With preseason college football polls popping up on newsstands and internet pages all across the nation, fans are anxiously riding the hype that these experts have placed on their hometown teams.
While the accuracy of these preseason polls can hardly be considered immaculate, picking the top 10 teams is usually the easiest part of any poll producer. The 15 other teams that experts place to fill out their polls can often feel more like a crap shoot.
The bottom half of polls are often occupied with teams that have several question marks but still have enough talent to make a decent amount of noise if all of the proper pieces fall into place. The problem with the latter half of these polls is that it creates a preseason buzz around these teams and can give fans much more hope than their team might actually deserve.
Here is a list of 10 teams that have popped up on one or more preseason polls that could have difficulty living up the hype.
The Stanford Cardinal had what seemed like a turnaround season last year, playing in a bowl game and finishing above .500 for the first time since 2001.
To say that the Cardinal leaned heavily on Toby Gerhart would be a vast understatement. Gerhart led the team with 27 touchdowns, 1,871 rushing yards, and helped draw attention away from Stanford’s young, up-and-coming quarterback.
This season, the lack of a rushing game puts the pressure square on the shoulders of redshirt sophomore Andrew Luck. Without a valid backfield distraction to draw the defense’s attention, things could get ugly for the highly touted NFL prospect.
The biggest concern for Stanford this season is once again their secondary.
Their sub-stellar depth at secondary might kill the Cardinal’s hopes and dreams in the pass happy Pac-10. This would force Stanford’s offense to put up close to 40 points per game just to stay in contention.
Unless a running back can step up and fill the enormous shoes left behind by Gerhart, the Cardinal’s offense could become one dimensional and very easy to predict.
The lofty expectations that fans in Palo Alto have may just be a fantasy this year.
The Cincinnati Bearcats have been anything but short of spectacular the past three seasons, boasting 33 wins, reaching two BCS bowls, and bringing home one BCS bowl victory.
But the tide could be turning in Cincinnati and the days of double-digit win seasons might be a thing of the past under the new regime… at least for awhile.
The highly publicized exit of Head Coach Brian Kelly and the departure of quarterback Tony Pike, produces a bit of uneasiness when trying to draw up reasonable expectations for the Bearcats.
Zach Collaros has proven to be a more than capable replacement for Pike and should not miss a beat with an offense returning four All-Conference players.
Butch Jones takes over for Kelly with his first opportunity to take control of a BCS team after great success as head coach at Central Michigan the past three seasons.
Transitioning from one head coach to another is always much easier said than done. Even though this offense has a great chance to keep on humming, the Bearcats defense could experience a few hiccups, especially as they return only five starters.
While Cincinnati ranks as high as 22 on some preseason polls, the Bearcats could find themselves out of the Top 25 by the time Big East Conference play begins if things don’t start clicking on both sides of the ball.
Arkansas is a popular dark horse pick to take the SEC West this season, thanks in large part to their gun-slinging quarterback Ryan Mallett.
Parlayed with Mallett is an excellent receiving corps and a maturing backfield that should allow this offense to put up a great deal of points. While their offense should have no problem rolling, the Razorbacks’ Achilles heel will be in their secondary.
No matter how many points Mallett and company score, it will all be for naught if their secondary can’t keep the opposing team out of the end zone.
Last season, the Razorbacks secondary ranked 99th in passing yards allowed per game (248.5) and will need to improve mightily if Arkansas has any real chance of stealing away the SEC West from powerful Alabama.
Mallett should keep the Razorbacks in most games, but staying undefeated in shootouts will be highly unlikely.
Since joining the Big East in 2004, Connecticut has has only two seasons below .500, but has never won more than nine games.
A breakout season has been anxiously anticipated by Huskies fans. However, the hype that Connecticut has been receiving in various preseason polls could be more wishful thinking than anything else.
Connecticut’s offense posted respectable numbers last season, ranking 27th in points per game with 31.5. Their defense was a little less impressive, allowing 23.6 points per game, ranking 48th.
While UCONN does return 17 starters (nine on offense, eight on defense), there is something lackluster about this team that should still have problems within Big East play, just like they did last season.
If the Huskies can break into the Top 25 to start the season, the stay should be short lived.
The return of Jake Locker has many thinking that this could be the year that the Washington Huskies finally return to the Pac-10 Championship conversation.
Ranking in the Top 25 in various preseason polls across the US, expectations for the Huskies could be a tad bit high.
Since 2003, the Huskies have failed to win more than five games. In fact, Washington’s five wins in 2009 was five more than they earned in 2008, yet this team is supposed to be so improved that they could contend for the Pac-10 crown.
Locker’s decision to come back definitely improves their chances, as well as the rise of running back Chris Polk, who surprised many by amassing 1,113 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who collected 866 receiving yards and eight touchdowns should help as well.
Even though they have a bevy of starters returning on both sides of the ball (11 on offense, nine on defense), the Huskies still might have problems living up to hype.
Last season, Washington ranked 64th in rushing yards allowed per game (148.8), 70th in points allowed per game (26.7), and 93rd in passing yards allowed per game (240.7).
There will need to be vast improvements on the defensive side of the ball if they have any chance of staying within striking distance of these preseason expectations.
Back-to-back eight win seasons has helped the fans in Chapel Hill forget that it took them four full seasons to reach that total before entering 2008.
A decade of mediocrity has made it hard for North Carolina to gain respect in the ACC and across the nation, but Head Coach Butch Davis appears to be getting the Tar Heels back on track.
Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, the ACC is probably the deepest it has been in years with the resurrection of both Florida teams, the dangerous Clemson and Boston College squads, and the perennial contenders in Virginia Tech.
However, the Tar Heels defenses should contend to be the best in the ACC if not the entire NCAA. Their defense returns nine starters, six of whom were named ACC All-Conference.
In 2009, North Carolina’s defense was stifling, ranking 10th in rushing yards per game (95.6), 13th in points per game, and 14th in passing yards per game (174.0).
It is the Tar Heels’ offense that draws the most concern. UNC will lean heavily on senior quarterback T.J. Yates to move this offense, but he will have to immensely improve on the 115.4 quarterback rating (ranking 92nd in the FBS) that he posted in 2009.
Without solid improvement from Yates (or perhaps the emergence of another offensive weapon), it might be impossible for North Carolina to live up to their preseason hype.
With only a few seasons (possibly one) remaining for Utah in the Mountain West, the drive to prove to the nation that they belong in a BCS conference might be absent in 2010.
Utah’s success the past few seasons has been undeniable. The Utes have had back-to-back double digit win seasons and are currently riding a seven season streak in which they have been above .500.
While their offense ranked 34th in points per game last season (29.8) and returns nine starters, their defense returns only five starters, with a complete vacation of their starting linebacker corps.
Utah’s defense struggled a little bit last year with the running game, allowing 137.8 yards per game on the ground. The loss of their starting linebackers should make keeping this number under control a fairly interesting task.
With bigger and better things waiting in the wings, Utah’s consistency could take a major hit in 2010 if they start thinking about the Pac-12 instead of taking care of business one last time in the conference that gave them their comeuppance.
In 2009, Penn State was quite successful on the offensive side of the ball, thanks in large part to a nice balance of both the running and passing game.
The Nittany Lions ranked 39th and 41st respectively in the running and passing game. The return of senior running back and possible Heisman candidate Evan Royster should, for the most part, allow this team to continue succeeding in at least one of those areas.
The graduation of quarterback Daryll Clark raises huge questions on whether or not this team will become one dimensional. Luckily for his successor, a very experienced offensive line should help with any growing pains.
Penn State, who has always been known for their defense, will most likely have to ride this side of the ball if they hope to be playing in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
However, if their offense can’t find a working replacement under center, a one dimensional offense could be easy to stop.
This would surly burst the Nittany Lions’ 2010 bubble.
Offense, offense, offense.
The Houston Cougars think about one thing, and that’s throwing the ball early and often.
With a rocket launcher like Case Keenum taking the snaps, this is not a terrible strategy. Keenum led the FBS with 5,671 passing yards and 44 touchdowns last season and Houston will hope for more of the same in 2010.
Keenum is the main reason for any type of preseason hype that the Cougars are receiving and if the defense was just a tad bit better, they might actually have a good chance of living up to those dreamy expectations.
In 2009, Houston’s rushing defense ranked 112th in the nation. While their offense put up a league leading 42.2 points per game, their defense ranked 95th, allowing opponents to average 30.1 points per game.
Although their defensive line does return the majority of their starters, extreme improvement will be needed by this crew if they hope to help this team win games. Unfortunately, several key secondary parts have departed and could make keeping their opponents under 30 points quite difficult.
The departure of Auburn’s two biggest offensive weapons in 2009 leaves many to wonder just where the Tigers will land in 2010.
Quarterback Chris Todd and running back Ben Tate are long gone and their replacements might have troubles filling the shoes that they left behind.
A senior offensive line should allow whoever slides into their spots the best chance to get off of the ground running; but early predictions that have Auburn at the bottom of Top 25 polls are probably a little too lofty.
Auburn’s middle of the road defense from a year ago also raises a few concerns despite bringing back eight starters. In 2009, the Tigers defense ranked 76th in points allowed per game (27.5) and 78th in rushing yards allowed per game (156.1). Much improvement will be needed if they have any hopes of contending for an SEC title.
Staying afloat in the SEC is hard enough when you have studs lined up at every position. Auburn definitely rebounded nicely last season after their first sub .500 season in a decade, but they might not have enough in the well to keep up with the plethora of talent being produced by the rest of the SEC.