Spring Preview 2013 - The Disappointing Teams

Posted Apr 2, 2013

What teams are the most struggle and play worse than expected? Which ones have a bad mix of schedules, don't have enough experience, or simply won't be up to snuff? It's No. 8 on the key questions of the offseason ... Who's going to disappoint?

2013 Spring Preview - No. 9

The Disappointing Teams Will Be ... ?

- 2013 Spring Preview

E-mail Pete Fiutak
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Arkansas was bad, but everyone knew it would be a disappointment after losing head coach Bobby Petrino. Auburn was miserable, but no one could've foreseen Gene Chizik being canned just a few years removed from winning a national title. Texas wasn't bad, but it didn't play up to its talent level, while West Virginia struggled once it started playing teams that didn't stink, and USC went from preseason No. 1 to being unable to do anything against a mediocre Georgia Tech team in the Sun Bowl.

So who's going to let everyone down this year? There are various degrees of disappointment - going 9-3 would be a disaster at Alabama - so in various ways, these should be the teams that don't live up to their expectations in 2013.

20 Big Offseason Questions 
8. Teams that will disappoint
9. Teams that will surprise
10. What will the preseason polls look like?
11. How's your unit? DBs
Top DB Battles
12. How's your unit? LBs
Top LB Battles
13. How's your unit? WRs
Top WR Battles
14. How's your unit? RBs
Top RB Battles
15. Bulletin Board Material
16. How's your unit? DLs
Top DL Battles
17. How's your unit? OLs
Top OL Battles
18. Bowl Expectations
- December Bowls
- Non-BCS Bowls
- BCS Bowls
19. Top 50 Non-Conference Games  
20. Top QB Battles  
AC ACC – Clemson
The Tigers are going to be everyone's ACC darling with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins returning from the team that beat LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but there's lots of work to be done in the defensive back seven and at the skill spots with DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington gone. The expectations are higher now for a BCS-or-bust program, and even if everything works out in ACC play, the bookend games against Georgia and South Carolina could ruin what could otherwise be a strong year.
Actually, this might not be a disappointing season because … Clemson might beat Georgia at home. Florida State is also a home game, and there's not another ACC game that should be a problem if the Tigers play up to their talent level – and if they can do it consistently and keep their focus.

Big East – Louisville
The problem is that fans are going to be expecting nothing short of another BCS bid. With the light and breezy schedule, and with almost everyone returning with 19 returning starters, it'll be hard to ask for anything less than at least ten wins and a Big East championship. However, last year the Cardinals won six games by a touchdown or less and managed to play down to their competition. Going to Cincinnati and South Florida are going to be fights and dealing with Rutgers five days after going to Temple could be a fight. Remember, this is a team with national title aspirations – 11-1 could still be seen as a disappointment.
Actually, this might not be a disappointing season because … if you're getting almost everyone back from a team that beat Florida, including Teddy Bridgewater, you're good enough to beat anyone on the 2013 Louisville schedule. It's a new year and a new team, but still, anyone who goes into the season thinking BCS should be able to handle Rutgers, Kentucky, Cincinnati and South Florida.

Big Ten – Northwestern
The bar is being set higher now, but it's still going to be a battle. Because of the various recruiting restrictions – the place needs to get smart guys – and the lack of talent compared to other top Big Ten schools, it's not really about building in Evanston as it is about taking advantage of the right season and the right time. As good as the Wildcats were going 10-3 and coming within an eyelash of beating Michigan and Nebraska, almost every game was a fight or a struggle of some sort – 10-3 could turn into 6-7 in a hurry. Going to California to start the season won't be easy, and dealing with Ohio State and Wisconsin from the Leaders isn't fair. Thrown in road games at Iowa and Nebraska, and back-to-back home games against Michigan and Michigan State, and another nine-win regular season might be a miracle.
Actually, this might not be a disappointing season because … there isn't one game on the slate that's a 100% sure-thing loss. 17 starters return, and yes, Pat Fitzgerald really has upgraded the talent a bit. The secondary should be the best in his era.

Big 12 - Oklahoma
The Sooners lose six starters from a defense that was lit up like a Christmas tree in three of the last four games, bottoming out with the disaster against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. The pass rush still has to be unearthed, the offense has to be more consistent, and while the blowout over Texas was impressive, losing to the three elite teams on the slate – Kansas State, Notre Dame and Texas A&M – was hardly okay for a program that's supposed to be playing for national championships. This should be another good team, but the schedule is too tough and there are too many key losses to win a national title.
Actually, this might not be a disappointing season because … even with all the problems, OU still finished tied on top of the Big 12 standings. Despite the loss of Lane Johnson, the offensive line should be fantastic and the attack as potent as ever.

Conference USA – Louisiana Tech
Yay! Louisiana Tech is finally in a real, live conference – at least compared to the WAC – and can start to make more noise on a national scale, but there's one slight problem for Skip Holtz in his first season – the players. Kenneth Dixon is a tremendous running back to work around, but eight starters are gone from the high octane offense and the defense that stopped absolutely no one last season loses five starters in the back seven.
Actually, this might not be a disappointing season because … the schedule is awfully WAC-like. It might be a new league, but the slate isn't much harder overall with exactly three teams – NC State, Rice and Tulsa – that went bowling.

Independents – Notre Dame
After going 12-0 in the regular season and with a vastly improved talent level from a few seasons ago, the bar has been set at BCS or bust. The problem is an offense that returns just four starters and a defense that's going to have to come up with another phenomenal season despite the loss of Manti Te'o and end Kapron Lewis-Moore. The Irish won five games last season by a touchdown or less including two overtime thrillers – you don't get the same breaks twice when the schedule has road games at Michigan and Stanford, a neutral site game against Arizona State, and home dates with Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC and BYU.
Actually, this might not be a disappointing season because … if you break it down, the schedule really isn't that bad. At the very least, it's not nearly as daunting as the 2012 slate looked before the season. Get by Michigan in Ann Arbor, and the toughest road game left is at Stanford. Even without Captain Kekua, the defense should still be terrific.

MAC – Northern Illinois
It's all relative. After winning MAC titles and going to the BCS, merely coming up with a MAC West title is going to seem a little dull, even with a new head coach in place. Only four starters return to a defense that boasted the most fearsome pass rush in the MAC, but the bigger problem could be a more difficult schedule with road games at Iowa, Purdue, against an improved Central Michigan and a loaded Toledo. After going 12-1 before the Orange Bowl, a 9-3 regular season won't cut it. Remember, last year's phenomenal team lost to Iowa and almost lost to Army and Kansas squads that had a combined two wins over FBS teams.
Actually, this might not be a disappointing season because … Jordan Lynch and the offense might be unstoppable. Leading receiver Martel Moore and third-leading receiver Perez Ashford are gone. That's it. The nation's 12th-ranked rushing offense should average around 250 yards per game.

Mountain West – Nevada
Cody Fajardo might be a special quarterback, but new head coach Brian Polian has to find running back help with Stefphon Jefferson and Nick Hale gone. The bigger problem could be a good line that has to replace three starters, while the defense that struggled so much against the run and didn't do much of anything to get into the backfield has to come up with six new starters. After losing five of the final six games, and struggling to get by a miserable New Mexico team, it could be a fight to get back to a bowl game with non-conference dates against UCLA, BYU and Florida State.
Actually, this might not be a disappointing season because … the entire defensive front returns and Fajardo really is a tremendous talent who should be good enough to overcome the concerns in the backfield. The system will still work.

Pac-12 - UCLA
The excitement might be through the roof after the team finally started to look like it could be more than just competitive, but all the fun came to a crashing halt in the ugly loss to Baylor to end the year. This season, the problem isn't just the loss of five defensive starters, it's the schedule. The Bruins are going to be good enough to stay with anyone on the schedule, but the six road games are against Nebraska, Utah, Stanford, Oregon, Arizona and USC with the battles with the Ducks and Cardinal from the North in back-to-back weeks. By comparison, last season the road games were at Rice, Colorado, Cal (a blowout loss), Arizona State and Washington State.
Actually, this might not be a disappointing season because … there really is a whole bunch of talent coming back. The Bruins have one of the best young quarterbacks in college football in Brett Hundley, and the young O line that struggled so much in pass protection should be far better now that all the underclassmen have a year of experience.

SEC – Ole Miss
It's only April and yet I know this by heart already – and all apologies for repeating this over and over again. At Vanderbilt, at Texas, at Alabama, at Auburn, Texas A&M and LSU. Throw in the scrimmage against SE Missouri State, and those are the first seven games of the Rebels' season. All the excitement over the great recruiting class and all the fun from the end of last year could quickly go away with so many top-shelf battles to start the year. Don't forget a November with Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi State.
Actually, this might not be a disappointing season because … Ole Miss will be good enough to win several of those games. With 11 starters back on defense and eight returning on offense, this is a very, very dangerous team with the potential to beat anyone on its schedule.

Sun Belt – Arkansas State
After a few fantastic seasons under Hugh Freeze and then Gus Malzahn, the Red Wolves can't help but take a step back. Last season's 10-3 record and eight game winning streak to close out the season were fantastic, but all-star quarterback Ryan Aplin is gone along with just enough talent on both sides of the ball to expect a slip. ASU won't fall into at 4-8 abyss, but going back to a bowl game under new head man Bryan Harsin will be a fight.
Actually, this might not be a disappointing season because … Aplin wasn't the entire reason ASU was so successful. 13 starters are back on a team that should be decent enough to win at least six games with teams like Arkansas Pine-Bluff and Georgia State to fatten up on.