It won't be long before the days get shorter, the temperatures start getting cooler, and mom and dad look happy again. That can only mean one thing—the arrival of fall, and time for the kids to go back to school.
When summer ends, there is only one thing more depressing for a college student who has to pack their Ikea daybed and alarm clock into dad's trunk and get driven back to school—arriving to find out that their school's football team is about as useful as the four-year degree that they are about to "earn." At least take heart that, like you, the university has spent a ton of money on a fruitless endeavor. And though your school might have had a great football program once upon a time, like a steady job or a savings account that pays decent interest, those things are just fairy tales now.
It's a scary world out there, especially if you're on the line of scrimmage for one of these teams. So come on millennials! Put on your body paint, embellish your résumé, and put on a brave face! It's time for the worst 10 teams of the Power Five conferences!
Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Gomez once said, "I'd rather be lucky than good." Unfortunately for Colorado last year, they were both unlucky and bad. By losing two double-overtime games to California and UCLA, respectively, the team needed victories over tackling dummies University of Massachusetts and the University of Hawaii to finish with a 2-10 record. But being environmentally friendly and suffering close losses doesn't really get you where you want to be. (Just ask Al Gore.) The Buffaloes should improve a bit with third-year coach Mike MacIntrye, but there are still some fatal flaws that will keep this team at the back of the Pac. Like an Imodium in Tijuana, Colorado's defense can't stop the opposing teams frequent long runs, surrendering an average of more than 200 yards a game on the ground last season. Making matters worse, the anchor of the defensive line, senior tackle Josh Tupou, was shuffled off the Buffalo roster, most likely for tackling a fellow student at a party and sending him to the hospital. The grass is definitely greener on the other side of the ball, as the word "passing" in Colorado no longer only refers to proper joint-smoking etiquette. Quarterback Sefo Liufau and wide receiver Nelson Spruce are one of the better aerial combinations in the Pac-12, and should light up a few defenses this year. But with another brutal conference schedule on the horizon, the Colorado season is already up in smoke.
Virginia was for lovers until about mid-October last year. The Cavaliers looked like they were going to consummate a magical season with a 4-2 start. Like a student who has had one too many shots, the Cavaliers looked destined for a sure-fire bowl appearance. Then the team dropped five of its last six games, leaving head coach Mike London in a fog. London is back this season, but unfortunately, most of his offense isn't. With seven new starters on offense, including almost all the skill players, Virginia hopes offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild has Google-like hiring skills to fill those jobs with the best and the brightest. But like public school kids under the Common Core program, they will be tested early, often and sometimes unfairly. The team had some strong players on defense last season, but several, including the entire linebacking corps, seceded from the program at graduation. Combine that with a far-from-cavalier schedule (other than William & Mary and Syracuse, Virginia could be an underdog against every other team they face) and Virginia will be falling on their swords most Saturdays.
Orange may be the new black for Syracuse fans, as the faithful pay their respects to what once was a promising football program. Sure, all of upstate New York may have had a belly laugh when their former coach Doug Marrone opted out of his head coaching job in Buffalo, only to get passed over by the Jets and end up as an assistant coach in the NFL purgatory of Jacksonville. But under his replacement, defensive mastermind Scott Shafer, the team has decayed to 7-6 and 3-9 finishes in the last two seasons. Shafer may be a sharp defensive mind, but even Picasso needed paint brushes. Seven of the team's leading tacklers are gone, including most of the starting secondary. On offense, the team is excited about the new offense that will include a hybrid back that will lineup all over the field. But Elon Musk and all his money couldn't pump enough renewable juice into these Orangemen, who scored only 17 points per game, near the bottom of all college football. Like the Titanic, this team is destined for the bottom of the Atlantic.
2! 4! 6! Hate! Who do Illinois players appreciate? Not head coach Tim Beckman, after anonymous reports of player abuse surfaced after last season. Though Beckman took a program that has fallen faster than a share of WWE stock and bootstrapped it to mediocrity, it may not be enough to save this program's Chief. With a defense that gave up 34 points per game, opponents spent so much time in the end zone, Illinois would have been wiser to rent it out on Airbnb. Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt played well at quarterback when he was healthy, but that was about as often as Donald Trump says something nice about Mexico. It remains hard times for an Illinois football team that hasn't beaten a ranked Big Ten team since George W. Bush was in office. (Thanks, Obama!) Even their brightest star, Mike Dudek, one of the top receivers in the Big 10, tore his ACL in a spring workout, and may not be back until late in the season. With road games against North Carolina and Iowa, and home games against Nebraska, Wisconsin and Ohio State, it's enough to make the Fighting Illini faithful have some reservations.
6. Oregon State
Gary Andersen was 19-7 as the head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers. But he felt he could have been even more successful if it weren't for those pesky academic standards that Wisconsin was using to enroll athletes. So goodbye, Madison. Hello, Oregon State, where 4.0 better be your yards per carry, son! Andersen is dumping that frumpy pro-style offense that your dad likes in favor for an up-tempo spread number that will keep the ball matriculating down the field, even if the players don't. Senior running back Storm Woods has more than just a porn star's name, he has the lion's share of the carries this year. But defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake will need to replace nine defensive starters in his new 3-4 base defense this season. Like a high school beauty queen, a few years from now, these Beavers will be a force to be reckoned with, but this season, they will be dammed.
Just a few seasons ago, the Vanderbilt program was riding a wave of success. But like the Terminator franchise, all good things must come to an end. With only three wins last season, including victories over tailgate fodder UMass and Charleston Southern by a combined four points, the successful football program from a few seasons ago has found dry land. In the Navy, the title of commodore is traditionally given to an officer who commands more than one ship. Perhaps that's why head coach Derek Mason decided to sack both his coordinators after a 51-0 loss to Mississippi State last year and take over the defensive duties himself. Last season, Vandy's defense gave up an average of 33.3 points per game on their way to an 0-8 record in the SEC. Perhaps Mason is coaching the defense so he doesn't have to look too closely at one of the most offensive offenses in college football. With 17.2 points and 288.3 yards of total offense per game, the Commodores were in the SEC basement in virtually every offensive category. The reality show competition at quarterback didn't help. Four different quarterbacks started last season. The best arm of the bunch, Patton Robinette, has two years of eligibility left, but he decided to retire and go to medical school instead. That's what you get for recruiting smart kids, Vandy!
4. Iowa State
Head coach Paul Rhoads had had a four-star chef's ability to make something out of nothing. But after going 5-19 the last two seasons, even he has to question his ingredients. These Cyclones have been so bad, even Jim Cantore isn't brave enough to stand too close. Granted, Iowa State played 11 teams with winning or .500 records last year. But we're not sure which came first, the opposing winning team or Iowa State laying an egg. On offense, there's hope, as wide receiver Quenton Bundrage returns from an ACL tear. Quarterback Sam Richardson can throw the ball, but he's playing behind an offensive line that makes him feel about as safe as a beloved lion in Zimbabwe. The defense is another matter. When you look up awful in the dictionary, you will see a picture of Justin Bieber. But if you look more closely, Bieber is holding up the Iowa State defensive playbook. Do you know how hard it is to give up an average of 39 points and almost 530 yards in a college football game? There isn't even that much scoring in 60 minutes in a Univision telenovela.
A boilermaker is a term for a craftsman that could produce giant monuments out of steel. Unfortunately for Purdue fans, their football team has more recently resembled the fleeting and eventually sickening thrill of a shot of cheap whiskey, washed down by a glass of beer. Like the Republican Party, the Boilermakers have had only one winning season since 2008. With a 4-20 record over the last two seasons, it's shut up and dance time for Coach Darrell Hazell. Offensively, he has some promising returnees, including sophomore Keyante Green who rushed for 7.4 yards per carry in limited time. He will get a chance to carry an offense that has so many question marks at quarterback, they may as well put The Riddler behind center. Austin Appelby doesn't have anyone feeling good in the neighborhood. On defense, nine starters are back. But the questions is, do you really want them? The no bullying movement did not include Purdue's opponents, as teams pushed the defense around to the tune of 31.7 points and 416 yards per game. Purdue? More like Purdon't.
2. Wake Forest
Last season, Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin ran for 408 yards in three quarters versus Nebraska. Had his coaches let him play the fourth quarter, he may have surpassed Wake Forest's 479 rushing yards for the entire season! Yet despite their pound-it-into-the-ground rushing attack, Wake Forest still managed to win three games, a magic trick that even David Copperfield would like to ask head coach Dave Clawson about. No one would fault sophomore quarterback John Wolford for updating his LinkedIn page after playing behind this offensive line, which allowed 48 sacks last season. Yet despite playing in oncoming traffic regularly, Wolford still managed to do some competent driving downfield, completing 58 percent of his passes and throwing for 12 touchdowns. Rocky Reid, will carry the ball and try to erase last season self-inflicted rushing attack from everyone's memory. On the other side of the line, the Demon Deacon's decent defense returns seven starters, though they lose two very good starting cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel to graduation. There may be a few more divine moments this season, but otherwise expect the Wake Forest faithful to continue losing their religion.
Gov. Sam Brownback may want to declare Memorial Stadium a disaster area before anyone else gets hurt trying to evacuate from the Kansas football team. Despite wearing the red quarterback "don't touch me" jersey this spring at practice, senior starting quarterback Michael Cummings still managed to get a knee injury that required surgery. And receiver Nigel King felt his 30-catch, 537-yard season would be enough to get himself noticed by the NFL as a junior, but his cell phone reserved the right to remain silent throughout draft week. In fact, at wide receiver, the team doesn't have a single pass catcher that went over 100 yards for the team last year. (Not in a game—for the whole year.) On defense, the entire secondary is gone from last year, and Jake Love, one of the team's most promising players at linebacker decided to retire from football in June. As the fourth head coach in the last five years, David Beaty's job is to restock a Kansas roster that is as bare as a post-tornado pantry. He will try to shape up a program that collapsed under its own weight in the Charlie Weis era, when the team went 5-22. But don't worry, Kansas fans. Charlie Weis won't be living high on the hog for much longer. He is only going to remain one of the highest paid state employees until the end of next year.
Dishonorable Mentions, or Sheridan's Dirty Dozen
Teams from the Power Five Conferences that will underachieve by winning four to seven games (listed alphabetically):
Boston College, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Texas, Texas Tech, Washington.