Friday Five: College football's most overhyped teams entering 2016
In this week's Friday Five, we rank five teams that will be receiving too much preseason hype
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 schools that will be a little overrated this preseason when we consider what they've actually accomplished lately.
Overhyped or overrated are words that typically come with a negative connotation. That's to be expected when the fundamental meaning behind both words is "you aren't as good as they think you are." In this week's Friday Five, I'm addressing five teams I believe will be a bit over-hyped heading into the 2016 season, but I want to make one thing perfectly clear before I begin listing them off.
I don't think any of these teams are bad. Nor do I believe any of these teams shouldn't be ranked heading into 2016, because I totally understand where the hype is coming from. Instead, I'm approaching this from an angle of five teams who should be good, but maybe we're all being a bit to overzealous in our expectations. Maybe a bit more skepticism would be a good thing.
I'm basing these rankings off what I've seen in recent weeks. With the end of spring football, there have been a few different versions of early top-25 rankings from numerous outlets, including our own here at CBS Sports. Based on these preliminary rankings, it's not hard to draw conclusions about what the media thinks teams will look like heading into the season. Even if the first actual polls are a few months away, odds are they aren't going to look all that different than what we're seeing now.
So based on all of that, these are the five teams I believe are going to be starting the season ranked a little higher than where they probably deserve to be.
The Cougars are coming off their best season under Mike Leach, as they went 9-4 last year, including a 6-3 record in conference play, and finished the season with a win over Miami in the Sun Bowl. They also have key players like quarterback Luke Falk and receiver Gabe Marks returning, which is certainly a bonus, but I still remain somewhat skeptical about Wazzu and its ability for an encore.
I'm only ranking them fifth here, however, because they're generally being slotted between 20 and 25 in the polls I've seen so far. Still, this is a team that accomplished more than anybody believed it would last season, yet still didn't finish the year ranked by either the AP or Coaches Poll.
Also, while it went 6-3 in conference play, it only out-scored Pac-12 opponents by 30 points. Wazzu's six victories came by an average margin of 12.2 points, but that number is skewed a bit by a 24-point win over 4-9 Colorado and a 21-point win over 2-10 Oregon State. The other four conference wins came by an average of 7.0 points, or a touchdown. Which is fine. There's nothing wrong with winning close games, but this is still a team that gave up 30.4 points per game in conference play too.
Because of a shaky defense, I'm just not as convinced that Wazzu will be able to win nine games again, particularly with a schedule that includes road trips to Boise State, Stanford and Arizona State, as well as dates with UCLA, Oregon, Arizona and Washington.
Louisville is another team that finished last season unranked, but I'm seeing as a preseason top-25 team in just about every poll. And I get it. After a horrendous start to last season where the Cardinals lost their first three games and started 2-4, they won six of their last seven and finished the year with a win over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl.
The Cardinals also have a quarterback in Lamar Jackson who improved as the year went on, and looks to have a bright future under Bobby Petrino.
Upon closer inspection, however, some doubts should remain.
I mentioned that Louisville won six of its last seven games, but those wins came against six teams (A&M, Kentucky, Virginia, Syracuse, and Boston College) that went a combined 27-46 last season. The only winning record of the bunch was Texas A&M. Including the bowl win over A&M, Louisville went 2-4 against teams that went bowling last season, with the other win being a 20-13 defeat of NC State. Against teams that finished in the AP Poll, the Cardinals were 0-3.
Now, there's nothing wrong with beating up on bad teams. Good teams do that all the time. I'd just like to see Louisville have a bit more success against teams in the top 25 before I decide it belongs in the top 25.
It feels like an annual rite of passage with Tennessee football these days. Every year we go into a new season believing it's the season that Tennessee finally puts it all together and wins the SEC East. It's no different in 2016, and I believe that this year could end up being the best season the Vols have had in quite a while.
The SEC East certainly is an achievable goal.
The reason I have Tennessee on this list isn't because I don't think it's going to be a good team in 2016, nor is that I don't believe Tennessee should be ranked to start the season. I mean, it finished last year ranked No. 22 in the AP Poll.
The reason I have Tennessee on this list is because I have seen the Vols ranked in the top 10 at some places, and in my opinion, that's moving just a bit too fast.
The Vols won five SEC games last season, including a nice 38-31 win against Georgia. The other four wins came against Kentucky, South Carolina, Missouri and Vanderbilt. Four SEC teams that managed to go a combined 6-26 in conference play last season.
The Vols still lost to Oklahoma, Florida, Alabama and Arkansas. They weren't blown out in any of those losses (the seven-point loss to Oklahoma was the biggest margin), and losing close typically comes before winning close, which is a very good sign going forward for Tennessee. But maybe we should slow down on the top-10 stuff until Tennessee is winning those games.
Two schools from the same state on this list. I'm making so many friends in The Evergreen State.
This is something we see every year. A young team struggles for much of the season, but finishes strong, so we assume that young talent will blossom the following year. Washington quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin, along with Budda Baker on defense, give us all plenty of reason to believe the Huskies are going to be good. I know I do, it's just I don't think it'll happen until 2018. At least on a scale that sees Washington deserving of a spot in any preseason top 25 after coming off a season which it still finished 7-6.
The Huskies were a team that had a nice win over USC on the road, and crushed Washington State to finish the regular season, but it's important to remember that the Cougars were without quarterback Luke Falk in that game. Had Falk been healthy and played in the game, it's not unreasonable to believe that Washington State might have won the game, which would have kept Washington at 5-7 and out of a bowl game.
And if Washington had missed a bowl game, are we still seeing it in preseason top 25 rankings? Probably not.
The Huskies also have a somewhat difficult schedule in 2016, as they get Stanford and Oregon in consecutive weeks, and also have consecutive road trips to both Utah and Cal. They'll also finish the season having to play the Cougars in Pullman.
All of which is why I think Washington needs another year of improvement before it's truly ready for the spotlight so many seem eager to hoist upon it right now.
I can already feel the anger coming from LSU fans, but I assure you, I believe LSU is going to be better this year than it was in 2015. I really, really do.
The reason LSU is at No. 1 on this list is because I've seen LSU in the top three of a lot of preseason polls already, and some of them even have the Tigers ahead of Alabama.
The explanation behind these rankings is that LSU has Leonard Fournette, dangerous receivers like Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, what should be a strong defense ... and questions at quarterback. So, you know, LSU is basically in the same position it was in heading into last season when it had Leonard Fournette, dangerous receivers like Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, what should be a strong defense ... and questions at quarterback.
As I recall, 2015 ended with a 9-3 record and Les Miles nearly losing his job because of it.
Now, the biggest change for LSU heading into 2016 is that the defense that should have been strong last year really wasn't. The Tigers allowed 24.8 points per game in conference play, which would be good in some conferences, but it's middle-of-the-road in the SEC. We're all expecting that to change now that LSU has plucked Dave Aranda away from Wisconsin. Aranda has been behind plenty of very good defenses, and when you combine his knowledge with LSU's talent you get some high expectations.
I understand all that.
But top three? Already? This is still an LSU team that has lost five straight games against Alabama -- a team it needs to beat if it wants to win the SEC and play for a national title.
Now, 2016 might be the year that LSU ends its losing streak to the Tide, and climbs back to the top of the SEC West.
We should all wait until it actually happens, though.
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