10 College Football Teams That Are Happy to Put 2014 Behind Them
Most college football teams exit the season having failed to check off the box next to every preseason goal.
Unless you're Urban Meyer and Ohio State, there were some moments during the 2014 season that left you shaking your head and wishing you could skip to the next chapter. Heck, even the Buckeyes suffered an inexcusable home loss to Virginia Tech back in November, though that will simply go down as an odd footnote in the history books.
The list of programs that are happy to put 2014 behind them is a long one. The obvious candidates to make the list are the bottom-dwellers in each conference—the teams that only won a couple games during the season.
But you also have to look at those who entered the year with massive expectations and failed to deliver. Finally, some schools put together a strong showing, but the future is so bright that they can't help but be eager to turn the page. Neither Tennessee nor Arkansas made the list, but I imagine fans of each program can't wait to get to 2015.
Let's take a look at 10 college football teams that are ready to put 2014 in the rearview mirror and begin the process of making 2015 special.
Coming off a 2013 campaign in which the team won just one game, expectations were not high for the Purdue Boilermakers. Unfortunately, upping the total to three wins wasn't satisfying, most notably because of the lone conference win.
The problem for Purdue that will be difficult for fans to hear is that a solution might not be readily available. Head coach Darrell Hazell is entering his third season having proved nothing, and he's competing on the recruiting trail with Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, not to mention the other programs in the Big Ten that have struggled in recent years, such as Indiana.
The offense averaged a woeful 23.8 points per game, and the defense gave up more than 30 on eight occasions including five of the final six games. While the future might not be brighter, there's at least some semblance of hope that it will be better than the past, which is why Purdue can't wait to put 2014 behind it.
Washington State Cougars
After reaching a bowl game in 2013, Washington State had plenty to be excited about as it began the most recent season of college football, but nothing went according to plan. Despite boasting a strong senior quarterback, deep receiving corps and improved defensive line, the Cougars managed just three wins.
The Cougars opened up with losses to Rutgers and Nevada before getting on the board with a win over Portland State. The following two-week stretch was the strongest of the season. The Cougars suffered a narrow, seven-point loss to Oregon that was marred with controversy after a no-call on a blatant pass interference as Washington State was going in for the game-tying score.
Mike Leach and company rebounded with a major upset at Utah, but the wheels soon fell off as the team allowed 50 points per game in losses to Cal, Stanford, Arizona and USC. To make matters worse, quarterback Connor Halliday suffered a season-ending injury against USC, though backup Luke Falk showed promise in his stead. But as we look back upon the year, it's clear that it wasn't what head coach Mike Leach had in mind.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
If you're a fan of offense, blocking the channels that Wake Forest appeared on each Saturday would have been the prudent move. The Demon Deacons averaged fewer than 15 points per outing in a dreadful 3-9 season.
Ironically enough, Wake Forest did clip Virginia Tech 6-3 in overtime, the same team that gave Ohio State its only loss of the year. That just serves as further proof that the transitive property should rarely, if ever, be used in a serious college football argument.
To put things in perspective, the Demon Deacons never scored more than 24 points. The defense allowed a respectable 26.4 points per game, but 2014 will be a year that few people will talk about in Wake Forest football history.
Texas had a terrible season by its own lofty standards, but the Longhorns weren't exactly bottom-of-the-barrel in the college football landscape. What puts them on this list is the future, which looks bright under coach Charlie Strong.
And it had better be bright, or Strong won't find himself with the luxury of time to keep building. The defense was stout in allowing less than 24 points per game, but the problems once again fell on the offense, which topped the 40-point barrier just once and hit 30 on only four occasions.
What Strong did when he took the job was clean house and ensure that everyone on the team bought into his system and was ready to put in the effort in getting Texas back to the discussion of nation's best teams. 2014 will go down as a forgettable but perhaps necessary season in Longhorns' history, and based simply on finishing with a losing record, Texas is moving forward and never looking back.
There were numerous reasons to be excited about Vanderbilt football entering 2014. The team was coming off a 9-4 season in 2013, and despite losing a number of skill players on offense as well as coach James Franklin, the hiring of Derek Mason from Stanford looked like a home run.
Then the season began with a 37-7 loss to Temple, and all those good thoughts went out the window immediately. When a 41-3 defeat to Ole Miss followed, it was clear that fans were in for a rough few months. Many might have chosen to skip the season entirely given the option, but the Commodores did scrape out three wins over nonconference competition.
Moving forward, you can't rule out Mason just yet, but he'll have to find a way to regain the mojo initially brought in by Franklin; otherwise, Vanderbilt will remain in the SEC cellar where it's often been.
It wasn't quite the three-win disaster of 2008 led by now-Pac-12 Coach of the Year Rich Rodriguez, but 2014 was a year to forget for Michigan.
A 31-0 loss at Notre Dame set the tone, and two straight double-digit losses to Utah and Minnesota solidified the growing thought that the Wolverines wouldn't amount to anything of note. They did scrape out five wins and competed well against Ohio State, but quarterback Devin Gardner never improved, and the offense as a whole was as hapless as ever in averaging just over 20 points per game.
Perhaps the biggest reason folks around Michigan are looking forward to the future is the hiring of Jim Harbaugh, a coach who's seen major success everywhere he's been including Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. He's as sure a bet as they come to turn this thing around, and there hasn't been this much optimism about Michigan football in years.
Colorado went from one win in 2012 to four in 2013, so it seemed reasonable to expect at least that many victories with an experienced quarterback returning, along with more talent than previous seasons.
One might argue that the 2014 version of the Buffaloes was in fact better than any other team in the past five seasons, but at the same time, so was the Pac-12 and the South Division in particular. After starting off 2-2, Colorado lost its final eight games and gave up at least 38 points in each one. A competitive loss to UCLA was the only bright spot.
As Colorado continues to adjust to life in an improving Pac-12, getting over the hump won't get any easier. But this team is in much better shape than it's been in, and sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau looks the part. Still, two wins is enough to make anyone squirm, so the Buffs are thrilled to turn the page.
Southern Methodist Mustangs
Southern Methodist was the worst team in college football in 2014 and with that honor comes an automatic spot on this list. UConn could make a decent case after losing to the Mustangs in the season finale, but it's almost hard to describe how awful this team really was.
In the first four losses, which came against Baylor, North Texas, Texas A&M and TCU, SMU was outscored 202-12. Then came a 21-point loss to East Carolina, a 38-point defeat to Cincinnati and, well, another 38-point loss to Memphis. Only then did the Mustangs become even mildly competitive with a 10-point loss at Tulsa and losing by just one to South Florida.
And yes, the season ended on a high note with a 27-20 victory over the Huskies, but the result was a 1-11 season in which the offense averaged 11 points per game and the defense gave up 41. It's safe to say new head coach Chad Morris has his work cut out for him.
You won't find many more disappointing seasons than the one put together by the 2014 Oklahoma Sooners. After starting out in the preseason Top Five of both the AP and Coaches Polls, the team finished outside the rankings altogether at the conclusion of bowl season.
The reason for the drop was an 8-5 campaign that, truth be told, was close to being 10-3 or even 11-2. After starting out 4-0, the Sooners lost by four at TCU and fell to Kansas State by a single point two weeks later. Baylor was the team that finally dropped the hammer, however, winning 48-14 in Norman. A collapse on the final week of the regular season to Oklahoma State put the nail in the coffin.
Still, there was an opportunity to salvage something out of the rough year against Clemson in bowl season, but the Tigers won 40-6 against a Sooners team that wouldn't have beaten Kansas that day. It was a forgettable season for one of college football's blue bloods, and Oklahoma should enter 2015 with a chip on its shoulder and not as one of the preseason favorites to make the playoff.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Speaking of teams that failed to live up to preseason hype, we arrive at South Carolina to round out the list. The Gamecocks were in the AP Top 10 in the preseason and, like Oklahoma, finished unranked.
Unlike the Sooners, however, South Carolina showed leaks from the start, losing by 24 at home to Texas A&M on the opening night of the season. Its best win of the year came two weeks later against Georgia, but there wasn't much else the rest of the way. The Gamecocks squeaked into bowl season at 6-6 and put together a strong effort in a win over Miami, but 7-6 is a far cry from where many expected this team to be in January.
The biggest problem was a defense that took several steps back and an offense led by players who didn't play up to par. Running back Mike Davis finished 18 yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing, which put additional strain on quarterback Dylan Thompson and the passing attack. The most obvious question moving forward will be whether this team can bounce back, because 2014 was one of the more disappointing years in recent memory.
All stats via cfbstats.com.