerably. Texas ranks 107th nationally in total defense. Diaz's defense is allowing a staggering 472.1 yards and 35.0 points per contest.
Against Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry, the Sooners rolled up 63 points against the Longhorns. Texas also allowed 50 points to Baylor, 48 points to West Virginia, 36 to Oklahoma State and 31 to Ole Miss.
Texas is 5-2 and is ranked at 24th in the latest USA Today Poll. However, those types of defensive numbers won't lead to much success for the rest of the season. There is even speculation that head coach Mack Brown has "usurped" control of the defense from Diaz.
Either way, Texas has to right the ship, or we could see the Mack Brown era come to a close.
A pirate ship docked in the sleepy hamlet of Pullman, Wash., and captain Mike Leach took shop in order to turn the Washington State program around. There was a massive amount of excitement surrounding the program, and some pundits predicted that the Cougars would be a bowl team this year.
As of now, Leach hasn't quite gotten to where he wants thus far in the season.
The Cougs are 2-5 with an 0-4 record in Pac-12 play. Truth be told, it's hard to get talent up to the Palouse, but I expected Wazzu to have a better record than they currently have.
A loss to lowly Colorado—at home—was truly an embarrassment. Colorado might have the worst roster in terms of talent in all of Division I football. Leach has flip-flopped between quarterbacks Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday, and the Cougar defense has been very poor.
I have no doubt that Leach will eventually right the ship in Pullman. He's had to cut loose upwards of 15 players from when he initially took over the program. In only his first year, there's still an implementation process in terms of instilling his culture. When that happens, Washington State will be a dangerous opponent.
There was a massive amount of momentum in regards to the Badgers program heading into this year. Head coach Bret Bielema has led the Badgers to consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, and running back Montee Ball was heralded as perhaps the front runner for the Heisman Trophy heading into the season. The team was also ranked No. 12 in the preseason polls.
During the first game of the season, the Badgers struggled to beat Northern Iowa at home. The following week, it put up only seven points in a loss to Oregon State.
Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien was supposed to take over where former star Russell Wilson left off. That hasn't quite happened, and as a result, Wisconsin has turned to former walk-on Joel Stave.
Wisconsin is 6-2, but that record may be a bit misleading. The team has padded its record by playing weak Big Ten competition. The Badgers lost to one of the tougher teams in the conference (Nebraska) and have yet to play Ohio State or Penn State. However, Bielema's squad does look like it has a clear path to the B1G championship game.
While Wisconsin might not be construed as a full-blown "flop," it could very well be 8-0 right now. O'Brien has underachieved a great deal, but in fairness, it's hard to follow what Wilson did last year. The fact that both are transfers from other schools also doesn't help with comparisons.
What happened to Virginia Tech this season?
Ranked as high as No. 13 this year, there was great promise for this upcoming season. Add the fact that the team was coming off an 11-3 record, and the Hokies were projected to compete for a conference crown—as Frank Beamer's teams usually do.
Right now, Beamer's Hokies are sitting with a disappointing 4-4 record.
Entering the season, some considered quarterback Logan Thomas to be a dark-horse Heisman candidate. He was even drawing comparisons to Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger in some publications.
There's no doubt that he has great physical tools, but he hasn't quite developed as well as expected from a throwing standpoint. Thomas has completed only 53.6 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 interceptions to go with his 13 touchdown tosses.
The Coastal Division in the ACC is still up for grabs. In fact, Duke is surprisingly leading the pack at this point. At 2-2 in conference play, Virginia Tech is third in the division but only a game behind the Blue Devils.
I wouldn't count Virginia Tech out from winning the division. The young Hokies defense is starting to gel, and Tech has a somewhat favorable schedule from here on out.