Every year in college football handicapping there seems to be at least one team that starts out with monstrous expectations but just can’t live up to them. In 2007 my beloved Michigan was a top five and a serious national championship contender heading into the season. And then Appalachian State happened. Just typing those words makes me ill. In 2008 Georgia started the year as the top team in the country, but were lucky to only lose three games given the way they played. Last year it was Ole Miss that was supposed to make it big as Jevan Snead won the Heisman. Snead was a disaster and the team lost four games. The obvious question, then, is which touted team is going to flame out this year? Here are three good candidates for handicappers to consider fading if things dont go there way:
Arkansas – Bodog has Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett as the third choice to win the Heisman at 10/1 behind two ridiculously under-priced players – Terrelle Pryor at 7/2 and Mark Ingram at 5/1. Needless to say, expectations are high. The offense was already among the true elite in the SEC last year, and with nine returning starters and Mallett a year older and more experienced it could be even better this year. They will struggle to win their division because of Alabama, but a lot of people are talking about a January bowl game for this squad – at least. I’m not ruling that possibility out, but I am hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. For starters, even though Mallett and the offense were solid last year, the glare of the national spotlight can be intense and cruel. Mallett this year is a lot like Snead last year – second year after a transfer, prototypical NFL body, Heisman buzz – and that didn’t go well. The Razorbacks’ defense is far from a sure thing as well. It’s seems to have improved from last year, but it could be quite a bit better than it was and still not be good. The schedule also has more than a few tough spots. Trips to Georgia, Auburn, and South Carolina could all be tough, playing Alabama and LSU at home still doesn’t make them easy opponents, and Ole Miss could be tough if the Jeremiah Masoli gamble pays off. Mallett was on that 2007 Michigan squad, so he knows too well how easy it is to trip up and throw a promising season away. It’s not hard to imagine this team playing pretty well and still losing three or four games. On the other hand, I find it very hard to imagine them living up to the hype.
Miami – Like Arkansas, Miami is clearly on the right track, and they have a Heisman hopeful at QB – Jacory Harris in their case. I really like a lot of things about this team – Harris is for real and has a nice offense around him, the defense is sound, and the coaching under Randy Shannon is constantly improving. I don’t have a whole lot of respect for the ACC in general, so I would love to pick this team – which starts the season ranked 13th and well hyped – to make the championship game. There is just one problem, though, and it is a massive one – the schedule. After opening with an easy win against Florida A&M they play perhaps the toughest four game stretch of any team in the country this year – three straight road games at Ohio State, Clemson and Pitt, and then a home game against Florida State. They could win three or four of those games, but they could also lose just as many. That’s a brutal gauntlet for a team to have to run, and I think it will end in disappointment. If that’s not bad enough they also play two brutal games in a row in November – at Georgia Tech then at home against Virginia Tech. This season has the potential to go very, very badly for the Hurricanes.
Virginia Tech or Boise State – The Broncos are ranked fifth heading into the season, and the Hokies are right behind in sixth. A berth in the BCS Championship is a legitimate possibility for either team. They are lumped together here, though, because only one of them will be undefeated on the morning of September 7. These two teams meet today in Washington D.C. in one of the most exciting season opening games I can remember. This is a chance for a non-BCS team that has become pros at making statements to make perhaps their biggest one of all, or for a respected veteran coach to secure another highly impressive win. Both these teams are very capable, and both have very high hopes. One is going to be crushed when they lose this game, and the loss will obviously be a massive blow to their national championship aspirations. It would be reasonably easy for the loser to fall into a funk and get sloppy, and both play at least a couple of opponents later on that could beat them if they aren’t sharp.
We have released a college football pick on the Boise State/Virginia Tech game today. If you dont know who to take let the experts and Maddux Sports guide you in the right direction.