1. The 10 most overrated College Football teams in the 2016 preseason AP/Coaches Top 25 polls
But this is nothing new as the traditional powerhouses always get the special treatment when it comes to preseason rankings. But based on decades of research, nearly half (12) of those teams in the preseason Top 25 won’t even be there when the season is over despite a head start over a number of other deserving schools (Nebraska, Boise St., Navy) that should have big seasons this year.
Don’t let anybody fool you, preseason rankings are a pure entertainment play in order to get fans hyped up about the season. Polls really shouldn’t even come out until October when we start to have some type of understanding on teams to differentiate the good from the over-hyped teams.
So with that, here’s a look (in no particular order) at the most overrated teams in the preseason Top 25.
2. Oklahoma: No. 3 (AP, Coaches)
On paper, No. 3 Oklahoma looks to be every bit of a Top 25 team.
But for whatever reason, the Sooners — who have earned the nickname Choklahoma for a lack of showing up in big games — just doesn’t feel like a Top 3 team this year.
As fun as it was to watch the run last season, I see the Sooners losing four games this year (Houston, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, and to either West Virginia or Baylor) which may or may not keep them out of the Top 25. Either way, I don’t see them finishing near the Top 10 and this is why.
Yes, they return quarterback Baker Mayfield, but they lost a lot of production and leadership in Sterling Sheperd, Durron Neal, Eric Striker and Dominique Alexander just to name a few. The defense was one of the best in the Big 12 last year but lose a number of All-Big 12 players. That of course will put added pressure on Mayfield to put up big numbers and I’m not sure he’ll deliver despite being a preseason Heisman candidate.
Also of note, Oklahoma has been ranked in the preseason Top 10 eight times over the last decade, but has never finished higher than fifth. The Sooners also have two seasons during that span where they were finished unranked.
3. LSU: No. 5 (AP), No. 6 (Coaches)
I’m calling it.
The No. 5 Tigers may be have received a first-place vote, but don’t expect LSU to do much this year.
Remember, LSU head coach Les Miles was almost fired after a 9-3 season last year with boosters calling for his resignation.
The Tigers do return Heisman hopeful Leonard Fournette who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns last year. Fornette is expected by many to be a to pick in the NFL Draft next year, but will need some help as the Tigers are breaking in several new offensive lineman.
Quarterback Brandon Harris returns but was pretty inconsistent throwing just 13 touchdowns and six interceptions with a completion percentage hovering around 50 percent. That’s not even close to being good enough for a supposedly Top 5 team.
I expect defenses to make Harris beat them with his arm as they stack the box to slow down Fournette. I see the Tigers losing four games (Wisconsin, Alabama, Ole Miss, Texas A&M) this year which should keep them out of the Top 25.
4. Stanford: No. 7 (Coaches), No. 8 (AP)
Voters were left drooling after Christian McCaffrey — Mr. Everything — torched Iowa in the Rose Bowl last season for 368 all-purpose yards in a 45-16 rout. McCaffrey, who already held the NCAA single-season all-purpose yardage record, broke the Rose Bowl record and recorded the fourth most yards in any bowl game.
That’s why it’s not surprising to see the Cardinals getting a lot of love in the preseason, but if you look at what Stanford has coming back this season, you’ll see a team that is very much over-hyped.
While McCaffrey does return and should put up good numbers, the Cardinal don’t have a lot key pieces surrounding him. Stanford’s depth will be tested as they replace several offensive lineman, a majority of its front seven and star quarterback Kevin Hogan who helped the Cardinal average 37.8 points per game last season.
The quarterback race is still being sorted out which isn’t a great sign in my opinion as the Cardinal will undergone big changes under center after so much stability over the past seven seasons with Andrew Luck and Hogan.
The schedule is no cake walk either with non-conference games against Kansas State and Notre Dame. In the end, I see Stanford losing four games (USC, Washington, Notre Dame and either UCLA or California) and will likely miss out on the Top 25 altogether.
5. Tennessee: No. 9 (AP), No. 10 (Coaches)
I admit, the Vols should be good this year, but not Top 10 good. No way!
They should contend for the SEC East title but let’s remember a couple of things. Head coach Butch Jones is just 3-13 against ranked teams and this is the same Tennessee team that hasn’t beaten Florida since 2004 and hasn’t won at Georgia since 2006.
Yes, they do return quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd along with a number of other starters on both sides of the ball, but I see them losing at least three games this year (Alabama, Texas A&M and either Florida or Georgia). And with a soft non-conference schedule (Ohio and Appalachian State), and an awfully high ranking for a team that hasn’t done much over the past decade, I don’t believe Tennessee will live up to its hype.
I’ll admit, out of the 10 teams I have listed, Tennessee stands the best chance to stay ranked juts because of the SEC perception which gives teams from that conference a boost when it comes to rankings. They get a lot of credit for a win and won’t fall as much when they lose. And with three losses before the bowl season, they’ll likely still be ranked.
But I don’t think they’ll pass the eye test as a Top 25 team.
6. Michigan State: No. 11 (Coaches), No. 12 (AP)
Expectations are high after winning the Rose Bowl in 2014 and then following it up a year later by making the College Football Playoff.
But this year will be different, and not in a good way.
Three-year starter Connor Cook — who won 35 games during his career — is gone, which leaves Tyler O’Connor under center with a very young offense.
The Spartans lost key guys on defense too (DE Shilique Calhoun, DE Lawrence Thomas, DT Joel Heath, S R.J. Williamson) and will have to go through a tough non-conference schedule with games against Notre Dame and BYU on top of playing in one of the country’s toughest divisions.
Not only is the schedule tough, but the Spartans will play 11 consecutive weeks which we all know is a recipe for a worn-down football team.
With an inaccurate quarterback, a young team on both sides of the ball and one of the toughest schedules in the country, I don’t see the Spartans finishing near the Top 25. I expect them to end the season with five or six losses.
7. TCU: No. 13 (AP), No. 14 (Coaches)
I’m not jumping on the Horned Frogs bandwagon.
TCU comes in ranked 13th in the AP Poll and has performed well since moving from the Mountain West Conference and into the Big 12.
But in the words of Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend.”
TCU’s Trevone Boykin — Mr. Everything — was electrifying in the Air Raid offense as he led one of the nation’s most potent offenses (42.1 points per game) last year.
But Boykin, isn’t the only one that needs replacing as running back Aaron Green also graduated along with star receiver in Josh Doctson.
Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill looks to be the guy under center and prove that he can be a reliable quarterback. Hill looked good as a freshman during his time at A&M, but eventually lost his starting job to Kyle Allen.
I’m to buying such a lofty ranking for a team with so many unproven offensive pieces, especially with tough games against Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Baylor.
8. Iowa: No. 15 (Coaches), No. 17 (AP)
Most fans and football programs would celebrate a 12-2 season, but the way that it ended for Iowa last year left little room for celebration. After missing out on a College Football Playoff berth in a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, the Hawkeyes didn’t even show up in a Rose Bowl in a blowout loss to Stanford.
While expect the Hawkeyes to have a good season (win 8-9 games), that won’t be good enough to stay in the Top 25.
With a weak non conference schedule and a back-loaded Big Ten schedule with games against Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State and Nebraska, I just don’t see Iowa holding up.
9. Georgia: No. 16 (Coaches), No. 18 (AP)
Following a third consecutive season that ended short of expectations (the SEC Championship Game) Georgia head coach Mark Richt left for Miami following 15 seasons that included 145 wins and two SEC championships.
The Bulldogs hired Kirby Smart — the former Alabama defensive coordinator — and hope he can turn the program into a powerhouse like Nick Saban has done at Alabama.
Smart inherits a number of starters on both sides of the ball, but the biggest questions surround the quarterback and running back spots.
Highly-touted freshman quarterback Jacob Eason looks like he’ll get some action alongside Greyson Lambert who started last year. Some are saying its a matter of when not if Eason will play for the Bulldogs. But is the freshman really ready for the rigors of SEC play?
It doesn’t help that Georgia’s top two running backs (Nick Chubb and Sony Michel) are trying to comeback from season-ending injuries last year. How effective can they actually be and who is behind them in case they can’t stay healthy.
With young guys filling in at key spots, I just don’t see Georgia having a big year this year. And coming into the season ranked as high as 16th, it’s a safe bet that you won’t see Georgia even close to the Top 25 by seasons end.
10. UCLA: No. 16 (AP), No. 24 (Coaches)
Last year was a real disappointment for the Bruins after finishing the season at 8-5. But the biggest sting was losing in the Foster Farms Bowl to a 5-7 Nebraska team that needed an NCAA waiver just to be eligible.
And while UCLA returns 12 starters and is one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 title, that won’t hapen if Josh Rosen can’t stay healthy. The freshman sensation had an up and down season last year but showed great promise. And if he does banged up and the his backup is needed most teams these days, UCLA goes from a solid team to an average team, especially after losing star players in Kenny Clark, Myles Jack, and Paul Perkins last season.
The defense returns eight players and should be the strength of the team with just four starters returning on offense.
The Bruins will need help in the run game after Perkins departed after rushing for 1,343 yards and 14 touchdowns. It doesn’t help either that the Bruins are nearly breaking in an entire new offensive line.
UCLA will be tested with early games against Texas A&M, BYU, Stanford and Utah. The defense should keep the Bruins in most of the games, but can Rosen lead an unproven and inexperienced offense? I don’t believe he will and with 4-5 expected losses this season, the Bruins are definitely over-hyped coming into the season.
11. Oregon: No. 22 (Coaches), No. 24 (AP)
Oregon has the money and the facilities, but why can’t they recruit the best quarterbacks ever year instead of relying on junior college transfers to fill the void?
No disrespect to Oregon and what they have been able to accomplish, but there is only a handful of times when you can replace a starting quarterback with JC guys and make it work year-in and year-out at the Division I level.
Will Montana State transfer Dakota Prukop be the guy that Ducks need with new coordinators?
Yes, the Ducks will be boasted by running back Royce Freeman who has amassed 3,201 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns in his two seasons at Oregon. He’s helped open the pass game for guys like Marcus Mariota and Vernon Adams, but this year Freeman will be asked to even more.
Will he be able to handle the load with an unproven quarterback? It doesn’t help on the other side of the ball to see the Ducks return just two starters along the front seven. Oregon is not known and will likely never be known for its defense, but losing that many guys could spell trouble against some top scoring teams in the Pac-12.
I predict the Ducks will finish with 4-5 losses this year which would mean its the second consecutive year that Oregon hasn’t won double-digit games. This of course will only put more pressure on head coach Mark Helfrich as his seat starts to get hotter.