Hard as it may be to believe now, Louisville opened 2007 as a top ten team. The Cardinals missed out on reaching a bowl game. Michigan was in the top five and lost to Appalachian State. Here's a look at the team from each BCS conference most likely to fall short of their expectations this season.
ACC - Clemson - Clemson has the most talent of any team in their conference. The Tigers feature stellar running back depth, a veteran quarterback in Cullen Harper, an established go to receiver in Aaron Kelly and a schedule with two 1-AA teams on it. Their defensive line already had good talent before the addition of super prospect DaQuan Bowers. Every preseason magazine expects them to be in the top dozen teams in the country. What could possibly go wrong?
Quite a bit, actually. The Tigers have significant questions on the offensive line, virtually no linebacker depth or experience, and Tommy Bowden as their coach. Nine years into his tenure, Bowden has yet to lead Clemson to even an Atlantic division title. No current coach at any BCS school has gone as long in his job without accomplishing at least that much. Bowden's team has lost four or more games each season since 2000. His record against in state rival South Carolina is outstanding, but he's 1-5 all time against other SEC teams. Keep that in mind as Clemson heads into its season opener against Alabama at the Georgia Dome.
Big East - West Virginia - Quarterback Pat White is back for his senior season running the Mountaineer attack. Noel Devine averaged 8.6 yards a carry last year and will run behind a pretty experienced offensive line. That all sounds great, but there's a lot of other facts that say trouble's coming in Morgantown. White has yet to show he can consistently stay healthy even with a star runner in Steve Slaton taking carries off his workload. WVU fans are convinced Devine will easily fill Slaton's shoes, but concluding Devine can go from 73 carries to being a workhorse back without getting banged up and seeing his productivity fall is a big assumption. So is the idea that Bill Stewart, who went 8-25 at VMI in his only other head coaching shot, can take over from Rich Rodriguez with no dropoff. Couple those questions with an out of conference schedule that has Auburn heading into Morgantown and a road game with Colorado and you've got the recipee for a disappointing year.
Big Ten - none - There really isn't a team here likely to unexpectedly disappoint. Ohio State, Illinois and Wisconsin should all be pretty good and possibly more. Everyone's already plenty suspicious of big name programs Michigan (coaching transition with major scheme switch on offense), Penn State (discipline problems, possible coaching change coming) and Iowa (even bigger discipline problems). Michigan State might be better than anticipated, and no one expects anything out of the other teams.
Big 12 - Kansas - While Mark Mangino's squad has to be given credit for a breakthrough season and a BCS bowl win, it's impossible to ignore how those two things occurred. The Jayhawks rolled up easy wins over four non-BCS out of conference opponents at home, cruised through a Big Twelve schedule without facing Oklahoma, Texas or Texas Tech, and then lost the North division showdown with Missouri. By missing a likely loss to Oklahoma in the Big Twelve title game, 11-1 Kansas landed a spot in the Orange Bowl. Other than their bowl win over Virginia Tech, the Jayhawks did not beat a ranked opponent all year. Since then, Kansas has lost star corner Aqib Talib to the NFL and defensive coordinator Bill Young to Miami. This year's schedule includes trips to Oklahoma and USF as well as home games with Texas and Texas Tech. Even though quarterback Todd Reesing is back with a good group of offensive talent, reality is about to return in Lawrence.
Pac-10 - Oregon - Last season Oregon was flying high for most of the year. New offensive coordinator Chip Kelly's spread option attack was putting up big points, and quarterback Dennis Dixon was the Heisman front runner. Once Dixon tore his ACL against Arizona, everything fell apart. The Ducks lost that game and then were shut out the next week against UCLA before closing the season with a home loss to Oregon State. A 56-21 bowl win over USF apparently erased that late season flop from some observers minds, as Oregon is being touted as a top 20 team again. Dixon is gone, as is first round pick running back Jonathan Stewart. No one has emerged as the new quarterback yet, and without Dixon's mobility it's not clear Kelly's scheme can work as well. The Ducks have been mediocre for the majority of this decade, with five or more losses four of the past six years. That appears a more likely outcome than them being a Pac-10 force this season.
SEC - Alabama - Nick Saban has a much touted recruiting class to work with, but putting this team in the top twenty the way many have in the preseason rankings is pure nonsense. If the Crimson Tide can upset Clemson, no sure thing, they have a good shot at starting 4-0. After that, the schedule serves up road trips to Georgia, Tennessee and LSU as well as a home game against the Auburn team which has dominated Alabama recently. There's a new offensive coordinator and no experienced quality talent at receiver. There are substantial issues regarding defensive depth as well. Despite all the hype that comes standard with Saban (number of nine or more win seasons in Saban's eleven years with BCS schools: four) there is little to indicate this team is ready for a major move in the standings yet.
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