Another five teams to cap a summer day as camp fast approaches …
No. 70: LOUISVILLE
Look, no one expected Orange Bowl berths, one-loss seasons and spots in the top 10 at season’s end when Steve Kragthorpe took over for the departed Bobby Petrino.
But a postseason invitation and a winning record sure would be nice.
The Cardinals have snagged neither in Kragthorpe’s first two seasons, which looks even worse since the ‘Ville won the Big East the season before.
It also places Louisville in less than stellar company of schools that have missed the postseason in back-to-back seasons after securing a BCS berth (year correlates to season, not necessarily year the bowl was played):
5: Illinois (2001 Sugar Bowl —-> 2007 Rose Bowl)
3: Pittsburgh (2004 Fiesta Bowl —-> 2008 Sun Bowl)
2: Kansas State (2003 Fiesta Bowl —-> 2006 Texas Bowl)
2: Louisville (2006 Orange Bowl —-> present)
No. 69: MINNESOTA
The Golden Gophers were a tackling, blitzing, ball-hawking version of “To Tell The Truth” a season ago.
That gaudy 7-1 record sure looked pretty, even if the only eventual bowl teams defeated in that span were Northern Illinois and Florida Atlantic.
Then reality (or, more specifically, the guts of the Big Ten schedule) hit, and even though it didn’t include Penn State or Michigan State, the Golden Gophers still lost five straight to finish things out.
So who is the real Minnesota? It might not be as bad as the bunch that got run out of the Metrodome against Iowa, but it might be the team that fell by 23 to the worst Michigan team in a couple generations.
California and Air Force hit the schedule this year, and the Gophers get a trip to Penn State rather than a meeting with Indiana. Not good. If Minnesota matches its record from a year ago, it would have to qualify as a pleasant surprise —- even if expectations are artificially higher because of last season.
No. 68: VIRGINIA
In honor of the late Michael Colley, Virginia’s former football and lacrosse SID, here’s two quirky charts he surely had stowed away somewhere in that cluttered office of his:
SEASON OPENING STARTING QBs IN THE GROH ERA
QB PERFORMANCE IN FIRST START, GROH ERA
||at South Carolina
||at Western Michigan
||at Georgia Tech
||at Virginia Tech
The significance of it all? Virginia could start its fifth different QB in an opener in as many years. That has a bit to do with why the Cavaliers have missed a bowl two of the last three years and are projected by most to do so again.
The good news for the Cavaliers is all of their holdovers have already started a game so there’s nothing trending toward a loss to William & Mary. Besides, who starts the opener is less important than who emerges in the long-term.
Also good news: Al Groh‘s team always likes the home cooking, and with seven dates in Charlottesville, bowl eligibility is more a possibility than you’d guess. Beating Virginia Tech, though, will have to wait until next year.
No. 67: AIR FORCE
In addition to being frightened by/trying to chase away the media bogeyman, Air Force finds itself decidedly on the middle tier of the Mountain West.
The Falcons have lost 13 of their last 15 meetings with Brigham Young, Texas Christian and Utah, and last year the Falcons were swept by all three.
The mid-pack of the conference could get a little more crowded if Colorado State is for real (possibly) and the schools slumming in the cellar get their acts together (might be a while before results are seen).
On the bright side, Troy Calhoun has collected back-to-back bowl berths since arriving in Colorado Springs. Here’s guessing the Falcons have another 7-5 or 8-4 in them this fall, too.
As for that pesky six-game slide against Navy? Better wait until the Midshipmen’s entry in the series.
No. 66: COLORADO STATE
Effectively interchangeable with Air Force, the Rams were also much like the Falcons in that they beat everyone they should have and lost to all the superior teams on their schedule in ‘08 —- with the possible exception of upending Houston.
In any case, another season like that will produce another 6-6 and another lower-tier bowl berth. And for this year, that’s OK, because the Rams did go four seasons without a winning record until last fall.
There’s reason to pause, certainly. Quarterback is in flux, and trips to Colorado, Brigham Young and Texas Christian don’t look promising. But the offensive line looks strong, and that’s a good thing to possess in an increasingly defense-oriented conference (at least at the top, anyway).
The Rams might, in retrospect, wind up a little too high. But coach Steve Fairchild turned things around last year, and he thrived when he was the offensive coordinator in Fort Collins a decade or so ago. Maybe this ranking is a little on faith, but there are worse teams to roll the dice on than Colorado State.
—- Patrick Stevens