Each year, NCAA players try to pull off the impossible by bringing teams like North Texas and Eastern Michigan to the promised land after just a couple of seasons.
Every NCAA gamer contemplates the toughest jobs in college football, and I am no different.
If you are looking for a tough challenge this year with the NCAA Football '09 Dynasty Mode, I want you to check out my list of challenging schools and then give me some feedback on which schools you think would be toughest to take over.
Without further adieu, here are the top five toughest schools to actually turn into a powerhouse.
5. North Texas (Sun Belt)
Right off the bat, I am sure many of you are crying foul, since North Texas has not only won its conference in recent memory, but also dominated Sun Belt play for a few years earlier this decade.
How quickly things change in the Sun Belt.
North Texas is now one of the worst teams in the worst Football Bowl Subdivision conference (for the uncool kids, this is the NCAA's new way of saying Division I-A), and things do not look to be getting any easier.
Coming off a 2-10 season, the Mean Green has to replace tons of starters while fielding a very young team. The out-of-conference slate includes Kansas State, Tulsa, LSU, and Rice, all of which could very well be losses.
The biggest positive about this team is its youth. You will be able to build for the future with sophomore quarterback Giovanni Vizza.
Some might consider recruiting to be an easy task since North Texas is located in the high school football capital of the world. However, when you are the worst team in the state of Texas, the best recruits are long gone before you get to them.
Considering the youth, the tough schedule, and the tough recruiting challenges you will be faced with, expect North Texas to take a few years to make a comeback.
4. Utah State (WAC)
What do you get when you lose a bunch of key players from a really bad team in a really bad football state? You get a long and brutal road ahead for anyone who decides to take over the reins at Utah State.
Right now, the most experienced players on the Utah State offense are tight end Rob Myers and center Ryan Tonnemacher. Neither guy is going to have a very high rating in the final version of NCAA Football '09. In the end, expect a tough job ahead while rebuilding the Aggies.
The first big concern you will have to deal with is the fact that you are going to have to try to surpass Hawaii, Boise State, and Fresno State to achieve dominance. Climbing the mountain will not be easy, considering that Utah State has not won a conference crown in over 11 years.
The recruiting trail should be rather tough as well, since there is not that much in-state talent, and what little there is will go to cross-state rivals Utah or BYU.
In all reality, getting Utah State above Boise, Fresno, Utah, or Hawaii is going to be very tough. It does not help that the WAC is not an easy conference by any stretch of the imagination. Prepare yourself for frustration.
3. Syracuse (Big East)
The Orange not only sport some incredibly ugly uniforms, they also sport a program which is in dire straits right now.
Right now the Orange are stuck in a position that has them looking way up at the current class of the Big East. Passing West Virginia, South Florida, Pitt, and Rutgers in the Big East is going to be near impossible within the next couple of years.
The good news is head coach Greg Robinson brought in a decent recruiting class, which features some skilled talent and decent defenders.
However, returning to the bad news, you are going to have to deal with the inevitable increased expectations of a program which has won in the past. The expectations to perform will be fairly high as the virtual Syracuse fans will be looking to relive the days of Donovan McNabb at the helm.
Your biggest plus is being the biggest program in a very populous state, but your road to success will not be easy. Expect to lose for a year or two before starting to see a turnaround.
But with the added expectations of a more prestigious school, you better have a great third year to stick around as the coach of the Orange in year four.
2. Idaho (WAC)
Idaho is a program that could be defined as the pit of college football coaching careers.
The Vandals play in the smallest FBS stadium (Kibbie Dome at 16,000); they call a bad football state home; and above all else, it has been a decade since anyone won a conference title at Idaho—the team has won just 16 games since 2001.
The Vandals' last winning season? All the way back in 1999, when Idaho finished 7-4—that's nine years and five coaches ago. Yikes!
Also, do not expect to be stopping too many opponents in year one, as the Vandals return just four starters to a defense which ranked 110th in scoring defense last year. The offense is returning experience, but it was just bad last year, averaging only 349 yards a game.
So what do you have to work with at Idaho? The answer: nothing, really. You will have to spend a ton of recruiting points to find any decent talent outside of Idaho, and you may not have many points to spare. You are also going to be recruiting against in-state heavyweight Boise State.
You are going to be challenged early and often at Idaho, and you are not going to have an easy road to meeting expectations.
A bowl appearance by year three will be your first challenge, while a conference crown a year or so later would be your next.
Before I list number one, let me just post a few teams that didn't quite make the cut, but are still on a short list of hard teams to make into a powerhouse: Baylor, Vanderbilt, UNLV, San Jose St., Rice, SMU, Eastern Michigan, and Florida International.
1. Duke (ACC) And the toughest job of them all? That would be coaching Duke, a team which has not won a conference title in nearly two decades and has not had a winning season since the early 1990s. The program had its best years during the 1930s—the best year was 1938.
Any future coach of the Blue Devils will also be looking way up at the rest of the ACC, which will result in a huge gap between your team and the top teams in the conference. Your first task as coach of the Blue Devils will be to try to wrestle wins away from Northwestern and a Football Championship Subdivision (again, the NCAA's new cute way of saying Division I-AA) team. Starting off 2-0 would do your program wonders, although they may be your only wins in year one.
The talent gap between Duke and the rest of the ACC is enormous, which might explain why no coach sans Steve Spurrier has won there in recent memory.
The recruiting trail will be very difficult as well, what with having to compete in the Carolinas against several quality football programs, as well as southern heavyweights Georgia and Florida.
The problem with recruiting at Duke is you are not going to be able to catch the better talent from your region since the heavyweights will be taking the best talent first. Thus, your rebuilding process will take some time.
Your boosters will expect you to win just as quickly as an Idaho or a Utah State, since the talent is just a bit higher than those schools, with the added caveat of being in a major BCS conference.
The lack of talent means your success early and often will be predicated by how you manage the talent gap between your Blue Devils and your ACC opponents.
In the end, there is a reason no coach has succeeded in getting Duke near a bowl game in some time. For you to succeed and reach the top of the ACC will take some skillful recruiting and coaching.
This article was written by Chris Sanner for Operation Sports. Operation Sports is the Internet's leading sports video games resource.
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