Some highly touted teams flop in opening month of season
ATLANTA (AP) Georgia Tech never expected to be in this position, facing its first four-game losing streak in nearly two decades.
”I didn’t. The team didn’t,” quarterback Justin Thomas said this week, as the Yellow Jackets prepared to face No. 6 Clemson. ”But we put ourselves in this hole. Now, we’ve got to dig ourselves out of it.”
Easier said than done.
The Yellow Jackets will need a remarkable turnaround to salvage a season that began with such promise.
They’re not alone, either.
Across the country, touted teams have flopped during the opening month of the season, turning their preseason rankings into a point of ridicule and disdain. Some have been plagued by injuries. Others were clearly overrated. All are running out of time to turn things around.
”It’s definitely frustrating,” Georgia Tech running back Isiah Willis said. ”But it’s something you’ve got to learn from and build upon.”
Here are the biggest disappointments from each of the Power Five leagues:
ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE: Georgia Tech went 11-3 last season, beating Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl. Not surprisingly, the Yellow Jackets began the season as an ACC favorite and pushed as a possible dark horse in the national race. Scoring more than 60 points in each of their first two games, against lower-division Alcorn State and pitiful Tulane, might have given this team a false of security. A rash of injuries didn’t help either. Whatever the case, Georgia Tech (2-3, 0-3) lost to Notre Dame, Duke and North Carolina, squandering a 21-point lead at home in the most recent setback. The school’s last four-game losing streak was in 1996.
Dishonorable Mention: Virginia Tech. The one-time powerhouse Hokies (2-3, 0-1) have fallen on hard times under coach Frank Beamer, losing at East Carolina and stumbling at home this past week against Pittsburgh.
BIG TEN: Nebraska is no longer Big Red. New coach Mike Riley should’ve known what he was in for when the Cornhuskers gave up a Hail Mary touchdown pass to BYU on the final play of the game to lose their season opener. Nebraska (2-3, 0-1) also fell at Miami before dropping its conference opener to longtime doormat Illinois 14-13, giving the school its worst start since 1959. Riley, who was embraced by the fan base after the divisive Bo Pelini era, suddenly finds himself on the hot seat. ”I can understand them being nervous,” he said.
Dishonorable Mention: Wisconsin. The Badgers (3-2, 0-1) lost their opener to Alabama. No shame in that. But an ugly 10-6 loss at home to Iowa knocked them out of the Top 25 and exposed a sputtering offense that lost key players to injuries.
BIG 12: Texas went 6-7 in its first season under coach Charlie Strong and was expected to at least show improvement. Instead, the Longhorns (1-4, 0-2) have gotten worse. A 38-3 loss to Notre Dame and 50-7 blowout at the hands of TCU are simply inexcusable for a program with this much tradition and so many resources. Making matters worse, there appears to be a rift between the older players and some highly recruited freshmen.
Dishonorable Mention: Texas Tech. If only the Red Raiders (3-2, 0-2) could play some defense. They are averaging 50 points a game but have lost twice, most notably a 55-52 setback to TCU on a fourth-down TD pass in the closing seconds.
PAC-12: Oregon reached the national championship game two of the last five seasons. Good luck getting back again. The Ducks (3-2, 1-1) were routed at home by Utah and still haven’t locked down the quarterback position, which was in the good hands of Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota a year ago.
Dishonorable Mention: Arizona. Rich Rodriguez’s Wildcats (3-2, 0-2) surrendered 111 points in their first two conference games.
SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE: Auburn has turned into the Miami Marlins of the SEC, the out-of-the-blue championship seasons surrounded by lots of heartache. The Tigers started out No. 6 in the country and led by a new quarterback, Jeremy Johnson, who somehow was being mentioned as a possible Heisman contender even though he hadn’t really done anything. Johnson lost his starting job after only three games. Star receiver WR D’haquille Williams was kicked off the team this week. The Tigers (3-2, 0-2) needed overtime to beat FCS school Jacksonville State and got blown out at LSU.
Dishonorable Mention: Arkansas and Tennessee. The Razorbacks (2-3, 1-1) lost at home to Toledo but did beat Tennessee (2-3, 0-2) at Neyland Stadium this past Saturday. The Volunteers gave away victories against Oklahoma and Florida. So much for two teams being touted as sleepers in the SEC.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org