College Football 2011: 8 Teams That Just Want the Offseason to END
For most teams, the offseason is a time to prepare for the next four-plus months of games.
There are new recruits to acclimate to the college game. There are new starters that need to be broken in. There are quarterback competitions and depth charts to resolve.
While everyone awaits the first week with a growing sense of anticipation, there are some programs that just cannot wait.
With an offseason polluted with scandal and negative media attention, there are some programs that just wish it was September already. After all, when there are games to talk about, the commentators will have less time to talk about other issues.
There are still more teams that are sick of hearing about how bad they were last season or how bad they might be this season.
They are tired of the constant media scrutiny and eagerly await their chance to show the rest of the nation what 2011 will mean for them.
In that vein, here is our list of programs that just want the offseason to end already.
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At first, it seemed as if Michigan may have begun to turn the corner last season.
After all, Rich Rodriguez had won more games in 2010 than he had in his previous two seasons in Ann Arbor.
But after a dismantling at the hands of Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, Rich Rodriguez was promptly fired, and the Michigan football program was once again thrown into a state of uncertainty.
When Brady Hoke was first announced as the new head coach in Ann Arbor, the nation-at-large wonder who Hoke was while the Michigan fanbase accepted the decision to hire this “Michigan Man” at face value.
After all, Hoke is a student of Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr. What more could a Michigan fan ask for?
With a renewed sense of hope in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines are eager to prove that 2011 will be the start of something different. The Hoke era has arrived, but in order to finally end the questions about whether or not the Wolverines can again be successful, they need to win games.
The only time they can do that is after the offseason ends. Everything else that needs to be said about Michigan has already been said.
For fans of the Wolverines, it's simply time to put up or shut up.
And they can't wait to put up.
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Even the most diehard of Longhorns fans are forced to admit that Texas was simply no good in 2010.
After posting a 5-7 record, Texas fans slipped into a bout of depression that could only be matched by, well, Michigan fans over the past few seasons.
Mack Brown led Texas to its worst record under his direction, and as the media pounced, football fans in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, and more than a few in Texas, snickered.
How far the mighty have fallen.
Perhaps the biggest Texas storyline this offseason has been the realization that the 2011 Longhorns will look very much like the 2010 edition.
There's no real influx of stellar new talent. There hasn't been a huge loss in terms of graduation or leaving for the pros. Texas will look pretty much the same this season as last, especially at the skill positions.
With a quarterback competition in Austin that has yet to be resolved, Texas has been the subject of much conversation.
Is there any chance Texas will be any better this season?
One would have to imagine that kind of negative speculation wears thin on the Texas program. You can't discount experience, can you?
The Longhorns are another year older, another year more mature and another year more experienced. Surely they can't be as bad as they were in 2010.
There's no simple answer to that question, yet. The fact is we just won't know until September rolls around.
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The Fighting Irish are encountering a media phenomenon that hasn't happened in South Bend for a few years: hype.
There are a lot of media outlets around the nation—including this one—that have had their fair share of stories about how good Brian Kelly is and how good the program he is rebuilding at Notre Dame is going to be.
Brian Kelly recently returned to the university where he got his first head coaching job, Grand Valley State University, outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
After the press conference announcing the renaming of the athletic practice facility after Kelly and his family, the coach was asked point blank about the expectations for Notre Dame this season.
When asked if the BCS is now the goal for Notre Dame, Kelly simply replied, “Oh yeah.”
Kelly certainly met or exceeded most expectations in South Bend during his first season.
Now, Kelly has developed a reputation where exceeding expectations is now the expectation. From that standpoint, it's BCS or bust for the Irish in 2011.
Everything is in place, the depth chart is mostly set and all that is left is to play the games.
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Yes, Nebraska is in the Big Ten now. We get it.
Why is it that story after story about the Cornhuskers talks about their “transition” to the Big Ten? After all, if you want to compare BCS conferences, the Big Ten and Big 12 probably as much or more in common than any other pair of BCS conferences.
Will the transition really be that difficult?
The Huskers will be fine in their new home, and before you know it, they'll be lumped in with the other Big Ten powers and everyone will forget about the whole “transition” thing.
Taylor Martinez is another year older, and Nebraska fans hope another year more mature.
If he can increase his passing output and substantially decrease his interception to touchdown ratio, all the other pieces will fall into place for Nebraska.
Both Nebraska and the Big Ten are stronger for the move, and now, there's only one thing left to do: play the games already.
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Last season didn't quite pan out.
Jacory Harris buckled under the pressure, Stephen Morris wasn't any better, there was little depth of talent on defense and the season ended with a painful loss to Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl.
Well, for the fourth time in 12 years, the Hurricanes will begin the season with a new head coach. Al Golden turned Temple into a success, so he should be able to do the exact same thing at a school with the resources of Miami, right?
The speculation has already begun about Miami's prospects in 2011, and it's not good.
First off, the quarterback situation still isn't resolved.
At first there was some hope that Michigan transfer Tate Forcier might bring some heat to the quarterback competition, but Forcier isn't coming to Miami while he struggles with personal issues.
Miami also has to adjust to a completely new coaching staff. While that in and of itself isn't the world's biggest hurdle, that kind of culture shock with most of your skill position players returning can cause some chemistry issues.
The Hurricanes' schedule isn't getting any easier, either.
The year starts off with a trip to improving ACC foe Maryland before hosting Ohio State in Week 2. While the Buckeyes certainly have their own problems, Ohio State still has an amazing depth of talent and will provide Miami with all they can handle.
Games at Virginia Tech and at Florida State also figure into the mix as probable losses.
This once-proud program has fallen on hard times, and it's up to Al Golden to return some sense of pride and accomplishment to “The U.” That probably won't happen in 2011, but at least when the season gets underway, the time for talk will be over as the journey down the long road back will have begun.
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If a top 10 preseason ranking isn't enough to get your blood pumping, there's not much else that will.
For the first time in quite a while, the Seminoles look to be an early favorite in the college football season, and many people are predicting a BCS trip for Florida State.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher certainly had a successful first outing at the helm, guiding the Seminoles to a 10-4 finish. With 16 returning starters from last season, including most skill positions, Florida State looks to be a bona fide candidate for the ACC championship this season.
There are mountains of articles about Jimbo Fisher, EJ Manuel, Chris Thompson and the rest of the Florida State program, and there's not much left that hasn't already been said.
But there are some who doubt the hype.
After all, it's called hype for a reason, right? While many believe that Florida State's preseason ballyhoo is nonsense, the smart money is on the Seminoles improving upon their 2010 season—and that means an ACC title and BCS berth in 2011.
Tallahassee is ready to burst with the pressure of the anticipation for the upcoming season. Hopefully, Florida State will be able to live up to expectations. Something tells us they will.
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Is this really a surprise? After all, Ohio State has had one of the more trying offseasons any program has had in a very long time.
At first, “Tattoogate” seemed to be under control. The university had dealt with the issue as best as most had expected. Five players were suspended. The head coach was suspended and fined. All seemed to be going as expected.
When Jim Tressel announced that he would be serving a five-game suspension (rather than the initial two-game suspension), it seemed as if that would be the end of the story for Ohio State.
Then, a Sports Illustrated article detailing the long-standing and well-sourced history of Jim Tressel's underhanded dealings, lack of integrity, lying to investigators and downright cheating set off an explosion the likes of which the college football world hasn't seen since the 1980s in Dallas.
Not only did Jim Tressel have previous knowledge of the improper benefits, he actively tried to conceal the information from compliance officers at Ohio State. When questioned by the NCAA, he not only lied, he lied in writing.
Then the flow of horse manure continued to flow over Ohio State and Jim Tressel.
Terrelle Pryor had driven no fewer than eight different vehicles in his three years at Ohio State. Tressel himself rigged raffles for recruits as an assistant at Ohio State. The list seemed to grow with each passing hour.
By Memorial Day, Tressel's job at Ohio State was untenable, and he resigned. But even his resignation left a sour taste in the mouths of many.
His letter of resignation that was released to the press spoke of him resigning in the “best interests” of Ohio State and for “the good” of the program, as if he was falling on the sword in one last gallant act of integrity and honor.
Trouble is, with all that has come out about Jim Tressel, only the most diehard of Buckeyes fans believe Jim Tressel is anything other than a lying, cheating weasel.
Ohio State is doing the best they can to move on. An interim head coach has been named, Terrelle Pryor has left the program and the athletic department is desperately trying to move forward. But questions still remain.
What did Gene Smith know and when did he know it? What did Gordon Gee know and when did he know it? Why did Dr. Gee joke with the media about Jim Tressel dismissing him?
In hindsight, that seems not only calous, but tragically juxtaposes the position of head football coach at Ohio State with president of Ohio State, and does so in the most negative way possible.
It now seems likely that Gene Smith will lose his job, and it's quite possible that Gordon Gee will be asked to step down as well. Only then can Ohio State effectively cleanse the athletics program and hopefully return to some sense of integrity.
There's also the little matter of the NCAA's investigation.
We'll likely not find out what punishments Ohio State will receive until mid-August, after Tressel, Smith and others meet with the NCAA. Ohio State has already vacated all of their wins from 2010, which would include their share of the 2010 Big Ten championship.
They also conveniently threw Tressel under the bus as best they could in hopes of staving off harsh NCAA penalties. But the NCAA isn't going to respond to the biggest scandal since SMU with simple vacation of victories. Some sort of probation, scholarship reduction and postseason ban is coming down the hill.
So what can possibly alleviate the intense media spotlight on Columbus?
The short answer is, not much. The media loves a good story, and one of the most successful programs in the nation over the past decade in deep, deep trouble is a great story.
But the intensity of that spotlight will be greatly reduced on September 1. Look at it this way.
Right now, the college football media has little else to do but watch everything that happens at Ohio State. There's simply not much else to talk about. But when the season starts, there are suddenly 119 other things to talk about.
The scrutiny of Ohio State can only be blamed on Ohio State, and the Buckeyes deserve whatever penalties the NCAA inflicts and then some. But once the season starts, there will likely be a collective sigh of relief from the offices of Ohio State's athletic department.
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There may be only one program that is looking forward to the start of the 2011 season more than Ohio State, and that program is Oregon.
Never mind the fact that Oregon has one heckuva team returning this season. Never mind that Oregon came up just short last season in the BCS Championship Game, and this year the plan is to take care of some unfinished business. Never mind the Ducks are starting the season in the top five and are heavily favored to win the Pac-12.
Oregon has its own brewing scandal to deal with, and unlike Ohio State, the full extent of problems have yet to be discovered.
A growing recruiting scandal is beginning to bite at the heels of Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks. To be fair, other programs are implicated in the scandal surrounding Will Lyles, the owner of a scouting agency, now considered a shadow agent for college recruits.
Unfortunately for Oregon (and the other programs, including LSU, that may be implicated before the process is finished), the landscape of NCAA violations is changing.
They have Ohio State, Jim Tressel, Auburn, Cecil Newton and Reggie Bush to thank for that. A decade ago, that gut feeling about something not quite smelling right was usually dismissed. Today, that feeling invokes an “uh oh” response. We've all learned that when things do not feel right, they're usually not right.
And this Oregon thing doesn't feel right.
Oregon does have a leg up on Ohio State, though. The scandal isn't nearly as pronounced, and it's still very early in the entire process. The start of the season will provide a very effective distraction for not only the college football fans around the nation but for the media buzzards circling Eugene as we speak.
For Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks nation, that opening game against LSU can't come soon enough.