2010 College Football Predictions: Top 25 Teams That May Not Deliver
August is almost upon us.
For many, that means a sense of disappointment and sadness, even depression. For teachers and those still in school, the end of summer is possibly the most heart-wrenching time of the year.
But for college football fans, August means the start of football season. And we couldn't be happier. There's nothing quite like the excitement that builds up to a new season of college football.
For many fans there is even more reason to be excited. Their teams are actually supposed to be good.
Key phrase: "supposed to be."
So, on that note, what teams in the preseason top 25 shouldn't you count on to meet expectations in 2010?
Which teams are poised to leave all those excited fans heartbroken come season's end?
Note: Rankings are based on Mark Schlabach's rankings published on May 3.
No. 22: Georgia Tech
After winning the ACC last year, many expected Georgia Tech to beat Iowa in the Orange Bowl. Its offense was simply going to overpower the Hawkeye 'D.'
If you didn't expect the Yellowjackets to win, you at least thought it would be a close game.
Nope. Although the score (24-14) may not indicate it, Iowa thoroughly dominated that game.
Certainly not an encouraging sign for Georgia Tech's program, or the ACC in general.
Yet, with the return of quarterback Josh Nesbitt, many still think that Georgia Tech could repeat as ACC champs and make a return to South Beach come January.
Sorry, but that's just not going to happen.
With the loss of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, defensive end Derrick Morgan, and running back Jonathan Dwyer, the Yellow Jackets are in for a rigorous climb if they want to make it back to the summit of the ACC mountain.
Not only will the ACC be stronger this year, but also Georgia Tech just won't be as good. Paul Johnson may be able to find replacements for his NFL-bound departures, but not ones who will be able to give the Jackets consecutive conference crowns.
No. 21: North Carolina
With a good portion of North Carolina's defense returning, many expect it to give up few points in 2010. In fact, it'll probably have one of the best defenses in the country once again.
And yes, its defense alone should keep Butch Davis and the Tar Heels in the ACC race.
But, with more than a few question marks on offense, and with an NCAA investigation taking place on the Chapel Hill campus, North Carolina may not be able to overcome that kind of adversity to reach the Orange Bowl.
Defensive tackle Marvin Austin, one of NC's best defensive players, is the center of this investigation that's looking into whether Tar Heel players received improper benefits.
If Austin becomes ineligible, the Tar Heel defense will take a major step back, and there isn't a whole lot of optimism that the offense could pick up the slack.
Yes, the offense returns basically its entire unit. Normally, that would be great news.
Too bad those returning players just aren't very good.
NC's offensive line, running game, and quarterback will all need better performances than they had in 2009 if the Tar Heels hope to win the Coastal Division.
For North Carolina preseason expectations are very high. This kind of attention for the school's football team is a little out of the ordinary.
However, unless things take a complete 180 in the next month, those expectations could come crashing down.
No. 19: Miami
Three ACC teams in a row? Well, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the conference heading into 2010.
The league could either have one of its strongest seasons in recent memory, or it could once again be a disappointment.
For a conference that said it was never stronger than after its expansion in 2005, the results on the field have been disheartening. One BCS bowl win (VaTech in the 2009 Orange Bowl) in five years probably isn't what the ACC had in mind.
That said, the ACC potentially has a few BCS-quality teams in 2010.
Possibly the team getting the most hype is the Miami Hurricanes. With the return of star quarterback Jacory Harris and the hopeful comeback of running back Graig Cooper from an ACL tear, many expect the Hurricanes to compete in, and maybe win, the ACC.
Miami hasn't had these kind of expectations since Larry Coker was head coach in the early 2000's.
But there are a lot of "ifs" involved as well.
Only if Cooper is able to recover from his injury will the Hurricanes' running game, and offense in general, be at full strength.
Only if Harris can maintain consistent quarterback play and minimize turnovers (17 interceptions last year) will Miami stay in the ACC race.
Only if the Hurricanes can survive their rough road schedule (at Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Clemson and Georgia Tech) will they be in the mix for that elusive BCS bid.
The Hurricanes have the talent to get back to the BCS, but only if a number of events occur. That may just be too much to ask for.
No. 10: Oregon
Following a disappointing Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State, many experts assured Ducks' fans not to fear. Oregon would be back better than ever in 2010.
The Ducks are going to repeat as Pac-10 champs, head back down to Pasadena, and cap off their best season in recent memory with a Rose Bowl win. Even the national championship seemed like a possibility.
After all, they were going to have both star quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James returning. Offensive firepower was not going to be an issue.
Except now it is. Because Masoli isn't on the team anymore. A burglary conviction will do that to you.
The question now is whether Oregon can even make it to a BCS bowl, let alone the national championship game.
Nate Costa and Darron Thomas will be battling for the starting job under center, and their performances will play a large role in determining whether Oregon lives up to the hype.
My gut says that without Masoli it won't.
No. 9: Wisconsin
With virtually Wisconsin's entire offense returning, many expect the team to compete for the Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl.
John Clay, Scott Tolzien, Nick Toon...the list goes on.
As far as its defense goes, it does lose a few key starters (most notably defensive end O'Brien Schofield), but it too should be able to keep Wisconsin in the title hunt.
But it just seems that whenever Wisconsin receives national hype, it tends to disappoint. Plus, the team is always good for one upset every year. And not in the good way.
In 2007 it rose to No. 5 in the nation before being upset by Illinois and never seemed to regain its swagger. In 2008 it rose to No. 6 before falling to Michigan and never recovered, finishing the season at 7-6.
This year, it is predicted to do well, as it should, but if history repeats itself, Badger fans could be in for some major disappointment.
Looking at the team, the only weakness could possibly be in the defensive backfield. But even there Wisconsin should be improved from last season.
There's no other way to put it, but when Wisconsin gets national attention, it seems to wither under that spotlight.
No. 7: Nebraska
Soon to become the newest member of the Big Ten, Nebraska will look to end its time in the Big 12 on a positive note.
It is predicted to win the Big 12 North with ease, and many think it can win the conference title as well. Some are even predicting a national championship appearance.
But despite all those expectations, Nebraska still has a lot to prove, especially on offense, if it even wants to think about reaching the title game.
The running game should be all right, but the passing game, under the guidance of quarterback Zac Lee, must improve. Last year, he managed 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Respectable, sure. But the team only got to the Holiday Bowl, not to a BCS bowl.
In 2010 Lee will have to emerge as one of the top quarterbacks in the Big 12 if Nebraska hopes to win the conference title and return to the BCS for the first time since 2002.
Meanwhile, the loss of Ndamukong Suh does hurt the defense, but it should still be one of the stingiest in the land.
No, it's the offense that needs to step up to the challenge.
If it can, the sky's the limit. If it can't, a return to the Holiday Bowl may be in order.
No. 3: Ohio State
If the Buckeyes don't win the national championship in 2010, all of Columbus, and most of the state, will be in a state of shock and disappointment.
Those are the kind of expectations we're dealing with here.
And honestly, with the lineup Ohio State has returning from last year's Rose Bowl squad, this type of hype should be expected.
But whether the Bucks can deliver is another question.
Despite the loss of starting safeties Anderson Russell and Kurt Coleman, Ohio State's defense should still be strong. Not impenetrable, but strong.
Also, with most of its offense, including Terrelle Pryor, back for 2010, Ohio State will have even more firepower than it did in 2009.
But the play of Pryor could ultimately determine whether Ohio State can meet expectations.
If he can put on a Rose Bowl-type performance every Saturday, there's a good chance the Buckeyes could go undefeated. But if not, a loss or two is likely.
And that means no national title.
Also, road games at Wisconsin and Iowa are huge obstacles in Ohio State's path. That could very easily be two losses right there.
So no, Ohio State, despite its talent, is not assured of anything in 2010.
Yes, odds are it will probably win the Big Ten once again. But Iowa and Wisconsin will be right on its tail, and either one could just as easily steal the conference.
But another conference title wouldn't be enough for Buckeyes' fans anyways. They keep those trophies in the basement at The 'Shoe.
No, they're itchin' for that crystal ball.
No. 1: Alabama
Repeating as national champs isn't easy.
Never has a team repeated as BCS national champs, and USC was the last to repeat as AP national champs in 2003 and 2004 (although the Reggie Bush scandal will erase USC's '04 season from the NCAA record book.)
Yet, a repeat is exactly what many experts are predicting and what Tide fans are expecting.
With the return of Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram, quarterback Greg McElroy, and backup running back Trent Richardson, it seems like the stars are aligned for yet another national championship.
But not so fast.
Seven Alabama players, including linebacker Rolando McClain and cornerback Kareem Jackson, are now in the NFL. Filling those holes won't be a quick fix, especially for a team that hopes to be on top of the college football world once again.
Plus, let's not forget that Alabama plays in the SEC. Florida, Arkansas, LSU...winning the conference title will be difficult enough.
Going undefeated? That could be nearly impossible. Doing it two years in a row seems almost unthinkable.
But for Alabama to get to the national championship, that's what would need to happen.
It may be No. 1, but Alabama is not infallible. Asking for a repeat performance in 2010 may just be asking for too much.