At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.
This week's question: Which team was the most disappointing this season?
Terry Bowden's answer: There were several disappointing teams - including Missouri, LSU, West Virginia and Auburn - but the most disappointing team of all would have to be Georgia. Although the Bulldogs are 9-3 and headed to the Capital One Bowl, it's a far cry from where they were expected to be at the beginning of the season. After ending 2007 as the second-best team in college football, Georgia started this season at No. 1 in The Associated Press poll and was a favorite to play for the national championship. With future first-round NFL picks at quarterback (Matthew Stafford) and running back (Knowshon Moreno), star wide receivers (A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi) and nine starters back on defense, the only thing that stood between the Bulldogs and a title fight was one of the toughest schedules in the country. Unfortunately, Georgia failed at every step along the way, losing every big game on its schedule. It started in the first half against Alabama when the Bulldogs fell behind 31-0, continued through a 49-10 pummeling by the Florida Gators and ended with the first loss in seven years to rival Georgia Tech - where Georgia gave up a whopping 409 rushing yards. Unlike most of the other disappointing teams − which can place the blame on new quarterbacks, new coordinators or new head coaches − there seems to be little explanation for Georgia's devastating fall. Maybe that lack of an explanation is the biggest disappointment of all.
Olin Buchanan's answer: Though there is no shortage of contenders, the pick here would have to be Auburn, which returned nine offensive starters and seven defensive starters from a 9-4 team in '07. Auburn was ranked among the preseason top 10 and was a favorite in the SEC West. Yet the Tigers failed to become bowl eligible. If a mere five victories weren't disappointing enough, consider that two of Auburn's wins were over non-"Big Six" opponents (Louisiana-Monroe and Southern Miss) and another was against Football Championship Subdivision member Tennessee-Martin. In fact, Tennessee-Martin was the only team Auburn beat that posted a winning record this season. The Tigers' two SEC victories were over Mississippi State and Tennessee – by a combined three points. Both had losing records and fired their coach. Auburn couldn't even blame its misery on demands of playing a powerful SEC schedule. The Tigers lost to 5-7 Arkansas, 6-6 Vanderbilt and 7-5 LSU, which needed a come-from-behind win over Troy to post a winning record. And to top it off, the Tigers fired their offensive coordinator at midseason, were shut out by Alabama to close the season and fired coach Tommy Tuberville. Disappointing? That's putting it mildly.
Tom Dienhart's answer: There are lots of "good" candidates, including LSU, Auburn, Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. But my vote goes to Arizona State. Coming off a 10-3 mark in Dennis Erickson's debut season in 2007, the Sun Devils were ranked in most preseason polls and tabbed by many to be the second-best team in the Pac-10. They didn't come close to the hype. ASU fell with a 5-7 thud. An early season home loss to UNLV was the first sign of big trouble. The defense was decent, allowing 335.2 yards per game to rank fifth in the Pac-10. But the offense never got on track, generating a paltry 309.4 yards and 22.8 points per game despite having a fifth-year senior quarterback in Rudy Carpenter. His cause was hurt by a soft line, which paved the way – or failed to pave the way - for the No. 114 rushing attack (89.1 ypg) in the country.
David Fox's answer: When media types penciled in Clemson as a preseason top-10 team, some must have held their nose. I know I did. By the end of the season, we had learned Clemson should feel no shame in losing 34-10 to Alabama. But that night in Atlanta wasn't the most disappointing aspect of Clemson's season. It's no worse than the third-most embarrassing part of the season. The ACC was, week-in and week-out, the most competitive major conference we've seen in a while. Yet Clemson was barely a factor in the league race after losing to Maryland, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech in a four-week span. Then came the coaching search. I'm not saying Dabo Swinney won't be a successful coach, but the naming of Tommy Bowden's replacement was uninspired. Clemson is a good job – one of best in the ACC. Swinney went 4-2 as Clemson's coach. That's a nice audition, but two of those wins were over the only two ACC teams that didn't go to bowls. When you consider the coaches available – Tommy Tuberville, Turner Gill, Gary Patterson, Mike Leach and so on – Swinney just doesn't have the same "wow" factor. Then again, Clemson's entire season lacked any excitement, and it was good enough to land the Tigers in the Gator Bowl.
Mike Huguenin's answer: The bad times at West Virginia started last December, with the loss to Pitt that kept the Mountaineers out of the national championship game. Then Rich Rodriguez left for Michigan. WVU bounced back to win the Fiesta Bowl, which earned Bill Stewart the head-coaching job – and bad times began anew. A team that was considered a long-shot national title contender and a lock to win the Big East instead went 8-4 and is headed to the Meineke Car Care Bowl. And all this with QB Pat White playing his final season in a Mountaineers uniform. WVU has seen some dizzying highs the past few seasons, but this season may begin a descent.
Steve Megargee's answer: There's no shortage of contenders. LSU went 7-5 a year after winning the national championship. Clemson opened the year in the top 10 and had to rally late just to become bowl eligible. Michigan had its worst season in school history. Arizona State also didn't expect to stay home for the holidays. But I'm going to have to go with Auburn. The Tigers were in some preseason top 10s and the preseason pick to win the SEC West. Instead of worrying how the Tigers would fare with two new coordinators, Auburn fans seemed thrilled with how Tony Franklin's spread offense would add excitement around the Plains. But the offense struggled, Franklin got fired and the offense didn't get any better. Auburn went 5-7 and spent December searching for a new coach instead of preparing for a bowl game. To make matters worse, Auburn suffered this sudden fall from grace the same year Alabama won the SEC West and earned a Sugar Bowl bid. That unfortunate timing must double Auburn's pain.