10 College Football Preseason Contenders That Turned Out to Be Pretenders

Danny Flynn@FlynnceptionSenior Analyst INovember 13, 2012

10 College Football Preseason Contenders That Turned Out to Be Pretenders

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    Fraud, overrated, pretender—those are just a few of the words that college football fans like to use to harshly describe a team that failed to live up to its offseason expectations. 

    Every season, there are always a few teams that don't live up to their initial hype, and the 2012 season has been no different. 

    So, which preseason Top 25 teams turned out to be the biggest busts?

    Here's a look at the top 10 pretenders of the 2012 season. 

USC Trojans

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    When Matt Barkley announced that he would be forgoing the chance to be a top-10 pick in the 2012 NFL draft and returning to USC for his senior year, the Trojans instantly became the media darlings of college football.

    The USC bandwagon was packed with supporters who were hailing Barkley as the early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and the front-runner to become the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft. 

    The Trojans entered the 2012 season ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll and No. 3 in the Coaches' Poll. Many predicted that they would end Oregon's reign as the top dog in the conference. It didn't take long for everyone to jump off the bandwagon, though, as the Trojans didn't even make it past Week 3 before getting picked off. 

    Following losses to Stanford, Arizona and Oregon, USC is now just 7-3, and Lane Kiffin's squad is in a dogfight with UCLA to win the Pac-12 South division. 

    You have to wonder why the Trojans are even ranked No. 18 in the current BCS standings, considering they have yet to beat a ranked team so far this season. 

Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Since moving to the ACC before the start of the 2004 season, Virginia Tech has won a division or a conference title in six out of its eight seasons in the conference. The Hokies were expected to win the Coastal Division for the third year in a row in 2012. However, now they've found themselves fighting just to make it to a bowl game. 

    Virginia Tech has been one of the biggest disappointments of the season, as the Hokies have struggled to a 4-6 record. 

    The team has not come close to playing its patented form of "Beamer Ball" that has become commonplace during the Frank Beamer era. Instead, the Hokies have been playing a sloppy, uninspired brand of football that has frustrated fans and cost the team games it should have won. 

    QB Logan Thomas entered the season being touted as a potential top-10 pick in the 2013 NFL draft. However, he has actually ended up being one of the biggest busts of 2012. Thomas has constantly overthrown receivers, been careless with the football, and overall, he has just failed to provide the leadership ability that the team has so desperately needed.

    2012 has certainly been a season to forget in Blacksburg. 

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    On the surface, hiring John L. Smith to replace disgraced former head coach Bobby Petrino didn't seem like that bad of a decision. By all accounts, Smith is nice man, who did have experience coaching for the Razorbacks as a special teams coordinator from 2009-11. 

    When you dig deeper, though, it's really no surprise that Smith has been a huge failure in 2012. The fact that he compiled a record of just 22-26 during his last head-coaching stop at Michigan State, and the fact that he wasn't exactly the model of responsibility in his personal life (it was revealed before the season started that Smith was facing bankruptcy issues) were probably good indicators that he wasn't the right man to lead the Razorbacks during trying times. 

    As it turned out, Arkansas probably would have been better off playing without a coach at all than having Smith call the shots this season. 

    After starting off the season ranked No. 10 in both major preseason polls, the Razorbacks have gone just 4-6 and 2-4 in the SEC. 

    It's obvious that the scandal surrounding Petrino has had an effect on this team, and it's quite clear that Smith wasn't the right man to try to keep the players focused this season. 

West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Remember back when West Virginia was 5-0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation?

    If you don't, don't worry, because that certainly seems like an eternity ago, given the way the Mountaineers have played in their last four games. 

    West Virginia has been exposed by Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma State, and the team has shown that it simply isn't ready for the Big 12 at this point. 

    The defense has been an absolute embarrassment. It's a unit which currently ranks 121st in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of 41 points per game. It doesn't help that QB Geno Smith, who started off the season as hot as any other player in the country in September, has come back down to Earth with a booming thud. 

    The Mountaineers may have young players at key positions on defense. But there's still no excuse for the type of dreadful performance that we've seen from the unit in 2012. I guess these are the types of results you should expect when you hire a special teams coach to run your defense. 

    Luckily, West Virginia still has Kansas on its schedule, which means the team should be able to extend its bowl streak to 11 straight seasons. 

Michigan State Spartans

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    After positing an impressive 11-3 record in 2011, Michigan State was considered the favorite to win the Big Ten Legends Division again this season, even though the team had to replace veteran starting quarterback Kirk Cousins. However, Cousins' replacement, Andrew Maxwell, has not been able to lead the Spartans to the type of success that many envisioned. 

    After starting off the season ranked No. 13 in both major preseason polls, Michigan State has completely fallen off the national radar. The Spartans have gone just 5-5 this season, and they've won just two games against Big Ten competition. 

    The fact that the Spartans were not able to ride RB Le'Veon Bell and a talented defense full of NFL prospects back to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game has to be hard for everyone in East Lansing to swallow. 

LSU Tigers

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    It wasn't exactly a fun offseason for the LSU football program in 2012.

    Not only did the Tigers have to deal with the early departures of important players such as DT Michael Brockers, CB Morris Claiborne and WR Rueben Randle, who all left school early to enter the 2012 NFL draft, they also had to deal with the unexpected loss of star Heisman finalist CB Tyrann Mathieu, who was booted from the program just a few weeks before the season started. 

    Even after experiencing so many debilitating defections, LSU still entered the 2012 season as the No. 1-ranked team in the Coaches' Poll. 

    It was clear in the season-opener against North Texas, however, that this team didn't have the same type of special swagger and confidence it had back in 2011 when it stormed through the regular season undefeated and won an SEC championship. 

    QB Zach Mettenberger has not been the type of offensive savior that many were building him up to be, and the defense has not gotten the type of dominant performances out of its three big stars—Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and Eric Reid—that were expected. 

    LSU won't be making another appearance in the SEC Championship Game this season, and the Tigers likely won't earn a BCS bowl berth. 

    Ultimately, this will end up being a season comparable to last year's "what could have been" campaign. 

Oklahoma Sooners

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    During the Bob Stoops era, Oklahoma has routinely failed to meet high preseason expectations ever since winning the BCS championship back in Stoops' second year in 2000.

    This season has been no different. 

    Oklahoma started off the year ranked No. 4 in both preseason polls. However, the Sooners were knocked out of the national title hunt before the calendar even said November following losses to Kansas State and Notre Dame. 

    There's no shame in losing to two undefeated teams that are both currently ranked in the Top Three. But the fact that Oklahoma lost to both teams at home without showing the true heart of a champion goes to show that it was indeed overrated once again. 

    At this point in the season, the Sooners have just one victory over a ranked opponent. It's hard to make the argument that they truly deserve a BCS at-large bid, even though there's a good chance they'll end up getting one. 

Michigan Wolverines

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    Michigan entered the 2012 season ranked No. 8 in both major preseason polls, and many considered the Wolverines to be one of the top favorites to win the Big Ten title this season. 

    Brady Hoke's squad had the chance to make a huge statement in front of a national audience on the first Saturday of the season when Michigan squared off with defending national champion Alabama at Cowboys Stadium. However, the Wolverines quickly showed that they were not the type of championship contender that many had built them up to be in the offseason. They got absolutely embarrassed 41-14 by the Tide. 

    Star quarterback Denard Robinson's Heisman dreams basically ended that night. Since then, he hasn't really done much to prove that he actually deserved the cover boy treatment and all the hype he received over the summer. 

    At this point, Michigan is 7-3 overall, 5-1 in the conference and still technically alive in the Big Ten Legends Division. But it's clear that this team, which has beaten just one ranked opponent all year, didn't deserve the Top 10 ranking that voters foolishly gave it before the start of the season. 

Texas Longhorns

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    After dominating the Big 12 and routinely putting together double-digit win seasons every year for a decade, Texas slipped back to the pack after an appearance in the 2010 BCS championship game. The Longhorns combined to go just 13-12 in 2010 and 2011. That had many wondering if the days of Texas being a powerhouse program had passed. 

    Still, a lot of voters didn't seem to care about the Longhorns' recent struggles, as they ranked Texas No. 15 in both major preseason polls. 

    There were definitely reasons to get excited in Austin this offseason. Texas entered the 2012 season with one of the deepest stable of running backs in the country, an experienced offensive line and a defense loaded with future NFL draft picks. The Longhorns have always had talent, though, and the question that needed to be answered was: Could head coach Mack Brown properly motivate his team?

    Judging from the Longhorns' uninspired performance in a 63-21 blowout loss to rival Oklahoma and a terrible sleepwalk showing against Kansas, it's right to question whether Brown is really worth his ridiculously high salary.

    Brown may be able to bring in plenty of blue-chip recruits on an annual basis. But when you coach at the biggest program in the most talent-rich state in the country, you have to wonder if that's really a great accomplishment. 

    Texas is 8-2 this season, but the Longhorns have beaten just one ranked team so far. This is a team that had the talent to compete for a Big 12 title this season, but instead, it will once again ultimately be remembered as just another conference also-ran. 

Auburn Tigers

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    A little less than two years ago, Auburn was standing on top of the college football world as the undefeated national champions of the sport. But now, the Tigers have become one of the biggest laughingstocks in the sport.

    Even though they started the season ranked No. 25 in the AP Poll, Auburn quickly fell out of the spotlight after an opening weekend loss to Clemson. Following that early defeat, the season just continued to spiral out of control. 

    The Tigers have gone just 2-8 in 2012, including an 0-7 record against SEC competition. 

    The team currently ranks 13th in the conference in scoring offense, total offense and total defense.

    You can chalk up the squad's severe struggles to having inexperienced young players at key spots, having two new coordinators or having to play a schedule that includes seven teams that have been ranked in the BCS standings at some point this season.

    However, no matter what excuse coach Gene Chizik wants to make to try to save his job, he simply can't gloss over the fact that his team has just lacked the necessary passion, energy and desire this year that it takes to win in the SEC. 

    If Chizik manages to keep his job following such a disastrous season, he should consider himself very lucky.