Who is the most overrated team in college football heading into the year - our staff debates
We are now a grand total of just two - count 'em - two Saturday's away from the start of college football season.
On the hand, the summer has gone by soooo fast. On the other, it feels like forever ago since Georgia beat Alabama for that first title in a generation.
And because of it, over the next few weeks, we're going to celebrate by hitting some of the most pressing questions in college football heading into the season.
On tap for today: Who is the most overrated team in college football heading into the year?
With the AP Poll dropping on Monday, history is pretty straightforward on this: Some of these teams are flat overrated, with at least one preseason Top 10 finishing completely unranked in 19 of the last 20 years.
We're not saying these teams will finish unranked. But we do think they're a bit overrated:
Jake Faigus - Clemson Tigers (No. 4 in the first AP Poll)
The Clemson Tigers’ ranking in the AP Poll at No. 4 immediately made me scratch my head. It says that AP voters think the Tigers are going to get back to their old ways and that last year was more of a blip than anything. I’m more than open to the Tigers improving, but number four seems like too much even with a good amount of production returning.
The Tigers lost their offensive coordinator, Tony Elliott. He went from being the offensive coordinator to being the new head coach at Virginia. They promoted internally with the quarterbacks coach, Brandon Streeter, but he has no experience calling plays at the FBS level. That does not bode well for an offense that was marred by inconsistent play. The offensive line and wide receivers need more consistency after last year. The biggest X-factor is DJ Uiagalelei at quarterback. Last season he struggled a lot in the offense and finished last in the ACC in passing efficiency among active quarterbacks. Overall, he completed just 56 percent of his passes, with nine touchdowns, compared to 10 interceptions. And even if the Tigers turn to highly-touted back-up Cade Klubnik, he’d be a true freshman, and it’s a lot to ask for a true freshman quarterback to lead a team that has national championship aspirations to that level.
Clemson also lost their defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, to be the head coach at Oklahoma. They also replaced him internally with Wes Goodwin, a senior defensive assistant, who also has not called plays at the FBS level. This is concerning, but it will probably be masked at least a little bit by the sheer amount of talent that Clemson has on the defense. If all goes well, this defense could be the best in the entire country, but it could have to drag along a subpar offense again if the Tigers can’t fix anything there.
Finally, I think it’s fair to question head coach, Dabo Swinney, and his ability to evolve in this era of college football. He’s been someone that’s been very outspoken about the idea of the transfer portal, and he’s been hesitant to jump all the way into this new wave of recruiting. That hesitancy could come back to bite the Tigers this year if the receivers don’t step up for example or if they don’t have the best options at quarterback. If that’s the case, then Dabo could’ve solved those issues this past off-season to fortify their depth. This is more of a long-term issue, but right now the stubbornness of Dabo could show cracks in the foundation of the current roster.
Garrett Carr - Oklahoma Sooners (No. 9 in the first AP Poll)
Another preseason AP Poll is out, another year filled with teams overrated. There were some good contenders this year. There were some good contenders this year. Wake Forest being ranked, even before the news of star quarterback Sam Hartman, is a joke. NC State is ranked way too high as well at number 13. But, one team stands out the most. It’s a team that I thought all offseason would be overrated, and sure enough, Oklahoma came in way too high at number 9 in the preseason poll.
It’s no secret that I’m a Lincoln Riley guy, and one could say that is factoring in here. But, people forget just how good Lincoln Riley was. Oklahoma was not a national title-contending program the few years before Riley arrived as offensive coordinator, and upon being given the reins to the offensive coordinator position, Riley went 55-10, with his worst season being a 9-2 effort in the pandemic-shortened season of 2020.
Riley is replaced by a coach that I am not at all sold on. Brent Venables comes over from an outstanding career at Clemson as a defensive coordinator, and he knows Norman well, having spent twelve seasons there as an assistant. But, this is a program that has not been playing the kind of tough, smashmouth, football Venables wants to play. It’s been a finesse team, and even if Venables succeeds in making them into a tougher group, it won’t happen this year and there will be growing pains.
There are other reasons for concern. The Sooners return just ten starters and lost Heisman contender Caleb Williams, who will be under center for Riley and the Trojans this fall. They replace him with competent UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel, and Jeff Lebby comes over from Ole Miss to call plays. They could’ve done worse on both fronts, but it is still a step down from Williams at quarterback and Riley calling plays. The defense, who will be making a big schematic change from Alex Grinch to Brent Venables, won’t be great either.
Couple that with a new-look offense that has weapons but the worst starting quarterback Oklahoma has had in nearly a decade, and I think the Sooners lose to Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Nebraska, plus one more team, en route to a 7-5 season.
Aaron Torres - Baylor Bears (No. 10 in the first AP Poll)
So, it's interesting that Garrett has Oklahoma in as his most overrated team - I'm actually quite high on the Sooners. Think they're a playoff contender. If we do a "Most Underrated" team before it's all said and done this preseason, the Sooners might just be it for me.
But when talking underrated, I think it's interesting that Garrett and I are in the same conference and same neck of the woods. Only for me, I don't think it's Oklahoma. Instead, I think it's Baylor.
Look, the Bears were an incredible story last year, they really were. Fresh off a wildly disappointing Covid season, Dave Aranda showed just what he's capable of and just what kind of culture he's building in Waco. The Bears won the Big 12 title game, won the Sugar Bowl and now he's being touted as one of the brightest young coaches in the sport.
And he might be. But boy, oh boy, he also lost a lot off last year's team.
Overall, Baylor lost a 1,000-yard rusher (Abraham Smith), their best wide receiver (Tyquan Thornton) and several players off one of college football's best defenses a season ago. Included was do-everything leader Jalen Pitre, a second round pick of the Texans and fellow defensive back JT Woods, who tied for the national lead in interceptions (six). In total, the Bears lost six NFL Draft picks, most in the Big 12.
Oh, and they also have a first-year quarterback Blake Shapen. Yes, he played a big role down the stretch for the Bears last season and beat out Gerry Bohanon in the spring for the starting job - but he's also thrown a grand total of 86 passes in his career. And this is the guy, without last year's best wide receiver and running back, and down several All-Conference caliber defensive starters, has Baylor as a Top 10 team?
In the end, maybe Aranda really is the next Saban or Urban Meyer or Dabo.
But that is an awful lot of talent to lose, and with arguably Baylor's three toughest games all on the road (at BYU in the out of conference, at Oklahoma and at Texas) this is the team that is by far the most overrated to me.
Follow Jake Faigus on Twitter - @Jake_Faigus
Follow Garrett Carr on Twitter - @RealGarrettCarr
Follow Aaron Torres on Twitter - @Aaron_Torres