10 most overrated college football teams entering the season
College football season is just around the corner, and it will only be a matter of time before the legitimate preseason polls are out. Too much weight can be put into these, but they’re the best we have before games are played, so they’re worth paying attention to.
That said, it’s a good bet these polls will overrate some teams. There will even be other teams who aren’t ranked, but are experiencing a lot of hype for various reasons that they might not live up to, at least in 2018. Here are ten such teams that might disappoint once the 2018 college football season kicks off.
To be clear, the Cornhuskers have a bright future, and it’s not as if anyone is really expecting them to challenge for the Big Ten title this year. Still, the expectations for new coach Scott Frost might be a little high in his first year. The Huskers are coming from a four-win season and face a very difficult schedule. There are also major questions about a defense that allowed 36 points per game in 2017. The trajectory of the Nebraska program was good, and scrapping for bowl eligibility is actually a step forward, but don’t be shocked if that’s all they end up doing.
On the other side, UCF is inevitably due for a step down after the most memorable season in program history. Scott Frost’s departure will sting, even if Josh Heupel is a solid replacement. They still have quarterback McKenzie Milton and a very good offense, which will help. But key contributors have left on defense, including Shaquem Griffin, and that is going to prove to be the challenge for the Knights. They can score enough points to win a number of games. How many can they keep off the board?
Expectations are lower for Florida this year, but there will still be the inevitable voter who thinks they deserve a preseason top 25 place because they’re Florida and Dan Mullen is a good hire. The quarterback position is a big question mark entering the season. The really big issue is that the offense was far from dynamic last season. It’s hard to see that turning around so quickly, at least not enough to make the Gators worthy of much hype.
Gary Patterson’s squad is another group that we’re just not buying as a conference title contender. The defense will be solid, and Shawn Robinson looks to have a very bright future at quarterback, but no Big 12 team will have to absorb more turnover than the Horned Frogs will this year. Among the players they lost are Joseph Noteboom, Matt Pryor, Kyle Hicks, and Travin Howard. That all will have an impact.
6) Oklahoma State
Mike Gundy is simply going to have to replace too many parts for the Cowboys to have a real chance at contending for a Big 12 title. Mason Rudolph’s departure is most notable, but wide receiver James Washington is a big loss. Not having him means that whoever ends up under center for Oklahoma State won’t have an elite receiving target to throw to. There’s high offensive line turnover for the Cowboys as well, ensuring a big step back for the offense. That should prevent them from making a real run at the Big 12, even if their defense proves solid.
Oklahoma should be the favorite for the Big 12 title, but there’s a difference between being contending for a conference championship vs. a playoff bid, and the former is probably more realistic than the latter for the Sooners. Replacing Baker Mayfield will be hard, and it doesn’t sound like coach Lincoln Riley is close to deciding between Kyler Murray and Austin Kendall at that position. There are questions defensively, where they weren’t even elite last year. In the end, not having Mayfield will hold them back. They’ll probably end up a top 15 team, but top 10 and a playoff bid may be too much to ask.
4) West Virginia
Perhaps we’re just being unkind to the Big 12. Much as the Mountaineers would just like to let quarterback Will Grier do his thing and get out of the way, it may not work because of a defense that was often far too porous in 2017. That defense will likely end up being an issue again this season, and it will prevent West Virginia from being a realistic Big 12 contender despite an offense that’s plenty good enough to do the job. Grier can’t do everything by himself, and the margin for error is low if you’re relying on winning shootouts.
LSU hasn’t been very good for a few years now, and things don’t look like they’ll change much in 2018 unless transfer quarterback Joe Burrow steps up in a big way. The offense didn’t have a great 2017, and that was before Derrius Guice bolted for the NFL. They’ll lean on their defense, but even that won’t be enough. Within the first three weeks of the season, they will have played host to playoff contender Miami and traveled to Auburn. They may realistically lose both games, forcing them into an uphill climb before October even arrives.
2) Penn State
The departure of Saquon Barkley has been given plenty of attention, so there’s no need to harp on it here. One departure that could also have huge implications is the exit of offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who left to become the head coach at Mississippi State. Trace McSorley is good, but he can’t cover up everything, and the offense may well take a step back. Combine that with high turnover on defense and there’s a good case to be made that the Nittany Lions could wind up being the fourth or fifth best team in the Big Ten behind some combination of Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State.
1) Notre Dame
Nothing generates hype quite like a ten-win season in South Bend, and that’s what Notre Dame got in 2017. Their defense should be a strong point again, even with the departure of defensive coordinator Mike Elko, but it’s the offense that will hold the Fighting Irish back. Questions linger about quarterback Brandon Wimbush, and the offensive line will be weaker thanks to a few NFL exits. Add a schedule that includes visits from Michigan, Stanford, and Florida State as well as trips to Virginia Tech and USC, and the Irish may face a difficult time. 8 or 9 wins is realistic, but anything more than that will require some improvement and luck. That doesn’t quite match up with the top 10 spot they may get in preseason polling.