Winners and losers: Most disappointing CFB teams

NCAA Football

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We’re a little more than a month into the college football season and some teams with massive preseason expectations have already been major disappointments. Here are 10 teams in particular who have fallen well short of what their fan bases were hoping to this point in the season.

Oklahoma

Brent Venables hasn’t been able to make much of an impact on Oklahoma’s leaky defense. The Sooners were torched for 668 yards in an embarrassing 55-24 loss to TCU on Saturday. It marked the second straight Big 12 loss for the Sooners after a 3-0 start in non-conference play.

Venables, the longtime defensive coordinator at Clemson, was brought back to Oklahoma after Lincoln Riley’s departure to USC. With Riley as coach, OU frequently had explosive offenses but struggled on defense. The Sooners won four Big 12 titles in Riley’s five seasons and made three trips to the College Football Playoff. All three of those trips resulted in semifinal losses.

OU fans were hopeful Venables’ defensive acumen would be an upgrade over Riley. So far, that clearly has not been the case, with losses to Kansas State and TCU already this year. Venables is playing a lot of young players, but that’s no excuse for TCU players continually running wide open for 60-plus yard touchdowns. There were four of those on Saturday.

The Sooners opened the season ranked No. 9 in the country but will likely find themselves unranked ahead of next week’s rivalry game vs. Texas. The Big 12 is wide open and it’s still early in the year, but these two losses have put the Sooners in a big hole. And it’s a place very few expected the Venables era in Norman to begin.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M should be better than this by this point in the Jimbo Fisher era. After losing four games a year ago, the Aggies are now 3-2 through five games in 2022 following a 42-24 loss to Mississippi State in Starkville on Saturday. In the loss, Fisher’s offense again was unimpressive as it turned the ball over four times. There were also issues on defense and special teams. A&M had a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown and the defense allowed MSU to put up 473 yards of offense.

A&M had an ugly home loss to Appalachian State back in Week 2 and then was able to squeak out victories over Miami and Arkansas. The Arkansas win contained some fortuitous bounces, otherwise A&M’s record could be even worse.

With the way Fisher and his staff have recruited, fans have expected the Aggies to compete for national championships. Instead, the offense is still mediocre at best and the Aggies appear destined to finish in the middle of the pack in the SEC yet again. Next week’s trip to Alabama could be ugly.

Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher looks on as he paces the sidelines against Mississippi State, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher looks on as he paces the sidelines against Mississippi State, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Wisconsin

Getting blown out by Ohio State in Columbus was one thing, but getting embarrassed at home by Illinois has some alarm bells ringing in Madison.

The Fighting Illini, led by former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, torched the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, 34-10. Wisconsin finished with a measly two rushing yards and were doomed by three turnovers in the loss.

Wisconsin opened the year ranked No. 18 but is now 2-3 on the year. UW also was upset at home by Washington State in Week 2. After years as the class of the Big Ten West, the Badgers have quietly descended into the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. Wisconsin is now 9-8 in conference play since the beginning of the 2020 season and fans are starting to voice frustration about the job Paul Chryst is doing.

Houston

Many looked at Houston as the favorite to represent the Group of Five conferences in a big bowl game. Instead, the Cougars look like a team that may not even reach a bowl game.

Houston, which went 12-2 last year, dropped to 2-3 with an ugly loss to Tulane on Friday night. Tulane was down to its third-string quarterback, yet the UH defense could not get the stops it needed in the 27-24 overtime loss. The Cougars are the most-penalized team in the country and Dana Holgorsen has continually voiced displeasure with his team’s undisciplined play. It’s pretty clear he’s not getting through to his players.

Miami

Mario Cristobal was supposed to be the savior for Miami football, but losing 45-31 at home to Middle Tennessee was not part of the plan. With the loss, the Hurricanes dropped to 2-2 on the year. It was the team’s third underwhelming effort in four outings. Miami struggled in a home win over Southern Miss, didn’t reach the end zone a single time in a road loss to Texas A&M and then allowed 507 yards in the loss to MTSU.

Miami, which began the year ranked No. 16, had a well-timed bye this week before ACC play begins at home against North Carolina next Saturday.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame was ranked No. 5 to start the year but promptly lost its first two games of the season. Losing on the road to Ohio State was expected, but getting beat 26-21 at home by Marshall was an ugly outcome.

The Fighting Irish have since won games over Cal and North Carolina, but a 2-2 start after losing no more than two regular season games in every season since 2017 is not a great way for the Marcus Freeman era in South Bend to begin.

Michigan State

After a remarkable 2021 season, Michigan State has come crashing back to earth. The Spartans fell to 2-3 with a 27-13 road loss to Maryland on Saturday. It was MSU’s third consecutive double-digit loss. MSU previously got blown out by Washington and Minnesota.

MSU overcame its complete inability to defend the pass last year en route to a surprising 11-win season, but hasn’t been able to do so this year. Mel Tucker’s group allowed Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa to complete 32-of-41 throws in this one. In all, the Terps had 489 yards of offense and completely controlled the game.

With a very challenging upcoming schedule, the Spartans could be in danger of missing a bowl game. After Tucker received a $95 million contract, that’d be a significant step back for the program.

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker watches from the sideline against Minnesota, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in East Lansing, Mich. Minnesota won 34-7. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Michigan State coach Mel Tucker watches from the sideline against Minnesota, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in East Lansing, Mich. Minnesota won 34-7. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Louisville

Scott Satterfield is on tenuous ground with Louisville off to an 0-3 start in ACC play. The Cardinals now have losses to Syracuse, Florida State and Boston College so far this season. Saturday’s 34-33 loss to BC may have been the worst of the bunch.

BC’s offensive line is decimated, leaving the Eagles struggling mightily to put up points. But against Louisville, BC had 454 yards of offense and were able to pull out a win despite three turnovers.

Satterfield is now 20-22 overall and 12-17 in ACC play during his time coaching the Cardinals.

Iowa

After finishing No. 121 in the country in total offense in 2021, Kirk Ferentz’s big plan to improve the offense in 2022 was to keep his son Brian in place as offensive coordinator and also give him the title of quarterbacks coach. Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t made a difference.

The Hawkeyes entered Week 5 dead last in total offense, averaging 232.5 yards per game. That average will move up a bit after the Hawkeyes had 281 yards in a 27-14 loss to Michigan, but a significant amount of that yardage came in the second half when Michigan had a three-score lead.

Iowa dropped to 3-2 with the loss and looks like a team that could struggle mightily as Big Ten play progresses.

Nebraska

It took just three weeks for Nebraska to finally pull the plug on the Scott Frost era. Frost made changes throughout the offseason in an effort to finally get things going at his alma mater, but he was fired after an ugly 45-42 home loss to Georgia Southern. That loss came on the heels of a loss to Northwestern in Dublin and a home win over FCS North Dakota that was too close for comfort.

In the first game after Frost’s firing, the Huskers were blitzed 49-14 at home by Oklahoma. They had a bye last week before beating Indiana 35-21 on Saturday. Many thought this would be the year the Huskers started stringing wins together. Instead, it’s been another disastrous season in Lincoln.

Louisiana

Louisiana started the season 2-0 to increase the nation’s longest winning streak to 15. Since then, UL lost to both Rice, Louisiana Monroe and South Alabama to drop to 2-3. That start comes after the Ragin’ Cajuns went a combined 33-5 from 2019 to 2021, Billy Napier’s final three seasons with the program.

Napier has since gone to Florida and his longtime assistant, Michael Desormeaux, has stepped in. But UL lost more than Napier. The Ragin’ Cajuns were a veteran group that won multiple Sun Belt titles. While some players graduated, others followed Napier to Gainesville. It looks like Desormeaux has a bit of a rebuild ahead.

Here are Week 5’s winners and losers.

Winners

UCLA: The Bruins moved to 5-0 with a 40-32 win over No. 15 Washington that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Washington scored 16 points in the fourth quarter after UCLA had opened up a 24-point lead. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson was 24-of-33 passing for 315 yards and three TDs while rushing for another and Zach Charbonnet ran for 124 yards and a score. The Pac-12 is wide open and UCLA has a huge win in the race for the conference title game now that the conference has ditched its divisions. The Bruins will undoubtedly be ranked in the AP Top 25 come Sunday.

TCU: The Horned Frogs just steamrolled Oklahoma through the first three quarters in a 55-24 win. Oklahoma’s defense couldn’t do anything to stop TCU’s offense. TCU had a whopping 668 yards of offense and averaged nearly nine yards a carry. Kendre Miller had a 69-yard run and Max Duggan had a 67-yard run as each rushed for two scores. Duggan also threw for 302 yards. The win pushes TCU to 4-0 and the Horned Frogs should also be ranked on Sunday ahead of a suddenly massive matchup for the Big 12 in Week 6 at Kansas.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons bounced back from a Week 4 loss to Clemson with a great 31-21 win over previously undefeated Florida State. Sam Hartman was 22-of-34 passing for 234 yards and two scores and Justice Ellison ran for 114 yards. The Wake Forest defense, meanwhile, kept Florida State’s run game in check and forced the Seminoles into seven failed third down attempts. And Wake Forest was by far the more disciplined team too. Wake had just four penalties to FSU’s 11.

Illinois: The Illini got their first win at Wisconsin since 2002 as Bret Bielema beat his former employer 34-10. Illinois forced three Wisconsin turnovers in the game and barely cracked 300 yards of total offense. But QB Tommy DeVito rushed for three touchdowns as the Illini are now 4-1 and eyeing a bowl game. A bowl looks very possible in what’s a wide-open and very mediocre Big Ten West. There’s no real favorite in the division and every team has at least one loss.

Kansas State: The Wildcats rushed for 343 yards in a 37-28 win over Texas Tech on Saturday. Adrian Martinez and Deuce Vaughn each had nice 69-yard runs and Martinez had 75 yards rushing and a TD just 40 seconds into the game. KSU’s defense also did what Texas’ was unable to do a week ago and stopped Tech on fourth downs. The Red Raiders were just 1-of-3 on fourth downs against the Wildcats. Kansas State is now 4-1 and, more importantly, 2-0 in the conference. Farmaggedeon looms next week at Iowa State.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs bounced back from a loss to LSU with an easy 42-24 win over Texas A&M. Will Rodgers threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns and the MSU defense held a struggling A&M offense in check again. MSU scored the 18-point win despite 13 penalties for 138 yards. Those penalties were canceled out by four A&M turnovers. The Aggies fumbled twice and Haynes King threw two interceptions in mop-up duty. At 4-1, Mississippi State is still a factor in the SEC West and will likely be favored at home in Week 6 in a very intriguing game against Arkansas.

Maryland: The Terrapins are 4-1 after an easy 27-13 win over Michigan State. Taulia Tagovailoa was 32-of-41 passing for 314 yards and a TD while Antwain Littleton rushed for 120 yards and a score. The defense held Michigan State QB Payton Thorne to just five yards a pass and MSU kickers missed two field goals. Maryland can get to a bowl game with just two more wins that would be back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2013 and 2014 in the Randy Edsall era.

Boston College WR Zay Flowers: Flowers had five catches for 151 yards and two scores as Boston College beat Louisville 34-33. Flowers scored on a 57-yard catch in the second quarter and put Boston College on top in the third quarter with a 69-yard TD catch. Boston College QB Phil Jurkovec was 18-of-21 passing for 304 yards and threw three touchdowns as the Eagles got a huge second win of the season. Boston College has dealt with injuries all over the offensive line and those injures have led to a lot of offensive struggles.

Georgia State: The Panthers got their first win of the season in a 31-14 win over Army on Saturday. Georgia State ran the ball 46 times for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Army cut Georgia State’s lead to three at the start of the fourth quarter but the Panthers picked off Cade Ballard and Tucker Gregg ran for a 56-yard TD two plays later to put the game out of reach with less than three minutes to go. Even after that 0-4 start, GSU has enough talent to compete for the Sun Belt title.

Losers

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers’ undefeated season is no more. Minnesota lost 20-10 at home to Purdue in an ugly game. Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan threw three interceptions while Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell threw two after missing last week’s game with an injury. Neither QB threw for a TD. Minnesota’s run game was nonexistent, too. Without Mo Ibrahim available, Minnesota ran 26 times for 47 yards and leading rusher Bryce Williams had 11 carries for 35 yards. With most everyone else struggling in the Big Ten West, Minnesota had a great chance to establish itself as the division frontrunner. Instead, there’s no clear favorite.

Kentucky: The Wildcats had two chances to get a tie late against Ole Miss and both of their late drives ended in Will Levis fumbles in Ole Miss’ 22-19 win. Levis fumbled while going for a first down on third and short with 2:55 left and then was strip sacked by Jared Ivey with less than a minute to go after Kentucky got in position for a potential game-winning touchdown. Levis is being talked about as a potential early pick in the 2023 NFL draft, but it’s hard not to wonder about the validity of that discussion until Levis comes up big in big games for the Wildcats.

Mississippi safety AJ Finley (21) and linebacker Austin Keys (11) force a fumble from Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Mississippi won 22-19. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
Mississippi safety AJ Finley (21) and linebacker Austin Keys (11) force a fumble from Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Mississippi won 22-19. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)

San Diego State: The Aztecs haven’t been known for explosive passing in recent years but the lack of passing attack in 2022 is pretty incredible. SDSU lost 35-13 to Boise State on Friday night as its quarterbacks were a combined 2-of-16 for 33 yards. Braxton Burmeister was 2-of-8 and Liu Aumavae was 0-of-7. Kyle Crum was 0-of-1 for good measure. Burmeister, a Virginia Tech transfer, is 36-of-72 passing for 263 yards and two TDs and three interceptions through five games. Friday’s struggles led to the Saturday firing of offensive coordinator Jeff Hecklinksi.

Iowa State: The Cyclones could have and perhaps should have beaten Kansas. Instead, the Jayhawks are 5-0 and ISU is 3-2 after KU’s 14-11 win. Kicker Jace Gilbert was 1-of-4 on field goal attempts. Two of his three misses hit an upright and his third miss came in the waning seconds and could have sent the game to overtime. Oh, Iowa State also botched an extra point, but the holder was able to run it in for two points. ISU did a phenomenal job of keeping Kansas QB Jalon Daniels in check, as he had just 93 yards passing and nine yards rushing. But ISU was just 5-of-18 on third downs and couldn’t take advantage of KU’s first offensive struggles of the season.

Iowa State place kicker Jace Gilbert (20) walks past teammate Blake Clark (10) after missing a field goal that would have tied the game against Kansas, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won, 14-11. (AP Reed/Hoffmann)
Iowa State place kicker Jace Gilbert (20) walks past teammate Blake Clark (10) after missing a field goal that would have tied the game against Kansas, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won, 14-11. (AP Reed/Hoffmann)

South Florida: The Bulls’ defense got torched by ECU QB Holton Ahlers in a 48-28 loss on Saturday. Ahlers threw for 465 yards and six touchdowns in the rout as ECU moved to 3-2 and South Florida dropped to 1-4. The 2022 season looked to be a pivotal one for USF and it was easy to be optimistic about the progress under coach Jeff Scott after USF hung tough with Florida in Week 3. But that game now looks like an aberration after a 41-3 loss to Louisville in Week 4 and this defeat to ECU.

Auburn: Things were going great for Auburn as the Tigers took a 17-0 lead on LSU. Then everything went badly. Auburn gave up 21 consecutive points in a 21-17 loss at home to the other Tigers to fall to 3-2. The home Tigers had the ball inside the LSU 10 early in the fourth quarter but inexplicably called a trick play on second down. Koy Moore threw an ill-advised interception on the ill-timed call and Auburn never got close to the end zone again despite a bizarre final sequence that included two punts, two fumbles and an interception before LSU finally closed out the game.

Auburn's Keionte Scott attempts to grab the ball in a muffed opening kickoff against the LSU Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 1, 2022 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Brandon Sumrall/Getty Images)
Auburn’s Keionte Scott attempts to grab the ball in a muffed opening kickoff against the LSU Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 1, 2022 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Brandon Sumrall/Getty Images)

Virginia: Things are not going well in Charlottesville. Virginia didn’t have a chance in a 38-17 loss to Duke on Saturday as the Blue Devils had a 21-10 halftime lead and pulled away in the second half. Virginia has struggled to run the ball and averaged less than four yards a carry while Brennan Armstrong threw for just 202 yards. After throwing for 4,449 yards in 2021, Armstrong has just 1,050 yards passing through five games in 2022. It’s not a great start for former Clemson assistant Tony Elliott.

Pittsburgh: The Panthers were three-TD favorites against Georgia Tech and lost 26-21 on Saturday night. It was Georgia Tech’s first win against a ranked opponent on the road since 2016 and the team’s first win under interim coach Brent Key after Geoff Collins was fired earlier in the week. Pitt’s newfound commitment to the run game didn’t pay off on Saturday as the Panthers ran 31 times for just 106 yards. Kedon Slovis threw 45 times for 305 yards but many of those passes came after Georgia Tech had gone up 19-7. Pitt is now 3-2 and Duke — yes, Duke — is suddenly looking like an ACC Coastal contender.

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