by Trevor Whenham - 08/28/2006
With the NCAA football season just a few days away, now is the time that everyone is trying to figure out which teams are going to be really good and finish the season undefeated, or close to it. Once you have comes to terms with those teams strengths and abilities to score, you are that much closer to being able to make sound picks. It seems to me, however, that you are just as far ahead when you pick the teams that you are fairly certain are going to lose most of their games. It's just as easy to bet against the bad teams as it is to bet with the good teams. With that in mind, and to help you get ready for the season, here are the six teams in the major conferences that have a very good chance of being monumentally bad.
1) Indiana - The Hoosiers won just one game in the Big Ten last season, and they will be hard pressed to notch a conference win this year. Head coach Terry Hoeppner is in his second year, and he has a tough job turning around the program. The defense gave up an average of an incredibly ugly 42 points per game in the last five games last season, and they are returning the same secondary this year. The linebacking corps is new, but they are much smaller than they should be. There is a bright spot on offense - WR James Hardy quit the basketball team to concentrate on football. He is a 6-foot-7 freak who caught 61 passes for almost 900 yards and 10 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last year, so he should be even better this year. With no running game to help him, however, it could be an ugly year.
2) Duke - They got a vote in the coaches poll, thanks to Steve Spurrier's blind loyalty. That's likely the only respect they will get this year. Quarterback Zack Asack, who caught the eye of Notre Dame and Ohio State before mysteriously settling on Duke, was looking to have a bright future that the program could grow around. Unfortunately, he found out the hard way that schools don't like plagiarism, and he has been suspended for two semesters. Without him, they have just one QB with any experience, and he threw seven passes last year. They're in a solid conference, so they may win only one game, and they will be hard pressed to win many more.
3) Oklahoma State - This team will be better one day, but the Cowboys are really, really bad right now. They are incredibly young, and they are instituting a no huddle spread offense. Unfortunately, QB Bobby Reid likely isn't accurate enough to make that fly. The defense is young and raw, which means that other teams in the conference will have a heyday. The one potential bright spot is WR Adarius Bowman who had a solid half season at North Carolina two years ago before getting suspended for marijuana possession. There are too many good teams on their schedule to realistically expect any conference wins, and more than two or three overall.
4) Syracuse - Last season was a disaster for first year coach Greg Robinson and this year doesn't look much better. He brought in some help in the shape of offensive coordinator Brian White who spent eleven years at Wisconsin. White ran a hard running style offense at Wisconsin, however, and Syracuse runs a west coast offense (poorly), so there will be a headache as they try to make those two styles mesh. The Big East conference only has two really good teams, but the relative weakness won't help Syracuse win more than a game or two all year.
5) Washington - Remember how Tyrone Willingham was a star coach just a few years ago? How the mighty have fallen. He is struggling to recruit and his team is struggling to win. Things were looking up - redshirt freshman J.R. Hasty was a Washington state high school star who was going to be the center of the offense, but he didn't qualify academically, leaving the team without a running game and without much of an offense at all. They have eight starters back on defense, but they didn't have a great defense last year, so that might not be such a great thing. They may find a win against a team at the bottom half of the Pac-10 and maybe one other, but that still leaves 10 losses to take advantage of.
6) Vanderbilt - Vanderbilt wasn't a very good team last year and they had Jay Cutler, probably the best player in the team's history and a high first round draft pick, running the show. Without him the offense will be ugly and the season will be long. Wideout Earl Bennett had a huge season last year, finishing up with 545 yards and nine touchdowns in his last four games, but he will struggle without Cutler tossing him the ball. They start the season at Michigan which will almost certainly be a demoralizing loss, and it won't improve much from there. Of any team on this list the Commodores have the most chance of surprising everyone and winning three or four games, but I don't like their chances.