The Three Most Disappointing Pre-Season Championship Hopefuls

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3. Oklahoma

In fairness to Big Game Bob and the Sooners, they are also the victims of perhaps the nation’s most front-loaded schedule, with out of conference matchups against two top 5 caliber teams: Houston and Ohio State. But it is not the losses themselves that have fans shaken in Norman, but the total ineptitude on both sides of the ball thus far in the season. The Sooners allowed over 500 yards of offense to OSU, though the Buckeyes rank as the nation’s youngest team and the trip to Norman was the first ever road game for 11 Buckeye starters.

Houston and quarterback Greg Ward sliced through what has become a Charmin soft Oklahoma front seven, averaging nearly seven yards per carry on their way to an easy week one victory that vaulted the Cougars into playoff consideration. Stoops, who is in the process of assembling a coaching staff consisting almost exclusively of family members, reinvented his offensive philosophy with the addition of Baker Mayfield, opting for a Texas Tech run-and-gun knock off over a pro-style balanced attack. Now, with former starter and Saban slayer Trevor Knight gaining traction in the Heisman conversation, at Texas A&M, and the Sooners scuffling, somebody tell Bob to hand Perine the ball. Please.

2. USC

Einstein’s definition of insanity essentially boils down to replicating the same behavior and expecting different results. USC, who has now hired three of their former offensive coordinators consecutively to lead the Trojans, is, without question, insane. Current Head Coach Clay Helton is the worst of the bunch, only in his first season but clearly in far over his head. The Trojans opened the season being curb stomped by Alabama in a game you’d assume was a Crimson Tide sponsored beat down of a budget hungry Division I-AA team, if not for the national television coverage and iconic uniforms. The talent discrepancy on the field, for a team that has consistently recruited at an elite level, was absolutely staggering, even for someone with no vested interest in Trojan football.

Last weekend, though, Helton’s first conference matchup with pseudo-rival Stanford, was the cherry on top of the shit sundae that has been year one of his regime. The Trojans were not only physically manhandled by the Cardinal, but inexcusable coaching mishaps doomed the overmatched Trojans from whistle to whistle. My personal favorite moment of sheer ineptitude came after a basically uncontested Stanford touchdown, when the extra point attempt warranted just eight Trojan players on the field. Yes, I did just say eight. Somehow the special teams unit, which is supervised by Helton himself and hand-picked special teams coach Greg Baxter, trotted out three fewer players than allowed on a kick and twice were a man down on punt returns. A high school coach wouldn’t allow this.

Now, after benching former super recruit quarterback Max Browne, brace yourselves Trojans. You’re going 5-7.

1. Notre Dame

Anyone else enjoy watching Brian Kelly’s antics on the sidelines? With his excessive middle-aged weight gain, pulsating neck veins, and bright red complexion, the guy looks like the cover of a Warheads box. The Irish lost a great deal of talent to the 2016 NFL Draft, but with two supposed star quarterbacks returning, eight starters on defense, and an extremely favorable schedule that features essentially all of what were supposed to have been their marquee matchups at home, and a down USC, most predicted a double-digit win season for the Golden Domers.

Not so fast, my friend. Before the season even officially began, essentially half of the starting defense got in some sort of epic bar brawl that saw star safety Max Redfield dismissed from the team. In their first game without Redfield, perhaps their best returning defensive starter, the Texas Longhorn attack gashed the Irish to the tune of 500 yards and 50 points, including seven plays of 25 yards or longer.

After the loss to Texas, ND had a chance this past weekend to redeem themselves at home against Michigan State. The Spartans, with what is likely their least experienced roster, and worst quarterback and secondary of the entire Dantonio era, came into South Bend over a touchdown underdog. However, as is the Dantonio way, the Spartans pummeled the Irish, dominating both lines to the tune of a 36-7 third quarter lead.

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