The unrelenting heat of August was rivaled only by lofty expectations for several college football programs that were expected to achieve varying levels of success this fall.
For some, the next step toward national prominence awaited, while others were expected to maintain the “we don’t rebuild, we reload” mantra that made their respective programs perennial top 10 finishers.
In the case of at least one, a run to the national championship was the endgame.
Either way, all 10 of these programs have found their way onto a list neither they nor their fans had in mind when they picked up Phil Steele’s magazine in June, giddy with projections and bowl bids on their minds.
If your school is represented, hopefully basketball will salve the wounds of a season gone wrong. If not, keep in mind that there are only 40 weeks left until the opening of the 2011 campaign.
August Rush: Even with new coach Tommy Tuberville, the Red Raiders’ “Air Raid” offense was expected to carry the program to a ninth-straight season of at least eight wins, a feat no one in the Big 12 had achieved.
November Pain: Last Saturday’s 45-7 drubbing at the hands of Oklahoma left Tech sitting smack at .500. The offense is averaging a respectable 427 yards per game, but the defense has allowed 464 yards an outing while allowing at least 38 points four times.
The Raiders now need at least a win over Weber State or Houston in their last two games just to become bowl eligible and avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 1997.
August Rush: This was supposed to be the year the Eagles hit their stride under coach Todd Dodge. The former Texas prep-coaching icon finally had the pieces in place for his high-powered offense to wreak havoc across the Sun Belt Conference.
November Pain: Injuries mauled UNT’s quarterbacks, leading to a 0-3 start. A win over Florida Atlantic was just a brief respite before three straight losses finally forced Dodge to turn in his resignation after four seasons and a 6-37 record. The fact that the Eagles have won two of three since his departure is but a mild consolation for a program looking to make a leap forward.
August Rush: Coming off three straight top 25 finishes, including a No. 8 finish last season, the Bearcats had no reason to think the good times would come to a halt under new coach Butch Jones.
November Pain: A rugged early schedule resulted in a 1-3 start, but Cincy did push Oklahoma to the brink in a 31-29 loss on September 25. Wins over Miami (Ohio) and Louisville put them at .500, but the Bearcats have dropped three straight and are in danger of missing a bowl for the first time since 2005.
Turnovers have killed Cincinnati, which has committed 13 miscues in six defeats.
August Rush: New coach Brian Kelly brought the promise of a new era for the Fighting Irish, as his fast break offense appeared to be user friendly for a unit that featured All-America wide receiver Malcolm Floyd and talented quarterback Dayne Crist.
November Pain: The offense has looked good at times, but misfortune in the closing minutes haunted the Irish in at least three of their losses, including a “WTF” home loss to Tulsa in which Crist and running back Armando Allen suffered season-ending injuries.
Notre Dame remains within reach of a bowl, but a home date against surprising Army and a trip to longtime tormentor USC awaits.
August Rush: A potential BCS gate-crasher, the Cougars featured the nation’s best offense with Heisman-candidate Case Keenum firing darts to a corps of wideouts that vied to become the first quartet to go over 1,000 yards each.
November Pain: Keenum suffered a concussion in a September 10 win over UTEP before tearing his ACL the following week in a loss at UCLA. Coach Kevin Sumlin was forced to go with freshman David Piland under center and, while the youngster has shown promise, the Coogs’ offense is light years behind the breakneck pace that Keenum had established.
The offense isn’t all to blame. The defense has allowed at least 200 yards rushing in five games, including the last three, meaning Houston needs a road win at either Southern Mississippi and/or Texas Tech in order to become bowl eligible.
August Rush: Coach Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets’ option attack figured to be the sleeper in a very competitive ACC Coastal Division.
November Pain: Georgia Tech shook off a stunning 28-25 loss to Kansas (which had lost to FCS opponent North Dakota State the previous week) en route to a 5-2 start. The wheels began to fall off in a listless 27-13 defeat to Clemson in which quarterback Josh Nesbitt was held to two yards on 15 carries. Nesbitt was injured during a loss to Virginia Tech, setting the stage for a 35-10 beating at Miami (Fla.) with backup Tevin Washington at the helm.
A win over Duke on Saturday would make the Yellow Jackets bowl eligible, but it’s a far cry from what fans had in mind.
August Rush: Running back Jacquizz Rodgers was set for another season of his Barry Sanders impersonation, while older brother James was in line to further rewrite the Beavers’ record books, as the program embarked on another high-scoring run through the Pac-10.
November Pain: Last Saturday’s loss to Washington State (!!!) put OSU below .500. Its final three games are home dates with No. 20 USC and top-ranked Oregon with a trip to No. 7 Stanford sandwiched in. That’s a heck of a mountain to climb if the Beavers want to make a bowl.
Without James Rodgers’ all-purpose skills, the offense has crashed. OSU is averaging nearly 130 yards less than the team's 2009 output and has failed to score more than 35 points after eclipsing the barrier five times last season.
August Rush: With NFL quarterback prospect Jake Locker returning to run the Huskies offense, coach Steve Sarkisian’s squad looked primed to stake a claim in what was supposed to be a wide-open Pac-10 title chase.
November Pain: Locker never mentally recovered from a humiliating performance (4 of 20, 71 yards) during a brutal 56-21 home loss to Nebraska on September 18. A last-second upset of USC the following week looked like a reversal of fortune, but U-Dub has lost four of five, including a 53-16 whacking at the hands of Oregon.
Locker has battled injuries, but even if he was healthy, he couldn’t have prevented the Huskies D from allowing 36 points and 444 yards per game.
August Rush: Oh sure, life after that Tebow guy would be different. But Urban Meyer was healthy, John Brantley was set to be The Man and all those five-star recruits were revved up to keep BCS bowl talk a hot topic down in Gainsville.
November Pain: The early offensive woes became magnified when Alabama physically and mentally whipped the Gators on Oct. 2, starting a (gasp!) three-game losing streak in which Florida scored just 43 points. Last Saturday’s home loss to South Carolina further exposed the problem, as the Gators managed just 67 total yards in the first 45 minutes of play.
Six wins probably will get you a contract extension at Vandy. Here, it’s only triggering what will be an offseason of whether this was a temporary blip or a precursor of mediocre things to come. For some Gators fans, the news that offensive coordinator Steve Addazio will retain his position will be a source of consternation.
Either way, it doesn’t erase the smell of what has been a mediocre year for one of the nation’s elite programs.
August Rush: No Colt (McCoy), no problem. After all, quarterback Garrett Gilbert flashed his potential in the BCS title game. A defensive unit considered the best of the Mack Brown era would be able to offset any shortcomings, which meant another 10-11 wins and a fat BCS bowl check to brag about to (yet) another top-five recruiting class.
November Pain: The Longhorns are in last place in the Big 12 South. Something is very, very wrong with the world.
The signs began to show in a sluggish opening win against Rice, but didn’t hit home until UCLA came into Austin and manhandled the then-No. 7 ‘Horns on September 25. An upset of Nebraska proved to be an optical illusion: Since then, Texas has lost four straight (including an unthinkable three home defeats).
Orangebloods are hammering sports talk shows statewide with reasons as to why their vaunted program has melted down, but one culprit has been a lack of a run game. The mobility of McCoy hid the fact Texas didn’t have a go-to runner. While Gilbert has had his moments, the need for a reliable ground-pounder won’t be solved until Malcolm Brown—the nation’s top prep back—makes his official arrival next fall.