OPINION - Some teams destined to underachieve
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on August 20, 2009 1:46 PM
Preseason optimism about the upcoming football season arrives on nearly every college campus like hoards of incoming freshmen this time of year.
Often that optimism is warranted by returning starters, a favorable schedule and an experienced head coach.
However, on numerous occasions those expectations never materialize as injuries arise, unforeseen losses occur and pressure starts to mount.
The following is a list of teams destined to disappoint in 2009:
* Oklahoma State -- Ranked 11th in the USA Today preseason poll, the Cowboys open the season at home against Georgia. OSU entertains Big 12 foes Texas and Texas Tech, and must make a trip to Norman to face the Sooners.
Mike Gundy's team has holes to fill on the offensive line, is still in search of a No. 2 wide receiver and returns only two starters to a defensive line that recorded just 15 sacks in 2008.
Oklahoma State finished 9-4 last year, but hasn't compiled double-digit wins in a season since 1988. Don't expect that to change this year.
* Tennessee -- First-year Volunteers head coach Lane Kiffin hasn't exactly endeared himself to his SEC brethren.
During his press conference last December to be introduced as the new head coach in Knoxville Kiffin promised to "sing Rocky Top all night long after we beat Florida next year."
The Volunteers don't return a 1,000-yard passer or rusher and are expected to start true freshman Bryce Brown at tailback. Tennessee must replace three starters on its defensive line, including first-team SEC defensive end Robert Ayers.
Tennessee has home games against UCLA, Georgia and improved Auburn. The Vols travel to Tuscaloosa and Gainesville, giving Kiffin the opportunity to put his money where his mouth is.
* Cal -- The Golden Bears were plus-15 in turnover margin in 2008, but must replace three linebackers and a pair of defensive lineman. Expecting Cal to duplicate that turnover margin this season may be asking a lot.
In week three, the Golden Bears travel to Minnesota. Pac-10 foes Oregon and USC also await.
* Virginia Tech -- The Hokies are ranked seventh in USA Today's preseason Top 25 and are favored to repeat as ACC champions.
That, of course, was before projected starting tailback Darren Evans tore his ACL. The loss of Evans increases the pressure on returning starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor split snaps with Sean Glennon last season, but Glennon has since graduated and won't be there to bail Taylor out last season.
Taylor threw two touchdown passes and seven interceptions in 2008.
Virginia Tech opens its season against Alabama in the Georgia Dome, and has road dates against Georgia Tech and East Carolina.
Miami, Nebraska and Boston College won't be easy opponents, either.