College Football: The Most Overrated Programs in the Country
As this weekend marks the beginning of the 2011 college football season, it always gets me thinking about how the end of the season rarely resembles the beginning of the season.
After all, did anyone really think Auburn was going to win the national championship last year? Auburn was ranked towards the bottom of most polls but rode one player all the way to the BCS title game.
It also gets me thinking about how we will see the same teams each week on television and will hear countless stories of how great a particular team is. One of the things that frustrates me about this is that so many of these teams live off their names, legacies and traditions to the point that most fans think they are still fantastic programs.
This list is not necessarily a reflection of a team's particular record, but of the opinion of that team across the board. Some of the teams on this list have had great records, but at the end of the day, they just continue a nice little streak of playing in an average bowl game— which, by the way, is not that hard to do anymore.
There is no particular order to the list, so please do not take this as a ranking.
As always, feel free to leave comments at the end, and if you disagree with me or feel I missed a team, leave a reason why.
Virginia Tech Hokies
While no one can criticize the job that Frank Beamer has done at Virginia Tech, I have to be honest and say that there should be more on the table than just a few major bowl victories.
It seems each year that Tech is someone's "sleeper" candidate as a national title contender, only to lose to a team that was clearly inferior to the Hokies.
Remember last year, when Boise State was the only obstacle in their path to the national title game? Boise went to D.C. and beat them, and then the Hokies followed that with a loss to James Madison.
For a team that is constantly being praised for its success, Virginia Tech has never gone undefeated in a season and only had one season in which it lost one game. Coincidentally, that was the year a guy by the name of Michael Vick played for Virginia Tech, and he guided them to the Sugar Bowl, where they lost to eventual national champion Florida State.
For a team that should have been dominating a dormant ACC for the better part of the decade, Virginia Tech has not done a very good job of matching its reputation.
Ahhh, the U.
Where legends are made, traditions continue and championships are won. The Hurricanes have long been living off their reputation that was created under the Jimmy Johnson regime.
Yes, they were one of the baddest teams, if not the baddest, on the planet during those days. But now, the U just represents mediocre football that has not been relevant for on-field play in quite some time.
At the turn of this decade is when they returned to glory, but after that, not much has happened down in Coral Gables. This recent news of Nevin Shapiro providing benefits to many Hurricanes may garner them more unwanted attention as it relates to probation and sanctions, but a large portion of Miami does not care about the football team down there.
I credit the lack of interest to two reasons: The team has not put a quality product on the field in years, and the stadium it plays in is not a college football stadium. The above picture was a shot taken 15 minutes before kickoff against Virginia Tech (which preceded the U on this list).
Not too many people feel that going to a football game in an NFL stadium is that appealing, even if you are a Hurricanes fan.
Maybe Miami will survive this recent scandal, and maybe Al Golden will return the Hurricanes to their glory days, but right now those days are in the rear-view mirror.
Please do not think I included the Bulldogs on this list after last night's performance against Boise State. Boise State was the better team, plain and simple. I am not sure if Georgia was going to win that, even if the game was being played in Athens.
They were on this list years ago, when their program started to regress to the average category of SEC competition.
When Mark Richt left Bobby Bowden's staff and became the head coach at UGA, the Bulldogs started to climb to the top of the ranks of the SEC. In only his second year at the helm, the Bulldogs climbed to a top-five final ranking, eventually defeating the Florida State Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl.
However, preseason hype has not been matched in recent years. The Bulldogs have not won a conference championship in six years and have not come close to seriously contending for one.
As I write this article, there are probably rumors of Richt being on the hot seat and how his days in Athens might be numbered.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
I feel bad putting this one here because I like Brian Kelly, and I think that he is doing a good job and will return the Irish to better days. Before that, though, let's look at the track record of Notre Dame coaches since Lou Holtz left:
Bob Davie: 35-25.
George O'Leary: 0-0 (fired before he even coached a game at ND)
Tyrone Willingham: 21-15
Charlie Weis: 35-27
I did not include interim coaches in that list because it does not give a fair sampling of how that coach and team performed. But what is obvious is that since Holtz left, Notre Dame has not put together a string of successful seasons in quite some time. Granted, Weis guided them to a couple of BCS games, but he got beat in both appearances.
Notre Dame realizes who butters its bread and has continued its relationship with NBC for years. They only have to reach 10 wins to get to a BCS game, so joining a conference is not warranted.
The loss to USF yesterday did not help the reputation that Notre Dame does not deserve to be on this list.
Some might see this slide and let me know that USC has already won a couple of national championships in the last decade. That is correct, but the overall body of work does not reflect a program that many people think has been dominating for a large portion of college football history.
However, looking at their record, it was almost 25 years or so between national championships for USC. Pete Carroll created such an aura around the program that the casual fan felt as though USC had been doing this for years.
The fact that they vacated one of their championships shows that an edge was gained through methods that did not meet the criteria of NCAA.
It also cannot be good when the stadium that you play in is outdated, and even on the best days, they do not sell out every home game. Being a USC fan is related to being a Lakers fan. You just go for the experience, but you don't necessarily care about the people on the team.
Seriously, with their record over the years, shouldn't they have been in more national championship games?
The Cornhuskers' record is impressive, and it stretches back many years. Tom Osborne helped guide them to back-to-back national championships in the 1990s, but after that, their only taste of glory was an ill-fated trip to the Rose Bowl, where they got thumped by Miami in the national championship game.
The option is still one of the coolest offenses run, and very few teams use it anymore, but the old Nebraska teams were sure fun to watch.
They have losing records against Oklahoma and Texas, their two biggest conference rivals over the years. Now entering the Big Ten, Nebraska is hoping to call on some of its past to legitimize some of its future.
Texas A&M Aggies
The only reason they are on the list is because of their coach, Mike Sherman—hired more to please the board and certain boosters.
Many are calling the Aggies a dark horse candidate to be Big 12 (or whatever they are calling it) champs at the end of the year. Beginning Sherman's fourth year at the helm, he has coached the Aggies to a pedestrian 19-18 record.
They are home to the 12th man, the most important group of people in college football, and the traditions they maintain can be considered second to none.
What leaves you wanting more is their track record. Entering the season ranked in the Top 10, there are high hopes for the Aggies. They have not won a conference championship in more than 10 years, and they still have to face the likes of Oklahoma and Texas, as well as a much improved Baylor and Oklahoma State over the years on their schedule.
I have news for Aggie fans ready to go to the SEC—the schedule doesn't get any easier. The grass is not always greener on the other side.
Look at the picture and think about what you are looking at. Quite possibly, this is the first pick in the 2012 NFL draft. After that, there is not much to look at.
What you get is a team that has not gone to too many major bowls but gladly snaps up the New Year's Day bowls as if there was nothing wrong with them.
Jim Harbaugh brought a level of excellence to Stanford, but his heart was at Michigan or the NFL. The Cardinal even brought in the legendary Bill Walsh to be their head coach and then brought him in later in his career, only to receive a .500 record out of his second stint at Stanford.
The body of work on the Cardinal is not impressive, and they have not seriously competed for a national championship for a majority of their existence as a football program. Harbaugh knew he had something special, but even he could not turn down the NFL money once it was offered to him.
As with any list on here, there were probably some teams that were left out and some that should have been taken off this list while others were added. Feel free to leave your comments and evidence as to who I should have included or removed from this list.
Hope everyone has a great holiday weekend.