Show and Excel: 10 College Football Programs With Something To Prove in 2009
Every team feels like they have something to prove going into a season. For some it can mean something more however.
Whether it is a bitter taste in their mouth from the last game, or the commencement of a journey to traverse the mountain top they have fallen off of, these teams have a little more at stake than the other programs.
Whether perception or reality, all of these teams have some work to do to begin to heal wounds that have been festering for variable periods of time. The only way to move forward is to start to face the issues and try to win now.
The season is nearly upon us. For some that means a chance at redemption. For others, it will be a continued decent into the valley of despair and increasing public scrutiny.
Without further ado, here are the 10 college football teams who have a lot on the line in the courtroom of public opinion this season.
The USC Trojans
Just making the list is USC. You wouldn't normally expect to find a team that has been so dominant on a list with something to prove to the masses, but let's face it: USC has flopped in games they should not have lost. Had they been able to keep their focus for every game within the last seven or eight seasons, they might have more than just two national championships to speak of.
This year, they re-load again, but can they take the games that show up in the box scores as seriously as they do for the spotlight of all spotlight games? If they can put it all together for a season, look out...
The Miami Hurricaines
Where has "The U" gone? Miami has fallen off faster than Barack Obama's popularity. The program has not been the same since the all timer of an upset in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.
Miami is no longer the big brother of the Florida programs and has started to lose out on the recruiting battles to the Gators. In order to pick it back up, they need to regain that swagger and re-control the recruiting in talent rich Florida. Will this be the year that they start the climb back? The talent will always be there, but they need to start producing on the field now!
The Alabama Crimson Tide
It is hard to take your rightful perch among champions if you are in the same league as the last three National Champions. Alabama made quick strides in becoming a championship caliber club in the SEC.
The problem is that they share the same conference as the Florida Gators. Simply getting close is not good enough in Tuscaloosa. Merely making it to the SEC Championship Game is far from the top for a program that expects to win every game, every year.
Couple that with last year's blowout loss to Utah has left many people around the country thinking that Alabama lucked its way into contention. They will need a banner year to convince the naysayers otherwise. Was Alabama a flash in the pan, or does the man that 'Bama mortgaged its future with, Nick Saban, have them on the map again?
The West Virginia Mountaineers
Lose a great coach, and lose the momentum of a great program. That's exactly what the impression is after West Virgina took a significant step backwards last season.
If West Virginia hopes to keep its punching gloves on with the heavyweights of college football, the team needs to re-seize the toughness and heart they were known for when Rich Rodriquez was at the helm.
In a conference that would set up well for a perennial power, there is no excuse not to be in the hunt for a BCS game every year. This year will tell whether West Virginia was a byproduct of its coach, or a Progam with sticking power.
The Oklahoma Sooners
Oh so close. That's been the mantra of the Sooner program the last few years. "Big Game" Bob Stoops has lost its luster over the last few seasons as Oklahoma can't seem to win on the big stage.
Has anyone noticed that Oklahoma has lost the five last BCS games that it has been in? For some reason, the Sooners don't get as much "pooh-pooh's" surrounding its program as a certain team from the Big 10 for its stage fright, but the numbers don't lie.
The Sooners seem to punish nearly everyone on its schedule only to ring in the New Year with another loss and bad taste in a big bowl game. Last year's taste left all of Sooner nation puckered lips as it ended with rotten lemons in the BCS Championship Game.
There is no reason to think that Oklahoma won't be there again, but will they be able to shine in prime time?
The Texas Longhorns
Colt is the "Real McCoy," but many Texas Longhorn followers also believe that the Longhorns should have been the "real" Big XII representative in the BCS Championship Game.
There lone slip up at Texas Tech resulted in the Longhorns being relegated to the Fiesta Bowl. Forget that the tussle in the desert was perhaps the best bowl game of the year, the Horns wanted to 'hook 'em" in Miami last year.
They didn't get the chance, and now Colt and gang are back to prove that they should have had their place in history. Look for them to try and take out aggressions on Oct. 17 in Dallas.
The Boise State Broncos
Boise State's fan base was left feeling "blue" after they were left out of a BCS game last year.
To prove the point, they Broncos layed a Christmas egg against TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Despite racking up the wins over the last decade, Boise State is seen as an above average team in a below average conference.
The win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl got a lot of mileage, but it is time for a new tune up. Since then, the Broncos have lost to anybody that has had a pulse.
For anyone to take Boise State seriously, they will need to start winning out of conference against the big boys (and change their eye sore of a blue field). The quest begins Sept. 3rd at home against Oregon.
The Michigan Wolverines
Ouch! 3-9, Shall I say more?
Okay, I will:
There is not a stat for this, but I would conjure a guess that the Michigan Band probably played the fight song less than any year in its storied history.
What many saw as a rebuilding year turned into a program wrecking year. Did anyone see this disaster coming? No matter how extensive putting a new system is, a program like Michigan should be able to weather the choppy waters.
The Michigan football team had a lot of firsts in its program history that it is not proud of. From the first team to lose seven games, to the first team to have a fellow Wolverine transfer to its arch rival because of bitterness, there is not much that went right.
The only good thing about the 2008 Michigan season is that it came to an end. Now Rich Rod must show marked improvement over last year if he wants to stay off of the hot seat.
If the Wolverines don't make a bowl this year, or the "Leaders and Best" continue to lose to the "Sweater and Vest" (Jim Tressel), then Rich Rodriquez may just start to regret his departure from Morgantown.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The "genius" is back for another season.
It has been almost two decades since Notre Dame has been relevant in the College Football world. Let that sink in for a moment.
Despite the words and high expectations that Charlie Weis has promised for the progarm, nothing has come to fruition despite the highly rated recruiting classes, and the game plan brilliance of the mad scientist.
It is hard to believe that what was once the model program in college football has fallen off for so long; "Touchdown Jesus" has become "First Down" Jesus and the "Golden Domers" can't seem to out pace the price of silver.
Combine the experience of the team with a schedule that is more than favorable, and the Irish just might be smiling their way to 10 wins this season to build some momentum.
Anything less might result in another change at the helm and a continued perception of futility.
The Ohio State Buckeyes
One National Championship, six BCS games (including three National Championship Game Appearances), six Big 10 Titles, and 6-out-of-7 wins against their arch rival Michigan..
Ohio State has been battling heavy weights over the last seven years that has resulted in a black eye and a bit of a big game concussion. Despite all of the program's success, it has flopped in the biggest of big games.
The nation is tired of hearing about Ohio State. The term "overrated" and "undeserving" have been volleyed about by the media and fans alike.
Buckeye Nation is weary and has gotten to the point when simply staying in a big game is a relief so as not to lose face again.
Despite the public perception, Ohio State has sent more players to the NFL than anybody but USC over this time period, has the third highest winning percentage, and is tied for second for the most BCS appearances.
A little known fact too, is that Ohio State has only lost to teams that have been BCS teams in the same year...
So, what right?
The team plays one meaningful game out of conference, and then proceed to beat up on what has become an extremely weak Big 10 conference. The cake walk to a BCS game then turns into a snoozefest of a beatdown.
Right or wrong Ohio State needs to start winning more than the expected games again to get back in the good graces of public opinion. They need not only to do it for themselves, but for the entire Big 10 as well.
The trial starts Sept. 12 against USC at home. Anything less than a win will result in contempt.