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With the first college football game of 2013 on the horizon, we once again turn to our gridiron guru, Danny Sheridan, to name the teams that are in for a disappointing season. Here is his expert take on the teams that will struggle mightily, plus his odds on who will win the Heisman and who to bet for the college football crown.
Playoff? These college football teams aren't talking about a playoff. They're talking about what date the basketball season starts. The closest these athletes will come to a Bowl is in their Remedial Pottery class. As the Bowl Championship Series schedule gets into full swing, expect a different one-finger salute from the fans and alumni of these Worst 10 Teams when you ask them, "Who's Number 1?"
10. Duke - For a minute last season we thought that Duke finally smartened up. Coach David Cutcliffe's 5-1 start had football watchers thinking that Duke might matriculate its way off the Worst 10 list. But the team flunked five of its final six games, ending with a 6-6 record. The 48 points they gave up to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl was the worst bowl beating since Martha Stewart made her own scrambled eggs. During those final five losses, the Blue Devils gave up at least 42 points in each game.
With six starters gone on defense and another ACC slate of games on tap, the game plan may require scoring 50 points a game. With quarterback Sean Renfree and top receivers Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott moving on, even Saint Mike Krzyzewski of Durham couldn't save these lost souls.
9. Syracuse - Doug Marrone got every ounce of juice out of the Orangemen, taking them from laughing stock to national powerhouse. Evidently the Carrier Dome isn't cold enough for Marrone, who shuffled off to Buffalo to follow in the footsteps of illustrious Bills head coaches such as Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron, Perry Fewell and Chan Gailey. Star quarterback Ryan Nassib has also gone on to bigger and better things: holding Eli Manning's clipboard in New Jersey. Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer takes over a team that drops a few talent levels as they head over to a significantly more difficult schedule in the ACC.
Hopefully, quarterback Drew Allen, who graduated from Oklahoma, can run the offense while he studies for "graduate school." The team can certainly run the ball, as running backs Jerome Smith and Prince Tyson-Gulley combined for more than 2,000 yards rushing last year. The question is whether they will be able to stop anyone at the line of scrimmage. Defensive tackle Jay Bromley is the lone starter returning on a defensive line that has seen two guys graduate and a third get kicked out of school for burglary. Knock, knock. Who's there? Orange? Orange who? Orange you glad you left, Doug Marrone?
8. Purdue - The Boilermakers are literally Hope-less. After getting a 58-14 trouncing from Oklahoma State in the Heart of Texas Bowl, the university pulled the plug on coach Danny Hope's 22-28 reign. Darrell Hazell, the brain behind a resurgent Kent State program, takes over. Hazell's first mission impossible is to tie a tourniquet around a defense that bled 31 points per game against a slate of teams that aren't used to having such healthy offenses.
The defense brings back eight starters, but unfortunately none of them are defensive tackle Kawann Short, who left for the NFL. Hazell also has to find a replacement for his top two quarterbacks, Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush. Hazell may be a good long-term solution for Purdue, but until then, the best Boilermaker on campus will be a pint of Budweiser with a shot of Jameson.
7. Virginia - Charity begins at home. And the Virginia offense gave up the football so many times in their own end of the field, they put Bill Gates's philanthropic efforts to shame. Even lowly Duke gave Virginia a 42-17 thrashing last season. And this year, the news gets even worse. Quarterback Michael Rocco transferred out of school when he heard the footsteps of Phillip Sims behind him. Not such a bright move, considering Sims subsequently failed out of school. Plan C, David Watford takes the reigns.
The defense is a bit better than last year's 4-8 record would indicate, but if the cavalier offense keeps giving up the ball with their butts against their own goal line, the defense won't be able to keep teams out of the end zone, even if it plays like the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers. With games against top-10 teams like Clemson and Oregon on the schedule, they may want to check on Mel Blount's eligibility.
6. Boston College - For the last few decades, you could count on Boston College to field a solid football team that gave great effort. But like vinyl records and good Al Pacino films, all things must eventually come to an end. After absolving Frank Spaziani of his coaching duties, BC is hoping that Urban Meyer disciple Steve Addazio is the answer to their prayers.
They will need some divine intervention to help their defense that allowed a merciful 459 yards a game, including 4.7 yards per rush. Eight defensive linemen are back this year, but considering they only had six sacks combined last season, opposing quarterbacks are too safe to fail. Chase Rettig is a decent quarterback, but he's no savior. If Boston College football has a second coming, it won't be this year.
5. Kentucky - When you have a better chance of winning Powerball than winning a conference game, it's time to make a coaching change. Out goes Joker Phillips (that's not a joke, that's his real name) and his 13-24 record. In comes Florida State defensive coordinator, Mark Stoops. The Seminole faithful felt that Stoops never got the most out of his talent at Florida State. (Parents of Seminole alumni know this feeling all too well.)
Now Stoops comes to take over a significantly less talented Kentucky team and needs time to bring in his personnel. The defense brings back a strong line. But with both starting cornerbacks graduating, expect the Wildcat secondary to get tattooed more times than Miley Cyrus this season. Unlike Fort Knox, there's no gold hidden here. But in a few years, Stoops may have a chance to strike it rich here.
4. California - The good news is that the Golden Bears have fired 3-9 coach Jeff Tedford and brought in Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes, the offensive mastermind who often uses five-receiver sets. The bad news is that Dykes has to run his offense with a quarterback that's never thrown a football in college. Redshirt freshman Zach Kline shows some promise, but he's about two years away.
Dykes will also install a new 3-4 defense, but he inherits a secondary that couldn't cover their own eyes. Only starter Michael Lowe is back from last year, and he lost his job on a terrible team for poor performance. The future is sunny for California. Eventually, they will be scoring more than Maroon 5 in a sorority house. But, unfortunately, they won't jell fast enough to make it off the Worst 10 list.
3. Illinois - The Lone Ranger lost nearly $160 million at the box office this year. To put that in perspective, it was almost as big a flop as the 2012 Illinois football team. Coming off a winning 2011 season with a locker room full of seniors, expectations were high for last year's team. But the Fighting Illini didn't put up their dukes, losing 10 of its last 11 games, beating mighty Charleston Southern to prevent a sweep.
The team's quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase must be wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey under his uniform, as he has gone from a promising prospect to an under-performing enigma, with 1,361 passing yards, four touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Illini ground game fared no better, averaging 3.5 yards per game. With most of under-appreciated former coach Ron Zook's recruits on the way out, this team could even make Chief Illiniwek cry.
2. Colorado - Last year, the once-mighty Colorado football program tried to implement the 46 defense. Someone should have informed former coach Joe Embree, however, that 46 is a defensive alignment, not the number of points your defense should surrender each game. The Colorado defense was so bad last year that opposing teams only punted 16 against them the entire season!
Coach Mike McIntyre inherits a toxic team that might need federal funding to help clean up. Even legalized recreational marijuana hasn't helped recruiting. Quarterback Jordan Webb was terrible last year, but he's facing a suspension for criminal assault. Backup Nick Hirschmann had such terrible spring practices that he transferred before the summer. By default, Connor Wood looks like he'll be throwing often to catch up for a team that gave up six yards per carry on defense. Without crash test dummy Washington State on the schedule, wins may be extinct this year for the endangered Buffaloes.
1. Kansas - It's not every day that a collegiate head coach refers to his own football team as a "pile of crap." Perhaps head coach Charlie Weis learned this motivational speech from the secret Notre Dame files of Knute Rockne, while he fielded a team that made Touchdown Jesus boo. After Weis spent a season as offensive coordinator in Florida, where he supervised the 102nd best offense in the country, he left to take over as head coach of a once-proud Kansas football team for the 2012 season.
Kansas, or as Oklahoma and Nebraska refer to it, "the flyover zone," returns only four starters on offense and four on defense from last year's 1-11 "effort." So we're assuming the excrement has been removed from the field and Weis can now show everyone what a brilliant football mind he has. Right? Weis brings in another quarterback reclamation project in Jake Heaps of BYU, after last year's Dayne Crist experiment ended in disaster. Weis has also imported a trove of junior college players hoping to make the leap to big time college football this year. Unfortunately, Dorothy, you are still in Kansas.
Dishonorable Mention (teams that will underachieve by winning four to seven games this year):
Houston, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Memphis, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Temple, Utah, Wake Forest and West Virginia.