College Football

College Football's 25 Most Overhyped Players, Coaches and Teams for 2014

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2014

College Football's 25 Most Overhyped Players, Coaches and Teams for 2014

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    Trevor Knight and Oklahoma had a great showing in the Sugar Bowl. But does one game warrant the hype Knight and the Sooners are getting heading into this season?
    Trevor Knight and Oklahoma had a great showing in the Sugar Bowl. But does one game warrant the hype Knight and the Sooners are getting heading into this season?Rusty Costanza

    College football is jam-packed with amazing players, coaches and teams, all of whom deserve the attention and praise they receive from fans and the media.

    And then there are the ones who get all that attention despite their accomplishments.

    For whatever reason, certain entities tend to garner far more hype than you'd expect, based on what they've managed to achieve to that point. It's not that these coaches, teams or players aren't good or not deserving of some praise, but do they warrant this much?

    It could be because of one good season or one really great game. Or in the case of some players, just the assumption that success at the high school level will naturally carry over to the collegiate ranks.

    Hype will always exist; it's just up to us to sift through the noise and figure out who's really deserving of it.

    To help with that task, here's our list of the 25 most overhyped players, coaches and teams for the 2014 college football season.

25. Braxton Miller, Ohio State

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    Wilfredo Lee

    Braxton Miller has received a lot of notoriety during his three years at Ohio State for being such an exciting player to watch. He is a dual-threat quarterback who is as dangerous as they come.

    That's how it sounds when he is run through the hype machine. Look objectively at his Buckeyes career, though, and you'll see a passer whose numbers don't come close to those of other such quarterbacks.

    While his rushing statistics have been impressive—he has gained more than 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons, with 25 touchdowns along the way—his passing figures aren't anything to write home about.

    Miller's decision to return for his senior season wasn't that surprising, seeing as his overall skill set isn't ready for the pro game. Without the hype, he's just a good college quarterback who needs to get better.

24. Florida State Seminoles

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    It's become almost a given that the winner of the national title in college football one season will be ranked No. 1 in nearly every preseason poll for the following year. It's become a birthright of sorts.

    We'll give that to Florida State. But let's hold off on printing up gear with "back-to-back" and other catchy phrases related to repeating as champs.

    Yes, the Seminoles bring back the country's best player in Jameis Winston. And yes, FSU is loaded with solid backups and high-profile recruits who could be capable of matching or exceeding the feats of those they're tasked with replacing.

    Emphasis on "could."

    FSU will enter the year as the best team in college football, almost by default, but there's a whole season still to be played. Let's slow down the dynasty hype until after the Seminoles get into the meat of their much-harder schedule.

23. Lane Kiffin, Alabama

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Lane Kiffin has a career coaching record of 40-36 and has been fired from two of his three head coaching jobs. The other, at Tennessee, only lasted one season before he left to go to USC.

    He is now the offensive coordinator at Alabama—a job that takes away the pressure of being the main guy but still taps into his skills as a recruiter and noted offensive mind.

    Many coaches in the college ranks get fired at one school and end up somewhere else the next year in a lesser role, yet Kiffin's move to Tuscaloosa has garnered far more attention than others. Former Wyoming coach Dave Christensen is now offensive coordinator at Utah, but that hiring hardly caused a ripple compared to Kiffin.

    Kiffin has a chance to rebuild his reputation in his new role with the Crimson Tide, because right now it's not one that deserves this much hype.

22. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Oregon defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu gets plenty of hype for a player who only had three interceptions last season and seven for his career.

    Maybe it's because his name is so cool (or hard, depending on your perspective) to say, which gives him a bit of extra mystique.

    It could also be a product of teams out west not getting much attention other than for quarterback play and high-scoring games.

    Whatever the case, Ekpre-Olomu's return for his senior season was given the kind of notoriety that is normally reserved for a skill position player.

21. UCLA Bruins

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    There's no denying that UCLA's program is on a major upswing. Since Jim Mora came to town, the Bruins have gone 19-8 (after winning 21 games in the previous four seasons) and played for the Pac-12 title once.

    Yet during that same span, UCLA has had a pair of momentum-sapping losing streaks, including a three-game skid to end Mora's first season in 2012 and then back-to-back losses in 2013 that moved the Bruins from unbeaten to offensively uncertain.

    Which side of this coin do you think gets talked about more?

    Los Angeles is a huge media market, and there's an expectation of glitz and glamour with its athletic teams. There's also a strong desire to have the UCLA-USC rivalry be a thriving one, not like the one-sided affair dominated by USC until Mora came along.

    With that in mind, UCLA's positives get far more attention and scrutiny than its negatives.

20. Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State

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    Jae C. Hong

    As the architect of one of the nation's best defenses last season, Pat Narduzzi gained a lot of attention and received a heap of credit for Michigan State's Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl victory. He also won the Broyles Award, which is given to college football's top assistant coach.

    So why, then, isn't he a head coach yet?

    He's been coaching since 1990 and has been a coordinator for 14 of the last 17 years, including since 2007 with the Spartans. He was a candidate for the Connecticut job last winter, eventually withdrawing his name from consideration.

    Narduzzi needs to step out from the shadows sooner or later, unless he wants to be a career assistant.

19. Jameis Winston, Florida State

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy, given to college football's best player, while leading Florida State to its first national title in 154 years. And now he's striking out batters at a rapid rate for the Seminoles baseball team.

    He's a heck of an athlete, for sure. But will he be the next Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders? Let's slow that roll down a bit.

    What Winston has done in his brief college career is nothing short of amazing, but it's also just that: brief. His football numbers were some of the best ever by a freshman quarterback, but to extrapolate those results over a career and expect them to never drop off is quite ambitious.

    His hype machine got revved up after his first college game and hasn't stopped since. Who knows if it has enough juice to make it through two more years of football.

18. Auburn Tigers

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    Dave Martin

    Auburn went from 3-9 to the national championship game in one season, which was as amazing a turnaround as there has ever been in college football.

    But again, this was just one season. So why does it seem like the consensus opinion is that the Tigers will remain at this current level of success and not revert back to the 2012 version?

    Auburn was perfect in 2010, winning the BCS title, and then dropped to 8-5 the next year before bottoming out the following season. Why do we assume that 2014 won't continue this past pattern?

    Is it because of the coach, Gus Malzahn? The players? Or is it simply another example of hype run amok?

17. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

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    Gregory Bull

    Kliff Kingsbury's head coaching career started off like a house on fire, with seven straight wins that propelled an underrated Texas Tech team high into the national rankings. Then five straight losses dropped the Red Raiders to sixth place in the Big 12, and nearly all the luster from the hot start was gone.

    Tech then blew out Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl to finish 8-5, and Kingsbury's reputation as a quarterback guru was reaffirmed by the performance of true freshman Davis Webb in that game.

    Kingsbury has also worked with FBS career passing leader Case Keenum and was Johnny Manziel's offensive coordinator in his Heisman-winning season of 2012. Webb's bowl effort just cemented the coach's reputation.

    But it seems like his hype comes even more from his appearance—and close resemblance to actor Ryan Gosling—than from what he's done in his brief coaching career.

16. Ryan Switzer, North Carolina

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    Chuck Burton

    Ryan Switzer tied the FBS record for punt return touchdowns in a season last year, bringing back five kicks for scores for North Carolina. That's not bad for a lightly recruited player from West Virginia who had to fight his way up the depth chart just to get on the field.

    He pretty much came out of nowhere to make his mark on the Tar Heels' season, capping the year with a thrilling return TD in the Belk Bowl blowout win over Cincinnati. But now that he's shown his cards, opposing punters are going to be much less likely to give him chances to burn them.

    Yet every time he lines up deep on a return this fall, expect the hype to run rampant.

15. Chad Morris, Clemson

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    RICHARD SHIRO

    Chad Morris is the highest-paid assistant coach in college football, making more than $1.3 million last season, according to USA Today. That's more than the salary of nearly half of the head coaches in FBS.

    Not a bad gig for only having to be in charge of half a team, as Morris serves as Clemson's offensive coordinator. Granted, the Tigers have had one of the best offenses in the country during his three seasons, but that's still a lot to pay the person who is second in command.

    He was mentioned in conjunction with several coaching vacancies last year, but he ultimately stayed at Clemson. He now has to try and repeat his past performance with an almost all-new set of skill players, a feat that could finally land him that head coaching gig and lump a whole new level of hype onto him.

14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Chalk this one up to legacy hype: No matter what's gone on in the past, Notre Dame seems to always be overhyped.

    Think about it: The school essentially has its own network for home football games on NBC, but unlike Texas or BYU, it's a station that's on every television in America instead of obscurely tucked into some extra sports tier. And when the Fighting Irish are on the road, it's like a feeding frenzy to grab the rights to those games. No matter who the opponent is, the contest is given top billing.

    But beyond the TV exposure, Notre Dame's insistence on staying independent (though its loose affiliation with the ACC is somewhat of a sea change) is a way of saying that it wants to be the center of attention at all times. And we're more than glad to oblige.

    It doesn't matter if the Irish are predicted to be 11-1 or 1-11 this season; the hype will be there in spades.

13. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

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    Chris Carlson

    At this time a decade ago, Gus Malzahn was a high school football coach in Arkansas. Now, he's a coaching genius.

    That's what one season—albeit a wildly successful one—at an SEC school will do for you.

    He is getting a great deal of the credit for what the Tigers were able to accomplish in 2013, going from 3-9 a year before to the national championship game. His offensive schemes were also integral in Auburn's title in 2010-11, but there was this guy named Cam Newton who also was a part of that.

    Had Malzahn orchestrated a similar one-year turnaround at someplace with a lower profile, he would have still gotten a lot of notoriety for doing so. But not anywhere near to the level that he's gotten at Auburn, where his one season in charge has the fanbase expecting nothing less than a national title this season.

12. Everett Golson, Notre Dame

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    When Everett Golson last played for Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish were in the BCS National Championship Game after recording the program's first perfect regular season since 1988. Notre Dame lost the title game to Alabama, but it appeared like the sky was the limit for the team and Golson.

    But then the quarterback missed the entire 2013 season due to an academic suspension, and Notre Dame went 9-4. Not a bad year, but not good enough for Notre Dame standards.

    Golson has been reinstated and is battling with Malik Zaire for his old job. Assuming he wins the competition, his triumphant return will no doubt be championed in every preview article leading up to the 2014 season, not to mention during every telecast—it helps when your school has an exclusive TV contract with a network.

11. Charlie Strong, Texas

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    John Raoux

    When it comes to overhyping, one of the most common forms is the blanket assumption that success in one area will automatically lead to similar results elsewhere.

    For Charlie Strong, that means four increasingly successful years at Louisville translate into him being seen as the savior of Texas' football program.

    The Texas job was, by far, the hottest opening on the market this past offseason, and Strong was one of many high-profile names attached to the vacancy even before it became open. And while his resume is solid, the inference that winning at Louisville makes one a perfect fit for the microscope that running Longhorns Nation puts you under is the definition of hype in its purest form.

10. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Oklahoma looked darn good in its convincing win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, which came less than a month after the Sooners' comeback Bedlam victory at Oklahoma State.

    Those were two impressive results, which when it comes to hype can seem like a 30-game win streak.

    Oklahoma was almost an afterthought during much of the 2013 season, first getting written off after losing to Texas in October and then again after the blowout loss at Baylor. But then Bedlam happened, and suddenly the Sooners were BCS-bound despite previously being perceived as underachieving.

    Throw in a high-profile win over the two-time defending champions (ignoring Alabama's recent history in bowl games that don't award crystal footballs to the winner), and suddenly Oklahoma is back near the top of college football.

9. Chris Petersen, Washington

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    After what seemed like an annual chore of shunning offers to leave Boise State for...greener pastures, Chris Petersen finally pulled the trigger this winter and accepted the job at Washington.

    The move has generally been well-received, both as far as the location for Petersen and the choice by the Huskies to replace Steve Sarkisian. In fact, it's been almost a little too well-received.

    Are we forgetting the post-Boise careers of the Broncos' last two hotshot head coaches? Dirk Koetter went 26-10 in three seasons with Boise and then bolted for Arizona State, where he went 40-34 and was fired after six years. Dan Hawkins followed Koetter, went 53-11 in five years and then jumped ship to Colorado. He lasted less than five years and went 19-39.

    Petersen has far exceeded what his predecessors did at Boise, going 92-12 and winning a pair of Fiesta Bowl games. But to immediately assume that means he'll do any better than his contemporaries at a Pac-12 school is giving into the hype instead of letting the results speak for themselves.

8. Kentucky Wildcats

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    Garry Jones

    Kentucky pulled in a top-25 recruiting class this offseason—the second straight solid haul Mark Stoops has signed since taking over the SEC's worst football program.

    So, naturally, the Wildcats should be a shoo-in to at least make a bowl game, if not contend with Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina for the East Division crown, right?

    Wait, what? You're saying that the addition of really good high school and junior college players doesn't automatically mean you're going to have a great year? Isn't that how it is for Florida State, Ohio State, USC and other big-time programs?

    Who cares that the Wildcats were 2-10 in 2013, lost 16 straight SEC games and haven't beaten a non-FBS or non-Mid-American Conference team in more than two years, look at the recruiting class!

7. Trevor Knight, Oklahoma

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    Patrick Semansky

    Trevor Knight won Oklahoma's starting quarterback job at the beginning of the 2013 season, but he didn't hold onto it long before Blake Bell took over in the Sooners' third game. Knight got the gig back in November, then lost it again to injury, only to once again get the nod for Oklahoma's Sugar Bowl appearance against Alabama.

    Nothing that happened before the Alabama game, though, seems to matter anymore—not after he wowed everyone by throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns in the victory.

    Despite an uneven redshirt freshman season, he has ridden the coattails of that one outing into a lock on the Sooners' quarterback position. Bell was moved to tight end to further cement Knight's role as the offensive leader.

    Knight threw for just 819 yards with nine touchdowns last season, yet he's a 25-1 shot to win the Heisman Trophy, according to Odds Shark.

6. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

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    Credit: 247Sports

    How big of a deal is Jabrill Peppers to Michigan fans? Before ever getting into a game, he's being considered the answer to everything that went poorly for the Wolverines last season.

    That's sure how it seems when listening to the hype surrounding Peppers, a highly touted 5-star athlete from New Jersey who was the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2014 recruiting class. And though he won't arrive on campus until the summer, he's already being looked at as a savior for Michigan's inconsistent offense, its vulnerable defense and special teams game.

    How is he with field maintenance and play-calling?

5. Georgia Bulldogs

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Georgia would have been right in the running for the SEC East title, a BCS berth and possibly even the national title game last year, if not for:

    • Injuries
    • Defensive breakdowns
    • Bad luck (i.e., tipped balls on 4th-and-18 that result in 73-yard touchdowns)

    The list could keep going, but you get the picture. The Bulldogs were snakebit in 2013, ending up 8-5 and far below expectations.

    Yet to listen to the hype attached to Georgia's 2014 team, you'd think it was coming off a far better year and had addressed whatever minor issues were present. Sure, Georgia has upgraded at defensive coordinator and has gotten healthier on offense, but for those adjustments to suddenly turn the Bulldogs into a top-10 team again is pure hype.

4. Max Browne, USC

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    Damian Dovarganes

    Max Browne was the top-rated quarterback in the 2013 recruiting class, a tall (6'5") and strong-armed passer with 144 touchdowns in his three seasons of high school football.

    Yet he wasn't able to crack the top two on USC's depth chart last season, and this spring he appears to be trailing incumbent Cody Kessler in a battle for the Trojans' starting job this fall.

    Kessler had a solid year last season, and the only reason there's a QB competition is because USC has a new coach, Steve Sarkisian, whose staff is implementing a different offensive scheme. Browne has a lot of accolades behind him, but for now he's been unable to translate that hype into collegiate playing time.

3. Tennessee Volunteers

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    Garry Jones

    Tennessee's last winning season was in 2009, and its last year of any serious success was 2007. Yet that didn't stop Butch Jones from recruiting like a national title contender in signing a whopping 32 players this offseason.

    Time to start booking that Sugar Bowl trip, right Rocky Top Nation?

    Rebuilding a program starts with the players you bring in, but it can be a lengthy process. Not everyone can turn around as quickly as Auburn did, but the hype surrounding Tennessee's recruiting class gives the impression that nothing short of 10 wins will be a major letdown for the Volunteers this year.

    So it goes when a school's recruiting ranking—Tennessee's class rated No. 7 nationally by 247Sports—gets fed into the hype machine and comes out the other end looking like an in-season performance ranking.

2. James Franklin, Penn State

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    John Beale

    What James Franklin did at Vanderbilt was unprecedented, leading the Commodores to three consecutive bowl appearances. Not only had that never been done before, the school had only played in four bowl games prior to his arrival in 2011.

    But let's remember that his accomplishments simply meant he overachieved in comparison to previous Vanderbilt coaches. He still finished no better than fourth in the SEC East each year, going 11-13 in league play. The Commodores won only one game against a ranked team: Georgia in 2013.

    None of those specifics mattered, though, when it came to the hype that Franklin drew this past season as his name was attached to seemingly every coaching vacancy (and potential opening) across the country. He'll probably do good things at Penn State, but to head there with such lofty hype seems unwarranted.

1. Jacob Coker, Alabama

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Jacob Coker has attempted 41 passes in his college career, all as a backup in mop-up time for Florida State the past two seasons. He threw one touchdown during the third quarter of a 55-0 win over Savannah State in Sept. 2013.

    That doesn't sound like the resume of a guy who has a good chance to start for one of the nation's top programs, but those are the numbers surrounding one of the most hyped graduate transfers in college football history.

    Russell Wilson was far more accomplished when he used his final year of eligibility to transfer to Wisconsin in 2011, following a solid three-year career at North Carolina State, yet he didn't garner anywhere near the attention Coker has gotten since deciding in January to leave Florida State for Alabama.

    Coker has several people to beat out for the Crimson Tide job this fall, and he won't get his chance until the summer, while the rest of the lot compete during spring ball. Yet he is the one we're talking about more than all the others.

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