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25 Most Surprising and Disappointing College Football Teams of 2011

Dan VastaSenior Writer IIIDecember 21, 2011

25 Most Surprising and Disappointing College Football Teams of 2011

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    There were a bunch of teams that were expected to be playing in BCS games that barely reached bowl status this past regular season.

    Expectations are higher than ever before in today’s world of sports and coaches are now held accountable as soon as they sign on the dotted line.

    Every single season there are going to be highly ranked teams that fall on their faces right out of the gates, and for that, disappointments will occur. The opposite can be said for several teams that exceed the expectations.

    Many teams use the “us against the world” mentality, and it always seems to pay off with a tremendous coach and a few senior leaders.

    Here are your top 25 surprises and disappointments among the teams in the 2011 college football season. 

    Note: First 25 are disappointing, final 25 are surprising

Oklahoma Sooners 9-3

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    Preseason Ranking: No. 1

    The Sooners suffered a few losses in the offseason, and the wheels fell off when Ryan Broyles was lost for the season (ACL).

    The defense had some injury concerns, and they fell hard against Baylor and then Oklahoma State.

    For the consensus No. 1 team in the nation back in August, the Sooners now just want to avoid a four-loss season.

Florida State Seminoles 8-4

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    Preseason Ranking: No. 5

    The Seminoles were big favorites to win the ACC, and they were one of the darkhorses to play in the BCS national championship.

    Instead, they suffered three consecutive losses out of the gates and were essentially eliminated from the ACC title, once they had lost to Clemson.

Texas A&M Aggies 6-6

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    Preseason Ranking: No. 8

    Going from potential BCS buster and national championship contender to almost completely out of a bowl game is nothing short of disastrous.

    The Aggies make the move to the SEC next season, but the schedule will be much tougher than this past season.

    Oh, and don't forget Mike Sherman was fired in a season many Aggie fans thought their second BCS bid was a mortal lock with all of the offensive weapons they have.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 8-4

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    Preseason Ranking: No. 16

    Brian Kelly was going into his second year, and the Irish were due to play in a BCS game.

    The schedule was fairly soft outside of Stanford in the final game of the season and starting 0-2 was the only thing that could crush their dreams.

    Not only did they lose the first two, but they did so in heartbreaking fashions. This included fumbles at the goal line on top of a few other abysmal miscues (interceptions off helmets, dropped passes, defensive touchdowns and allowing touchdowns in less than 30 seconds).

Michigan State Spartans 10-3

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    Preseason Ranking: No. 17

    Sparty won the Big Ten last season but lost out on the tiebreaker, and they were picked by many “experts” to represent the conference in Pasadena this season.

    Though they defeated the Badgers on a time-expiring Hail Mary, they could not beat them when it mattered most.

    Michigan State has fallen just short of the national spotlight in consecutive seasons, and the hope is that they will avoid another letdown or more so consecutive beatdowns in January.

Ohio State Buckeyes 6-6

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    Preseason Ranking: No. 18

    The Buckeyes were fairly high in all preseason publications, and the season was an albatross for many fans. They were expected to have a 10-win season based on so many playmakers back and a premier offensive line.

    They had to get a new coaching staff together on top of a new quarterback since Terrelle Pryor left for the NFL. The offense was inept until November and a 6-6 season is the worst in over a decade.

    Lastly, throw in the fact that they won’t be playing in a bowl game next on tops of the terrible offseason, and it was almost a foregone conclusion to be a disappointing season.

Missouri Tigers 7-5

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    Preseason Ranking: No. 21

    The offensive line lost Elvis Fischer before the season started, and the passing game was non-existent for most of the season.

    Gary Pinkel’s suspension (DWI arrest) only made matters worse, though a bowl victory could perhaps stop the bleeding before next season.

    As far as this season went, it was a major disappointment since they could have very well won eight or nine games with several favorable matchups.

Florida Gators 6-6

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    Preseason Ranking: No. 22

    Considered one of the best teams in the BCS era and one of the elite programs in the country, Florida was not productive in season one under Muschamp. 

    The Gators last 6-6 season was in 1987 when Galen Hall was the head coach. Most honestly thought Florida had a chance to keep it close with Alabama, and after they were smashed, the wheels slowly fell off.

    Luckily, they made a bowl game, but the season was one of the more disappointing ones in recent Gators' history.

Mississippi State Bulldogs 6-6

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    Preseason Ranking: No. 20

    Dan Mullen came off a 10-win season and a top-15 ranking. So, most thought they would reach double-digit victories again (including bowl), and they did nothing but disappoint.

    They lost to an Auburn team that nearly lost to Utah State in the opener, and the Bulldogs stayed irrelevant after then losing to LSU at home and Georgia on the road.

    Three losses before October 2nd is awful, and the Bulldogs will attempt to win a bowl game to avoid an even tougher season.

Maryland Terrapins 2-10

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    The hiring of Randy Edsall was thought to be a great hire, especially after knocking off the Miami Hurricanes.

    If anybody were to understand that would be their second-to-last win of the season, would be stunned.

    That other lone victory was over Towson, and the close losses quickly added up before a beatdown was put on every other week.

Boise State Broncos 11-1

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    Kellen Moore had his lost shot to appear in a BCS bowl, preferably the BCS National Championship. There were and still are many haters out there who do not think Boise State is half as good as they are perceived to be.

    Another grueling loss which ended in a missed field-goal cost the Broncos a BCS bid and for that, the season was extremely disappointing. However, they can still finish the season in the top five and would have four straight seasons of 12 or more wins if they can win their bowl game.

Arizona Wildcats 4-8

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    The Cats at least won their final two games, or else, they would be in the same boat as a team like Maryland.

    Arizona had Nick Foles back at quarterback and a talented group of receivers, and yet, they ended up with just two Pac-12 wins.

    Mike Stoops is not only dunzo, but the hope is that the Rich Rodriguez era can reach a bit more of a winning taste.

Boston College Eagles 4-8

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    Twelve straight bowl seasons was a solid streak for BC, and they were pushed around as if they didn't belong in those previous bowl games.

    The program is known for its consistency, and instead, they gave us an offense that had issues picking up first downs.  

South Florida Bulls 5-7

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    Are you kidding me, USF?

    How can you beat the Irish on opening day and then end up with just one Big East win?

    They had miraculously defeated Clemson in the bowl game last year, and they did nothing to garner any national attention this season (well, at least on a positive note).

    Skip Holtz hopes he can bounce back in Tampa next season before it's too late.

Oregon State Beavers 3-9

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    Mike Riley was known for his consistency, and for two consecutive seasons, the Beavers have made zero headlines.

    Jacquizz Rodgers was a brutal loss last season, but it says something about your program when your original starting quarterback (Ryan Katz) transfers.

    Sure, he struggled with injuries and his own play, but this program could soon go from relevant to “man, thank god we get to play this team.”

Fresno State Bulldogs 4-9

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    Pat Hill was as respected of a coach around the nation as any out there. Hill was let go after posting a brutal 4-9 season that included losses to New Mexico State by three and to San Jose State by three.

    The Bulldogs had a season to forget, and you sort of sensed it after getting blasted by Northern Illinois in last year’s bowl game.

Miami (FL) Hurricanes 6-6

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    The Canes had the major allegations and offseason issues which sent shockwaves around the world which eventually resulted in a few starters being suspended.

    The team did not react well after losing their opener, and then, they ended the season with a tough loss at home to Boston College.

    Miami had already announced they were not going to play in a bowl game, and they instead played as if the team did not care.

    A 6-6 season at “Da U” is not tolerable even if it was year one under Al Golden. 

North Carolina Tar Heels 7-5

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    The loss of Butch Davis a month after many preseason magazines had already given their predictions was not what the team needed.

    Everett Withers quickly was given the reins despite originally just being the defensive coordinator.

    The Heels struggled quite a bit offensively, and they never reached their full potential on the defensive side. They are (were) loaded with a few future NFL starters, and yet, the Heels only went 7-5.

Texas Longhorns 7-5

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    Mack Brown was excited about the season, and the Longhorns were raving over the youngsters that were ready to go bonkers.

    Texas finished 7-5, but they were blown out in the season finale by Baylor. Plus, the Red River Rivalry was obliterated as the Sooners kicked the Longhorns teeth in by 38 points.

    Next season should be a good one, but the 2011 season stunk in Austin.

Ole Miss Rebels 2-10

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    Oxford is one of the most beautiful cities in the nation among college programs, but there was nothing gorgeous on the field when Houston Nutt paced the sidelines.

    The Rebels had to suspend a few of their stars on offense, and the rest of the team could never pick up the pace.

    Though nobody expected a seven or eight-win season, a few publications had them finishing ahead of Auburn (Phil Steele) and contending for a near bowl game.

    Make no mistake about it, going 2-10 and falling flat on your faces is nothing to be proud of.

Tennessee Volunteers 5-7

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    The Vols have been beaten up severely at the line of scrimmage, and the injury bug has certainly cost them a game or two the past few seasons.

    Still, they have been lacking the players to return to national relevancy, but that has not lowered the expectations all that much.

    Many expect them to win seven games even when they're down. Right now, they're just trying to get into a bowl game for Dooley’s third season.

Illinois Fighting Illini 6-6

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    Only the Zooker could look like a legit New Year’s Day team by starting out at 6-0. Then, they fall off the face of the earth by losing their final six games. What in the world happened to the Illini?

    They lost to Ohio State, who completed just one pass in the game, and the tailspin started from there on out. The quarterback carousel was annoying at times for Illini faithful, and the winning edge was never there.

    The preseason expectations that I had for them was exactly at 6-6, but I did not see them starting out at 6-0. It's a joke to think they were once in the top 15, and they were not even close to contending for a Big Ten championship appearance.

Arizona State Sun Devils 6-6

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    An early loss to Illinois was telling because they could not control the line of scrimmage against mid-tier competition.

    However, they did beat USC (when Trojans were average) and showed some promise in an early game against Oregon.

    However, it's not how you start, but how you finish. ASU lost the final four games all by 10 points or less which only makes it hurt even more.

Hawaii Warriors 6-7

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    With point-shaving allegations during the season and a few blown games, nothing seemed to go the Warriors' way.

    The schedule was too daunting, but the team did not play with as much emotion and were often too careless with the football in many key WAC games. 

Utah Utes 7-5

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    The Utes entered their very first year in a BCS conference, and some thought they had a chance to contend for an appearance in the Pac-12 title game.

    Losing four games was not the plan, but instead, they lost four just home alone (five total).

    Losing Jordan Wynn to injury hurt the team a bunch, and they never were in rhythm.

    Hopefully, year two will be much better than year one in the Pac-12 for the Utes. 

Kansas State Wildcats 10-2

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    Bill Snyder was deserving of the Coach of the Year, and his quarterback Colin Klein was one of the most valuable players for his team in the country.

    Going 10-2 in the Big 12 is not easy, and it's not like the Wildcats have a bunch of NFL players (hardly any legit prospects).

    This team is as disciplined and opportunistic [sixth best in turnover margin, (plus-1.08) as it gets].

Oklahoma State Cowboys 11-1

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    The Cowboys were a double-overtime loss (Iowa State) away from running the table and playing in the BCS national championship.

    The expectations were as high as we have seen in Stillwater, but the Pokes lived up to them and more.

    They were second in scoring offenses (49.3 PPG) and were unstoppable in the majority of their games. If they were to finish the season at 12-1, it would be the greatest season ever in Cowboys' history. 

Baylor Bears 9-3

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    Robert Griffin III just gave the Bears their first ever Heisman winner, and the team became relevant this season for their national televised victories seemingly every month of the season.

    What else more do you want?

Iowa State Cyclones 6-6

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    Paul Rhodes received the contract extension that he deserved, and the Cyclones have given it their all of him this season.

    Not only did he keep his job out of it like stated above, this program looks to be on the rise as they are only scratching the surface.

Houston Cougars 12-1

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    Next year will be interesting without some key defensive players and that guy named Case Keenum.

    Patrick Edwards was a beast all year at receiver, and no matter what happens in the bowl game, Houston became a BCS buster and were relevant to the national landscape.

    They came so close to playing in the program's first ever BCS game, but they still accomplished a ton and have a lot to be appreciative for.

TCU Horned Frogs 10-2

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    Casey Pachall had his fair share of struggles early in the season for Gary Patterson’s squad, but he caught fire quickly after those two early losses to Baylor and SMU.

    TCU moves to the Big 12 next season, but they won the Mountain West and nearly cracked the top 16 (would have been automatic BCS game) this season.

    Throw in a possible 11-2 finish and I would say that's quite impressive following an undefeated Rose Bowl season.

Auburn Tigers 7-5

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    This schedule was not expected to even allow Auburn to play in a bowl game. They needed to upset a few ranked teams, and they did just that.

    Try knocking off three different ranked teams just to lock up your bowl status because Auburn looked like a mediocre SEC team for most of the season, but they found ways to win thrilling games. 

    Auburn was tremendous in the games they needed to win, and though they were obliterated by LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas, they still exceeded most “experts'” expectations.

Clemson Tigers 10-3

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    This young squad had a chance to be something really special this season, but they will still take an ACC championship and a potential Orange Bowl victory (hopeful for 11-win season).

Virginia Cavaliers 8-4

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    Mike London was not picked by anyone to have a chance to play in the ACC championship.

    His Wahoos were not the most explosive team offensively, but they played tough defense and have a chance to finish the season ranked if they can knock off Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Penn State Nittany Lions 9-3

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    Despite all the major off-the-field issues that rank on the all-time worst seasons, PSU has found ways to have a successful season.

    Most people had them marked down for just seven perhaps eight wins.

    Going 9-3 showed what the haters were missing, and if they find a way to knock off Houston, a 10-win season would make for a darn good season.

Michigan Wolverines 10-2

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    Denard Robinson did not have that great of a season, and yet, here we are with the Michigan Wolverines playing in a BCS bowl.

    Greg Mattison deserves a ton of the credit for what he has done with this defense, and the same goes for Brady Hoke.

    Michigan has been irrelevant in previous seasons, and they're now back to having an amazing future. 

Southern Miss Golden Eagles 11-2

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    After losing to UAB, most thought there was no chance of upsetting the Cougars on the road in the C-USA Championship.

    Even though Larry Fedora will be off to North Carolina after the Hawaii Bowl, he did a fine job this season. 

Wyoming Cowboys 8-5

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    Even with the blowout loss to Temple in the New Mexico Bowl, Dave Christensen has the Cowboys heading in the right direction.

    Wyoming was not expected to go bowling this season, and they had solid success with freshman quarterback Brett Smith. 

USC Trojans 10-2

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    Lane Kiffin was sensational this season, but Matt Barkley was even better.

    Throwing the ball to Robert Woods and Marquis Lee sure helps, but finishing the season fifth when you already knew you could not reap the benefits of a great season says a lot about this program. 

Stanford Cardinal 11-1

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    Andrew Luck and Stanford did have some lofty expectations, but did you honestly think they were going to be 11-1?

    This was a three-loss team written all over the place, and yet, they overcame a ton of injuries and managed to come up big against the opponents they ran into. 

LSU Tigers 13-0

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    If Les Miles and his Bayou Bengals finish off Alabama, they would have to be considered the greatest BCS team, ever.

    Even the 2001 Miami Hurricanes did not have half the schedule LSU has conquered.

    Some did have the Tigers playing in the title, but nobody thought they would do so with a ton of suspensions and quarterback controversy. 

Arkansas Razorbacks 10-2

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    Losing Ryan Mallett was expected, but Knile Davis was a tough player to lose.

    Instead, Tyler Wilson went bonkers in a Razorback offense, and the defense played well.

    Bobby Petrino looks like he found a home with consecutive 10-win seasons, and Arkansas should be preseason top 10 next season.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights 8-4

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    Many had Rutgers struggling this season because it has taken a few seasons for Greg Schiano to put it all together with his squad.

    The season did not have a tough stretch of games, but we have seen the Scarlet Knights let up in meaningless games before.

    An 8-4 season was just what the doctor ordered, and hope is that the future will remain this bright.

Cincinnati Bearcats 9-3

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    Usually, teams fall apart completely when they lose their stud, and that was not the case with the Bearcats.

    Zach Collarros and Cincinnati tied for first place in the Big East and exceeded nearly all expectations.

    They have a tough game against Vandy in the Liberty Bowl, but Butch Jones has this team remaining as a contender in the Big East in the near future. 

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin-Cajuns 9-4

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    How about them Rajin-Cajuns?

    Winning the programs first ever bowl game is historical, but they looked like the better team against a decent Mountain West team in the San Diego State Aztecs.

    As ESPN had stated during their telecast, a few publications had them finished at the bottom of the basement in the NCAA. The great Phil Steele had them picked last in the Sun Belt and 112th overall.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 7-5

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    Bobby Rainey was a stud and despite not reaching a bowl game, ending up at 7-5 is a huge achievement.

    Phil Steele had the Hilltoppers at 114th overall in his preseason power poll, and they easily exceeded those numbers this past season.

Utah State Aggies 7-6

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    Maybe there bowl loss to Ohio was borderline disaster since they dominated the game by putting up 100 yards more than the Bobcats.

    However, the passing game needs some improvement since the rushing attack was sensational all season long.

    Robert Turbin Jr. and Michael Smith Sr. were arguably the best duo for non-automatic qualifiers (I see you Boise St-TCU) this past season.

    Most had the Aggies landing in the middle of the pack in the WAC, and yet, they finished tied for second (three regular-season losses by a combined eight points).

Ball State Cardinals 6-6

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    Once known as the laughing stock in the MAC, Ball State proved they are no longer a joke.

    Ball State had a combined six wins for the last two seasons combined, and they went 6-6 this season.

    Ball State may be in good hands under Pete Lembo as he made quite the splash in his first season.

Eastern Michigan Eagles 6-6

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    Ron English had previously won just two games in three seasons at Ypsilanti, and many were questioning if he could make an impact in his third season.

    Although 6-6 was not good enough for a bowl appearance because they defeated two FCS teams, the season was solid overall.

    The losses they had suffered in the MAC were all close, and there's hope that they could become legit contenders in the MAC next season.

Marshall Thundering Herd 7-6

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    Aaron Dobson's one-handed grab remains as the catch of the year in all of college football! 

    More importantly, avoiding a losing season with a nice 20-10 Beef O'Brady's Bowl victory over FIU is a great way to end the season for Doc Holliday.

    Not many were even expecting Marshall to do much if anything in Conference USA, and they proved they're no longer a doormat.

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