While fans would like to think otherwise, there are no certainties in college football.
Many teams in the past with a high preseason ranking have found themselves bitterly disappointed.
A team that returns several key players, has a great recruiting class, has a head coach with experience and a passionate fanbase is not guaranteed a successful season with a BCS berth in January.
This year was no exception to the rule.
As we await the BCS Championship game between Auburn and Oregon, let’s look at the other end of the spectrum at the teams that fell short of their lofty expectations heading into the season as we crown the college football team that was the biggest disappointment of the 2010-2011 College Football Season.
The three finalists this year, in alphabetical order, are the Florida Gators, Iowa Hawkeyes and Texas Longhorns.
Before we discuss the merits of the three finalists, let’s give a quick thank you to the teams that earned honorable mention consideration.
Georgia Tech—The No. 15 Yellow Jackets were upset by Kansas 28-25 in week two of the season, and the team never really ever regained its swagger. Georgia Tech limped to the finish line losing four of its last five games to finish 6-6, and the last loss was especially bitter because it allowed rival Georgia to become bowl-eligible.
Miami (Fla)—Anyttime that you begin the season as a team that has national championship aspirations and your coach, Randy Shannon, is fired at the end of the season, your team had a disappointing season. The 23-20 loss to South Florida to end the regular season was especially painful and was the proverbial final nail in the coffin.
Pittsburgh—The Panthers were ranked No. 15 to begin the season and were promptly upset by Utah in their season opener. Coach Dave Wannstadt would have likely survived the 7-5 season given the number of injuries that plagued the team all season long, but the embarrassing 31-3 loss to Miami and the failure to take care of Connecticut likely sealed his fate.
Thanks again to the Yellow Jackets, Canes and Panthers; now, on to the finalists.
Florida Gators (7-5)—The Gators began the season as No. 4 in the preseason polls, and while the Gators knew that they had to replace quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, they had to feel comfortable with the knowledge that Gatorade Player of the Year John Brantley had been patiently waiting in the wings.
Unfortunately, the Gators' offense sputtered all season long, and Florida finished the season with a disappointing 7-5 record which was largely attributable to their inability to put points on the board.
In week one, Florida had only 26 yards of offense before the start of the fourth quarter before final finding some offense to put away Miami of Ohio. The Gators' struggles against the Red Hawks would be a bad omen of things to come during the season.
In four of Florida’s five losses, the Gators failed to generate more than 14 points. In their losses to Alabama and South Carolina, Florida appeared to be overmatched in all phases of the game.
Florida ended the season on a low note falling to in-state rival Florida State 31-7. As Florida started the year, the Gators ended the season the same way as they committed four turnovers in the season finale.
Florida’s troubles were not limited to just the football field as wide receiver Chris Rainey was suspended for several weeks after being arrested for stalking and choking his girlfriend.
As a result of Rainey’s high-profile arrest, Florida’s program faced more scrutiny concerning player misconduct off the field than in any previous year.
When Florida fans thought that they had weathered the storm, Florida Coach Urban Meyer announced that he was retiring from the game.
Mitigating factors for the Gators taking home the honor of most disappointing team: Four of Florida’s five losses were to teams that were ranked among the top 25 teams in the country.
Florida has one final shot at redemption this year as they play Penn State in the Outback Bowl.
Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5)—Iowa fans believed that this could be the season their Hawkeyes would find themselves in the BCS championship game.
The No. 9 preseason ranking appeared to be warranted as Iowa returned many of its star players from last year’s 11-2 squad that was responsible for thrashing of Georgia Tech 24-14 in the 2010 Orange Bowl.
The schedule was favorable for Iowa’s title aspirations as the top three title contenders Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin all had to come to Iowa City.
Unfortunately for Iowa fans, the Hawkeyes were not able to take advantage of their experience, and instead of vanquishing its opponents at the end of the game, the veteran team let their opponents repeatedly get the best of them in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
The season was a terrible broken record for Iowa fans.
Arizona bested Iowa 34-27 when they scored the go-ahead touchdown with 3:57 left in the game.
Wisconsin defeated the Hawks 31-30 when they scored their final touchdown with 1:06 left in the game. Adding injury to insult was that the Badgers used a fake punt to sustain their final drive in the game.
Iowa allowed Northwestern to score 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter in losing to the Wildcats 21-17;, the final touchdown coming with only 1:22 on the clock.
Ohio State scored a touchdown with 1:47 left in the fourth quarter after converting a 4th-and-10 on its way to a 20-17 win over Iowa.
The most emotionally devastating loss of the season may have been to Minnesota as the Gophers scored with just 4:31 remaining to down Iowa 27-24.
Instead of a BCS game, Iowa will now have to be satisfied with an Insight Bowl bid.
Iowa’s program suffered a body blow off the field when its all-time receiving leader Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was arrested for possession of controlled substances, keeping a drug house and unlawful possession of a prescription drug this week.
Police investigators found $3,000 in cash, marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs after executing a search warrant at the home of the former Iowa receiver.
Texas Longhorns 5-7—At the beginning of the season, the Longhorns were considered to be on the short list of teams capable of winning the BCS championship.
One Associated Press voter felt so good about Mack Brown’s chances that the voter gave Texas a first-place vote.
Unfortunately that AP voter did not see what Coach Brown saw at the first practice.
“From the first scrimmage of the year, I didn’t see what I wanted,” Coach Brown said after completing his first losing season at the helm of Texas.
How bad was Texas this year?
The Longhorns finished dead last in the Big 12 South.
Texas lost five home games this year.
UCLA ran the ball down the throat of Texas on their way to whipping the Longhorns 34-12. “It was a rear-end kicking,” Brown said after the game. “This one’s embarrassing for me.”
Texas laid another egg three games later against Iowa State as they lost to the Cyclones 28-21. Again the problem seemed to be a lack of intensity.
“About the time you think something can’t happen it does. We stood around and got beat,” Brown said. “I don’t think its talent. I think its attitude.”
Texas would proceed to lose four of its remaining five games to end the season 5-7.
The most catastrophic loss in the second half of the season was its loss to Kansas State.
The Wildcats beat the Longhorns 39-14. The score was not indicative of how lopsided the game was as Texas scored the final two touchdowns of the game in the fourth quarter and the last score happened with only 31 seconds left in the game.
How could a team that played in the BCS championship game have fallen so far in just one year?
Florida, Iowa and Texas are three worthy finalists.
However, the winner has to be the Longhorns.
Texas had the highest expectations going into the season, and they failed to even become bowl-eligible. Texas was the biggest disappointment of the college football season.