Easy to recognize in mid-October, “underachievers” is the label ESPN applied to Texas, Notre Dame, Michigan State, and a couple of other teams.
Already, the Longhorns, the Fighting Irish, and Spartans have lost a total of a dozen games; their fans reduced to wondering if they will win the six necessary to become bowl eligible and trying to decide if they care.
However, the network's proclamation was incentive enough to review a mid-August attempt to identify college football “disappointments” and “surprises” vs. preseason expectations. Considering the current political climate, it is only fair to admit today's emphasis per team is “rigged” in favor of correct prognostications.
Here is a look at those 12 teams, their position in The AP preseason poll, and their poll position halfway through the season:
First, those picked to disappoint:
—Tennessee, No. 9 preseason, No. 18. Twice a loser to SEC West teams, the Vols will be hard-pressed to get into the conference championship game, pretty much the minimum expectation for most of their fans. To play in Atlanta, the Vols need Florida to lose an SEC game, most likely in Fayetteville or Baton Rouge. Preseason, too much was extrapolated from Tennessee's 2015 winning streak against the four worst teams in the SEC East, plus North Texas and Northwestern.
—LSU, No. 5, No. 25. Like Oklahoma and Florida State, the Tigers were supposed to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Like the Sooners and Seminoles, they have already lost twice. Some analysts bought into Les Miles' confidence that Brandon Harris would get the job done at quarterback. Miles is gone and Harris is backing up Danny Etling.
—Florida State, No. 4, No. 13. Questions about the Seminoles began with redshirt freshman Deondre Francois being named the starter. Also, the ACC is stronger than ever top to bottom. In losses to Louisville and North Carolina, the Seminoles gave up 100 points.
—Oklahoma, No. 3, No. 16. Like Tennessee, the Sooners finished fast in 2015. Like the Vols, the opposition was questionable. Last year's winning streak included four teams that were a combined 9-27, Baylor without its quarterback and superb receiver, TCU minus quarterback Trevone Boykin, and Oklahoma State.
—Stanford, No. 8, No. 32. The theory was that the Cardinal would miss quarterback Kevin Hogan and might lose to either UCLA and/or USC, plus Notre Dame. Instead, Stanford beat those three, but surrendered 88 points to the two Pac-12 members from Washington.
—Michigan, No. 7, No. 3. Rebelling against the popular theory that Jim Harbaugh's second team would improve on 10-3 was a mistake. The Wolverines are on track for 11-0 and a showdown with Ohio State.
Teams picked to surprise:
—Louisville, No. 19, No. 7. Lamar Jackson threw for 1,840 yards and ran for 960 last year as a freshman and his 2016 numbers have made him one of the front-runners for the Heisman Trophy. A once-beaten Louisville could sneak into the College Football Playoff.
—Boise State, No. 30, No. 14. The Broncos got my attention when a Nevada sports book established 11 as the over-under number for the team's victories. Boise is looking at 12-0 after surviving against a Colorado State that recovered two onsides kicks and scored three touchdowns in 85 seconds.
—Florida, No. 25, No. 15. The Gators will be in the SEC championship game if they win out. Their only loss occurred when quarterback Luke Del Rio was injured.
—Oklahoma State, No. 21, No. 29. The Cowboys are giving up tons of points, winning three games in which the opponent scored 31 or more. The miscalculation was to put too much stock in returning starters and downplay the Cowboys giving up 151 points to Baylor, OU, and Ole Miss.
The worst misses:
—Oregon, No. 24, no votes. Uncharacteristically, the Ducks started 0-3 in the Pac-12.
—UCLA, No. 16, no votes. Since taking Texas A&M to overtime, the Bruins have lost 3-of-4 in the Pac-12.
Harry King is sports columnist for GateHouse Media's Arkansas News Bureau. Email: email@example.com