Storied College Football Programs That Will Struggle in 2019
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The college football offseason is a time reserved for hope. But if fans of certain storied teams spend the coming months expecting a breakout year, they’ll only be disappointed in the fall.
Teams among the top 30 of all-time victories were considered a “storied” program for this discussion. The programs are listed in ascending order of wins.
“Struggle” is a vague term, and it should be applied differently to the schools highlighted. Some have national and conference title expectations, while others are looking for bowl eligibility.
Either way, those teams will not achieve their respective aspirations in 2019.
North Carolina Tar Heels
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All-time wins: 691 (29th)
North Carolina head coach Mack Brown is a salesman. Within a few years, UNC should have enough talent to contend in the Coastal Division.
But right now, he’s building.
Even if Sam Howell is the long-term answer at quarterback, true freshman rarely thrive. The Tar Heels are returning much of their offensive production, so there’s at least some hope there.
Defense is a different story.
The unit was tied for 93rd in yards allowed per snap last season, and it must replace several key pieces. UNC’s top three tacklers are gone, as are as three of the five players with seven-plus tackles for loss. The transition likely won’t be pleasant.
Keep eyeing the future, Heels fans.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
All-time wins: 711 (24th)
Navy limped to a 3-10 record last season, flailing to 0-8 away from home while finishing tied for 101st nationally in yards per snap. Meanwhile, the defense surrendered 33.5 points per game.
This year, the Mids are 126th in returning production, according to SB Nation’s Bill Connelly. Nothing like a rebuild after the program’s worst season since 2002!
Fortunately for Navy, this year’s schedule should make a bowl appearance manageable. There’s a feasible route to six wins.
Dreams of a return to AAC contention are at least another season away, though.
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All-time wins: 715 (23rd)
Arkansas head coach Chad Morris’ first task is clear: Find a quarterback.
Actually doing that is the hard part.
After finishing 2018 tied for 114th with 6.2 yards per pass and more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (17), that position is wide-open. Ben Hicks, who started for Morris at Southern Methodist, is expected to win that competition.
While solving that dilemma is critical, Arkansas’ defense was a wreck last year and loses five of its top eight tacklers, too. In SEC play, only Ole Miss allowed more points per game (41.0) than Arkansas (39.9).
A favorable September slate offers potential for a 4-0 start if the Razorbacks can head to Oxford and topple Ole Miss. But once October arrives, Arkansas could drop seven of its final eight contests.
Bowl eligibility would be a victory for Morris.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
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All-time wins: 735 (18th)
“Year 0” happens when a coach is completely retooling a roster, whether because of recent ineffectiveness or schematic overhaul.
Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins fits into that latter category.
Following an 11-year stretch with Paul Johnson and a triple-option offense, Georgia Tech is shifting to a modernized attack. If that doesn’t seem dramatic enough, the offense will have a tight end for the first time in 12 years.
Georgia Tech understood it was accepting a season of difficultly by hiring Collins. If the Jackets reach a bowl, they should be celebrating.
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All-time wins: 767 (13th)
Go try to find the pleasant three-game stretch on Auburn’s 2019 schedule. Spoiler alert: You can’t.
After opening the season with Oregon in Arlington, Texas, the Tigers host Tulane and Kent State. Over the next three weeks, trips to Texas A&M and Florida sandwich a date with Mississippi State. The final six games include LSU, Georgia and Alabama.
Have fun with that, Gus Malzahn!
In case his proverbial seat wasn’t already sizzling anyway, 2019 is setting up to be problematic. Combine that brutal schedule with a new quarterback, and Auburn may have another five-loss season.
Should that happen, get ready for plenty of buyout talk.
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All-time wins: 839 (ninth)
The return of quarterback JT Daniels plus the arrival of offensive coordinator Graham Harrell is a promising combination at worst. Four of USC’s seven losses in 2018 happened largely because the offense failed to crack 20 points.
What will define the Trojans next season is whether a youth-filled defense can excel and how quickly that happens. Last year’s rotation was filled with seniors, freshmen and little in between.
“How quickly” is critical, as USC’s first six games include Stanford, Utah, at Washington and at Notre Dame.
Nobody would’ve blinked had USC canned Clay Helton after the 2018 campaign. If the Trojans start 3-3 or 2-4 in 2019, it might finally happen in October.