Is Florida, Clemson or Texas the Biggest Disappointment of the CFB Season?

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterNovember 16, 2021

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, center, walks on the field after an NCAA college football game against the Connecticut, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

The 2021 college football season is now three months old. For some, these past three months have been nothing but festive. Georgia fans know this emotion well as the Bulldogs' unbeaten regular season marches on.

But others have experienced, well, different seasons. 

In fact, that doesn't quite encapsulate the disappointment that has engulfed the seasons of many programs that began the regular season with immense expectations. 

Some accumulated months of offseason hype that resulted in prime real estate on the preseason AP poll. Others began the year with realistic College Football Playoff aspirations. And others began the year with hopes of winning a division or a conference championship.

For whatever reason, and there are plenty, it wasn't to be. And as the season begins its rapid wind-down, it's time to take inventory of the most disappointing performances thus far. 

With help from our B/R readers, we asked them for their most underwhelming performances of 2021. In light of some recent, historic meltdowns and near meltdowns, things were spirited per usual. 

If your team is mentioned below, have no fear. Misery loves company.


The 2-Win Encore  

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

User: @footballfan112 

Suggestion: Indiana. Top 15 in some preseason polls and now only has two wins. Probably the most overrated team of the preseason. 

Preseason AP Poll Rank: No. 17 

As bad as it feels for other programs mentioned in this piece, this is the only school mentioned that has won just two games this year. TWO. 

Even worse, Indiana has won a grand total of zero Big Ten games. 

The two wins? Idaho and Western Kentucky. That's it. 

The Hoosiers were spectacular last year in a shortened Big Ten season, although it's hard for a program like this to sustain that kind of success with so many talented teams around it. 

While I anticipated some regression, I never could have predicted something like this. The most recent loss, a 38-3 lifeless defeat to Rutgers, is about as bad as it possibly gets. (Texas fans might disagree, and we'll get to that momentarily.)

Still, it's bad. 

Considering last year and the expectations that came with what felt like a breakout season, a strong case could be made that this is the most disappointing team in college football. 

I doubt many envisioned this team winning the conference, but we certainly expected more than this. 

And losing to Rutgers by 35? Oof.


Austin, We Have a Problem 

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 13: Texas Longhorns TE Cade Brewer (80) scores the game tying touchdown during game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Texas Longhorns on November 13, 2021 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX.  (Photo by John Riv
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

User: @collinedwards

Suggestion: Texas every year 

Preseason AP Poll Rank: No. 21

Now, let's leave the "every year" part alone for a moment. Let's focus instead on the topic at hand, which is 2021 dissatisfaction.

Without diving into recent history, Texas checks a lot of boxes on the disappointment front. And the most recent loss to Kansas—a game that the Longhorns were favored in by 31.5 points—is one of the most shocking losses in recent memory.

It is hard to find the words to describe a loss this bad. (Sorry, Kansas fans.) It'll likely be talked about for many years to come.

Maybe the bigger issue, however, is that this miserable outcome is no longer an outlier. The Longhorns have lost five games in a row for the first time since 1956. Granted, some of those losses came against pretty good teams. 

Texas was actually in position to beat Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor before coughing up leads. Still, a 4-6 season is hard to process for a team with as many resources as this. 

I actually loved the Steve Sarkisian hire. While I didn't fully commit to Texas winning the conference, I certainly thought it would be better than this. And while expectations were somewhat reserved, at least by Texas standards, this one is hard to compute. 

As for recent history, well, it applies. We've gotten good at overrating Texas on a yearly basis as a whole, and this season should fit nicely into that pile.


Chomp, Chomp, Womp, Womp, Womp

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 13: head coach Dan Mullen of the Florida Gators looks on during the second quarter of a game against the Samford Bulldogs at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 13, 2021 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Get
James Gilbert/Getty Images

User: @halfginger25 

Suggestion: Gotta be Florida. They go from being a top 10 team and almost beating 'Bama to losing to South Carolina, firing their coordinators and finally top it off giving up 52 points to FCS Samford.

Preseason AP Poll Rank: No. 13

Dan Mullen should send Texas a customized ice cream cake. Because if it wasn't for the late-night collapse of the Longhorns, the story coming out of Week 11 would have been Florida.

The Gators gave up more points in the first half on Saturday (42) than they ever have. And it happened against Samford.

Yes, the same Samford that recently lost to the Virginia Military Institute.

The Gators ultimately won 70-52, although the performance came on the heels of their 40-17 loss to South Carolina. Florida was a 20.5-point favorite in that game.

On the year, Mullen's team is 5-5. The close loss to Alabama back in the middle of September feels like a distant memory. 

After losing significant talent to the NFL after last season, many assumed Florida would take a step back. The problem? Florida cannot, under any circumstances, lose a game to South Carolina.

Even a loss to Kentucky, as much as that program has improved, still stings plenty. There was a time when the fanbase couldn't imagine losing to the Wildcats. After not losing to Kentucky for more than 30 years, Florida has done it twice in the last four.

Mullen's seat is blazing, which should come as no surprise. It wasn't long ago that a season like this at Florida, regardless of the talent exodus, was unfathomable. 

Now? It feels somewhat expected.


Baby Blue Blues

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 11: Pittsburgh Panthers linebacker SirVocea Dennis (7) sacks North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) during a college football game on Nov. 11, 2021 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Ic
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

User: @21blazeting

Suggestion: It's got to be North Carolina, right?

Preseason AP Poll Rank: No. 10

Again, I didn't buy this hype like many. 

Sure, I thought North Carolina would be fun and capable. I thought QB Sam Howell had enough talent to win plenty of games by his lonesome. But I also questioned how the Tar Heels would respond after losing running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, the heart and soul of the team from 2020. 

The fact that UNC started at No. 10 in the AP poll to start the year, however, says a lot about what was expected. And while Carolina has had some moments—headlined by its win over then-unbeaten Wake Forest a few weeks ago—the inconsistencies have been the story. 

North Carolina is now 5-5. Losses to Notre Dame and Pittsburgh this year are understandable. Losses to Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Florida State are not.

How disappointing is this season? This one largely depends on how much you bought in over the offseason. With Howell at QB, it felt like North Carolina would at least have a chance on most Saturdays.

UNC will become bowl-eligible with a win over Wofford next week before closing out against North Carolina State.

To say we (well, many) expected more would be an understatement.


Dynasty Paused

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

User: @m377p114

Suggestion: Hands down Clemson

Preseason AP Poll Rank: No. 3

As other programs' seasons come to a screeching halt near the end of the year, the shock of Clemson being an average team in an average conference has worn off slightly as the fall has progressed. 

In the summer, we openly wondered how Clemson's resume would stack up if it lost to Georgia in the opener and won its remaining games. That's how much we thought of this program. 

Maybe one loss. Two if things got weird.

The Tigers have responded with three losses in their first 10 games. For some perspective, between 2015 and 2020, Clemson lost a grand total of seven games across six seasons.

The bar has been set remarkably high—perhaps unfairly so. But it's also a bar this program has helped establish with multiple national championships and conference dominance.

Of all the programs mentioned in this piece, Clemson is the only one that entered the year with realistic national championship aspirations. And to not just fall short of those goals but also spend most of the year outside of the Top 25 is a remarkable turn.

The Tigers currently own the nation's No. 95 scoring offense. Think about that for a second.

Still, Clemson can win nine regular-season games if they close out the year with victories over Wake Forest and South Carolina. For other teams in the ACC, this would be a banner season.

For a team that has made dominance look routine, one can only look at the 2021 season as a shocking departure.

Sure, the shock has worn off some over the past two months. But the disappointment still feels very fresh.


Sad Valley  

Barry Reeger/Associated Press

User: @JayFel

Suggestion: Penn State disappointed. Franklin's poor coaching was a given though.

Preseason AP Poll Rank: No. 19 

Things move quickly in college football. For further proof, let's examine Penn State's season.

On the afternoon of Oct. 9, the Nittany Lions were the No. 4-ranked team in the sport playing at No. 3 Iowa. Penn State built up a 17-3 lead at Kinnick Stadium—looking the dominant team in this Top Five matchup. 

Then, starting quarterback Sean Clifford was injured. Things haven't been the same since.

The Nittany Lions ultimately lost to Iowa, which was understandable given the injury. At least at the time. But to lose at home to Illinois a few weeks later was the result that seemed to change the perception of the entire year.

Penn State has lost four of the last five games, which is a substantial departure after a 5-0 start. Granted, three of those losses came to opponents inside of the AP Top 10 at the time the game was played.

That doesn't excuse the defeats, but those details are important. As for that Illinois loss, well, that one doesn't need any further explaining. Just a big ol' yikes. 

Add in the seemingly endless stream of commentary surrounding the possible departure of head coach James Franklin for USC, LSU or another vacant college football job, and we have ourselves a rather uncomfortable stew brewing in Happy Valley.

I'm not sure what was realistic for Penn State was in 2021. I do know that, at least for a while, it felt like pretty much anything was possible.

Less than two months later, and the situation has changed rather abruptly and not for the better.