Every Friday, the Friday Five will rank something in the world of college football -- anything and everything from the logical to the illogical. This week, we rank five teams likely to take a step backward in 2017.
In college football, as in life, expectations are not always met. When you were a kid maybe you thought you'd be an astronaut, but odds are you're probably reading this at your desk in an office, not on a space shuttle currently orbiting around the Earth. Hell, if seven-year-old me had his way, I wouldn't be here writing this article right now. I'd be on a baseball team starting what could be my final season and looking to win my 13th consecutive World Series title as a pitcher/third baseman/manager.
It could still happen!
Anyway, the point is that sometimes reality gets in the way of our hopes and dreams, and there's nothing wrong with it. We should always aim high, whether we ever manage to reach those heights or now.
When the 2017 college football season starts, there will be teams with high expectations. Ones they aren't likely to meet. In this week's Friday Five, I'm targeting five teams I believe are going to have a difficult time meeting them. Now, I have some parameters for which teams I'm looking at. First, I'm looking back to last season to find teams that had strong seasons and will no doubt be looking to build on them.
As a benchmark, I'm only considering teams that won at least 10 games last season, and likely won't be able to match that feat again in 2017. It's the same concept. Turns out I didn't do too badly with my predictions.
Three of the five teams I listed (North Carolina, Iowa and Baylor) failed to meet their expectations, while the other two (Wisconsin and Temple) stayed on course. Hell, Temple actually had a better season, going from a division title in 2015 to a conference title in 2016. So, in the end, I nailed three of my five choices. I hoped to get all five correct, but I failed to meet my own expectations.
I will try to do better this season. In fact, I expect to.
|West Virginia fans are already convinced I hate their school, so I guess I don't have anything to lose by including the Mountaineers on this list. I do have actual reasons, though. This is a team that won 10 games last season and went 7-2 in the Big 12, but when you look closer at that record, you notice something. The Big 12 was down last season, and the Mountaineers took advantage of it. Against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, however, they were outscored by 45 points. They may finish third or fourth in the conference again, but they won't be competing for the Big 12 title.|
|Second time's the charm? Temple proved me wrong last season, but I'm taking another shot this year, and I think I have more ammunition this time around. Matt Rhule, after winning 20 games at Temple the last two seasons, has left to take over at Baylor. Because of this, and because Temple has a more difficult schedule this year, I can't help but believe the string of 10-win seasons will end at two.|
|Colorado was one of my favorite stories last season, but I'm skeptical we're going to see a repeat performance. The Buffs went 8-1 in the Pac-12 during the regular season but finished the year with a 31-point loss to Washington in the conference title game, and then a 30-point loss to Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. Also, the Buffs just lose so many key players, and only have three returning starters on defense. I don't expect a return to the bottom of the division, but I just can't see Colorado winning the division again. Not with USC to contend with.|
|To be clear, I still think Penn State is going to be a very good football team. It's going to finish the season ranked, and probably closer to the top 10 than somewhere between 20 and 25. All of that being said, odds are this is still a team that's going to take a step back. I mean, it won the Big Ten last season. Do you believe it's going to repeat that feat this season? Even while it still plays in the same division as Ohio State and Michigan? I'm skeptical.|
|It's a rather obvious choice, isn't it? I mean, Western Michigan went 13-1 last season and wound up in the Cotton Bowl. Now it enters 2017 having to replace key starters on offense, and it has lost P.J. Fleck to Minnesota. And it has to do all of this while playing a much more difficult schedule, as it will open the season with road games against both USC and Michigan State. It's entirely possible that the Broncos will still be one of the better teams in the MAC -- I actually expect them to be -- but as for competing for a New Year's Six spot, that's just not happening.|