From the moment that the AP announces its preseason college football poll, fans spend an inordinate amount of time debating the relative rankings of the teams.
Every year, a few teams appear under-ranked and a few over-ranked. However, not until the opening week, do fans get to match opinion with on-field results.
This past weekend, the first week of the college football season, several teams were exposed as amongst the five most overrated teams in the nation (plus a dishonorable mention).
Can Garrett Gilbert fill the big shoes of Colt McCoy and lead Texas to championship season?
Preseason Rank: 5
It’s hard to find fault with a team that defeated its opponent by 17 points in its opening week game… unless that team is Texas… and the opponent is Rice.
All college football fans know the score when it comes to Texas state college football. Texas is king and Rice is… how can I put it gently… Rice is the jester.
Last year, Rice gave up 43 points a game on its way to a 2-10 record. On Saturday, the fifth-ranked Longhorns managed only 34 points against the Owls. In one goal-line possession, Tre’ Newton, despite running behind the giant Texas offensive line, was turned away four straight times by the undersized Rice defensive front.
To be fair to Texas, sophomore QB Garrett Gilbert will undoubtedly improve after sitting most of last year behind Texas legend Colt McCoy. As he does, perhaps Texas will earn its lofty ranking. As of now it does not.
If you aspire to win a national championship and choose to schedule a cupcake, you better eat that cupcake whole. Texas did not.
The Trojan defense gave up way too many points and yards against Hawaii.
Preseason Ranking: 14
In its game versus Hawaii, the USC team alternated between a spectacular offense and an excruciatingly awful defense.
On offense, the Trojans moved the ball nearly at will, both running and passing with ease. Sophomore QB Matt Barkley tied a USC record with five touchdown passes, but for my money, the running game, led by Marc Tyler looked even better.
So why do I consider the Trojans over-ranked? While the offense played like a top-10 team, the defense played like a Pac-10 cellar dweller.
With so many potent offenses in the Pac-10, USC will need to find some defense in order to move up the rankings. If not, imagine how many points a suddenly mighty Oregon (a 72-0 victor over New Mexico) will score on a weakened USC defense.
On the brighter side for the Trojans, this multifaceted offense will give them a slugger’s chance in every single game. However, any team with a defense that gives up 36 points and 588 yards to Hawaii does not deserve to be ranked this high.
Even if the defense fails to improve meaningfully, with a weak early schedule, the Trojans should find themselves ranked in the top 10 by the time they meet Stanford in Palo Alto on October 9. That’s when the first real test will come for the Trojans.
More Accurate Ranking: 19
Over-ranked by: 5
Ed Wesley rushes to a much-too-close victory over the Oregon State Beavers.
Preseason Ranking: 6
I struggled with my decision to include TCU on this list. After all, the Horned Frogs did beat a ranked Oregon State team. But in the end, they barely beat the No. 24 team in the country, and in a fashion hardly worthy of the sixth best team in the country.
Undoubtedly, TCU returns a strong team from last year’s Fiesta Bowl squad. The defense managed to mostly contain dynamic brothers, Jaquizz and James Rodgers. And, despite giving up two interceptions, the offense showed good potential under fourth-year QB starter Andy Dalton and running back Ed Wesley.
However, number six in the country implies elite status, and TCU did not handle the Beavers like an elite team, with the outcome remaining in doubt late into the game. In fact, for much of the contest, the teams seemed evenly matched.
So, unless you think that Oregon State is a top 10 team, TCU does not deserve to be ranked number six in the country. Instead, the Horned Frogs played like a potentially strong team scratching at the door of the top ten.
More Accurate Ranking: 13
Over-ranked by: 7
A high ranking cannot save the season opener for Dave Wannstedt and the Pitt Panthers in an ugly loss against Utah.
Preseason Ranking: 15
New starting quarterback. Anemic running game.
More than anything else, those two factors explain Pittsburgh's loss at traditionally strong Utah. Most college football fans would not consider this a huge upset, considering that the game took place in Salt Lake City.
However, Pittsburgh lost despite the fact that Utah did not play particularly well. As Ute coach Kyle Whittingham explained after the game, “we made enough mistakes… to lose two games.”
But Pittsburgh played sloppy, too (two turnovers), and failed repeatedly to take advantage of opportunities, many of them afforded by Utah bungling.
More than anything, given its inability to run the ball, Pittsburgh cannot maintain its lofty ranking with a new, ineffective quarterback. With an average of 2.3 yards per carry, Pittsburgh played like a mediocre Big East team, not the 15th best team in the country.
More Accurate Ranking: Unranked
Over-ranked by: 10
Sooner coach, Bob Stoops, expressed frustration after a close contest against lowly Utah State.
Preseason Ranking: 7
Utah State makes its living renting out its football team as a punching bag to highly-ranked teams from power conferences. In 2007, the Aggies visited Norman, and took the paycheck, along with a shellacking, losing 54-3.
With Oklahoma ranked No. 7 in the country, perhaps you expected a similar result this past Saturday, as Utah State once again trekked to Norman. But this time, Oklahoma seemed incapable of consistent play on either side of the ball.
On defense, the Sooners gave up 341 yards in the air to a team that finished 4-8 last year. Yes, Oklahoma collected three interceptions, but the lowly Aggies moved the ball way too easily against the Sooner defense.
On offense, QB Landry Jones will make no one forget about recently departed Sam Bradford. His throws more often found the empty turf than open receivers, completing less than 50 percent of his passes.
Only RB DeMarco Murray proved a bright spot for Oklahoma, carrying the ball a workmanlike 35 times for 207 yards. If Jones continues to struggle, expect the Sooners to rely on a heavy dose of Murray to move the chains and eat up the clock.
In the end, Oklahoma pulled out a close victory. However, despite its lofty ranking, Oklahoma did not display either a top 10 defense or a top 10 offense, and this against one of the meeker teams in the country. How will they fare next week against a good Florida State?
More Accurate Ranking: 17
Over-ranked by: 10
Miami of Ohio held its own against Florida, which is bad news for the highly over-rated Gators.
Preseason Ranking: 4
The way Florida struggled Saturday afternoon, you would think that they were playing the Miami Hurricanes, instead of the Miami of Ohio RedHawks.
With the game heading into the fourth quarter, Florida led by only eight, and had distinguished itself only by its mistakes, turnovers and generally sloppy play.
Those Florida fans accustomed to a potent offense under Tim Tebow heard Urban Meyer after the game describe the John Brantley led squad as “incompetent.”
The offense fumbled eight times (losing three) and had several bad snaps. At times, the Florida offense looked more like an old Three Stooges comedy than the high-powered offense one would expect from the number four ranked team in the country.
Despite completing 17 for 25 passes, Brantley demonstrated a remarkable inability to complete the deep ball, throwing on the day for only 113 yards. Remember back to the spring, when Gator wide receiver Deonte Thompson made national headlines by calling Brantley a “real quarterback,” in contrast to Tebow?
I wonder, is that what a “real quarterback” looks like? I think that I’ll take Tebow, thank you.
In total, Florida had amassed a whopping 25 yards heading into the fourth quarter.
The beasts of the SEC must be licking their chops for a taste of Gator.
More Accurate Ranking: 20
Over-ranked by: 16